James and William Woods built a 13-mile tram railroad from their sawmill in Woodburn (near present day Hubert) to the town of Cuyler in 1894. Quite logically, they decided to call their railroad the Cuyler and Woodburn Railroad (C&W). Under the direction of trustees W.H. Cone, J.A. Bliss and A.A. Adams, the C&W had soon connected Bulloch County to northern Bryan County.
At Woodburn, the C&W connected with the Savannah, Americus and Montgomery Railway, which was now part of railroad magnate John Williams’ Seaboard Air Line Railway. At Cuyler, the C&W connected with the Savannah and Western Railway (S&W), which ran between Meldrim to Lyons. The S&W was one of a group of semi-independent railroads being operated by the Central of Georgia.
In 1897 the C&W fell on hard times. The railroad was purchased for $27,760 by a group of investors led by former C&W trustee Adams, six Alabama investors, Judge Pope Barrow of Savannah, and Whitfield Clark of Hubert. According to some documents, W.F. Carter (or Cargill), the editor of the Meldrim newspaper The Guidon was another investor.
They named their "new" railroad the Savannah and Statesboro Railroad (S&S). Flush with cash, the S&S immediately set about extending its line northward the remaining 20 miles to Statesboro. They reached an agreement with Williams and the Seaboard Railroad that allowed them to run the first ever non-stop passenger trains from Statesboro to Savannah.
The investors also made plans to drain the Arcola area by cutting a several mile long canal from Arcola through the woods to the Iric Branch. This, they advertised in the local newspapers, would open up eight thousand acres of new farmland, whose products would be shipped to market in Savannah on the S&S. Anticipating much new business, the owners of the S&S quickly accumulated a large inventory of equipment: nine locomotives, nine passenger cars, 25 freight cars, and two baggage cars.
Impressed with the S&S's initial success, another group of investors decided to start their own railroad, which they announced would be called the Savannah, Augusta and Northern Railway (SAN). It was to run from the S&S depot in Statesboro through the towns of Aaron, Garfield, to Stevens Crossing (north of Swainsboro), where it would connect with Williams' Georgia and Florida Railway (G&F).
Unlike the S&S, the SAN was never really successful. Knoxville contractor W.J. Oliver (who actually had built the line) bought the railroad in 1910 out of receivership and promptly leased it to the owners of the S&S. In 1915, local railroad baron George Brinson bought the SAN from the S&S, and made it part of his Midland Railway. He too was unsuccessful, with the SAN and the Midland Railroads going into receivership as early as 1923.
Railroad magnate John Williams bought the SAN in order to gain rights to the tracks from Statesboro to his Georgia and Florida (G&F) depot in Stevens Crossing, thus giving him access to almost all of Bulloch County. He named his new line the Statesboro Northern, which he promptly leased to the G&F. The G&F purchased the line outright in 1927, and operated it until abandoning it in 1950.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org