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Bulloch History by Roger Allen

Railroads expand in Bulloch Co.

Note: The following begins a four-part series on the expansion of rail service in Bulloch County.

    In the 1880’s, there were small family-run logging businesses all throughout Bulloch County (BC). The lumber harvesters used ”trams”, essentially large flatbed vehicles, to transport the fallen logs out the woods. While at first these vehicles were pulled by horses, mules, and even teams of oxen, they eventually were pulled by little mini railroad engines on their own railroad tracks. The first of these lines was the railroad started by the Foy family: John E., John F., and Edward E. Foy.
    These had two separate such lines: the first operated from their sawmill in Egypt, at the intersection of the Central of Georgia Railway (CGA) main line to the pine barrens of the Bay Gall area; while the second operated from the Lanier mill in Portal and crossed the Ogeechee River to Rocky Ford, where the Savannah, Americus, and Montgomery Railway (SAM) intersected their line.
    The main investors in this venture were the Brinsons, Calhouns, Olliffs, and Shearhouse families. The actual operation of these two Tram Railroads was done by the Cowart Brothers of BC. The Foys never really got into the passenger business, and once the supply of timber had been exhausted, the saw mill was disassembled and moved to another location.
    The second BC tram railroad was started by W.C. Perkins around 1890. Headquartered at his Hagan mill, the line at first was run to Glennville, and then extended to Register. In 1902 the Perkins family rechartered their railroad so as to start an actual passenger and freight business. It now became the Register and Glennville Railroad (R&G).
    By 1905, R&G had extended its line all the way from Claxton in Evans County, where it intersected with the Seaboard Air Line Railway (SAL) of John Williams to Register, where it ended at the Bruton and Pineora Railroad (B&P) section of what became known as the Oconee Branch of the CGA. Due to a lawsuit, the R&G entered receivership and was sold for $225,000. The new owners rechartered the line as the East Georgia Railway (EG) in 1915, but this line closed down for good in 1916. There had been plans to extend this line to the intersection with the Darien Short Line Railroad, but that never happened.
    In 1912, another tram railroad was started in Bulloch, this time by the Shearhouse family. John N. Shearhouse and his silent partner, George Brinson (the owner of the Midland Railroad –MR-) had decided to open a line from Clyo to Claxton. To be known as the Sherwood Railroad (SR). Also known as the Shearwood Railroad by some, it ran at first from his saw mill in Brooklet to the Pine Barrens nearby.
    Shearhouse was contacted by three Nevils area farmers, who promised him a sizable sum of money if he would route his line through the “Sinkhole District”, as they saw the benefits to the communities of Denmark and Nevils. Soon thereafter, the little town of Nevils became a major shipping point for hundreds (if not thousands) of carloads of watermelons going out, and tons of guano fertilizer coming in. In addition, the SR became the preferred method of travel for area students who attended Brooklet High School.
    When the line was extended further through Leefield, Brinson and Shearhouse made a bet that whomever’s railroad (Shearhouse’s SR and Brinson’s MR) got to the junction first would not have to pay to build the crossing. The SR beat the MR, and Brinson got stuck with the bill. Eventually, the SR was extended all the way to Egypt, but it never made it as far north as Clyo.
    Being an astute businessman, Shearhouse then made an arrangement with the CGA so that he would get to keep 70 percent of fees for the SR freight which was being transshipped on the CGA main line. The SR established a passenger-freight train every morning, leaving Egypt and passing through the towns of Leefield, Brooklet, Walterville, Denmark, Nevils, ending up in Claxton. After refueling, the train would reverse its route, ending up back in Egypt late in the afternoon.
    After John was killed, and his son Frank was seriously hurt, in a tragic railroad accident, the railroad fell on hard times. Although Mrs. Shearhouse determinedly kept the line running for several years, eventually she had to sell the line. The tracks were torn up, the equipment was sold for scrap, and the company was dissolved. The Nevils Depot still stands, forlorn and abandoned, at the corner of Groveland Nevils and the Nevils-Denmark Roads in Nevils.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger dodger53@hotmail.com

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