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Bulloch History with Roger Allen - South Georgia starts railroad in 1833
roger allen
Roger Allen

    Georgia's first railroad was organized in 1833 by a group of Savannah businessmen concerned that South Carolina's new railroad would divert most, if not all, of central Georgia's commerce away from the port of Savannah.
    This railroad, the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road company, was chartered in 1827 to build a 136 mile line from Hamburg, South Carolina (across the Savannah River from Augusta, Ga.) all the way to the port of Charleston.
    On December 20, 1833, the Georgia Legislature granted the Central Rail Road and Canal Company of Georgia (Central) a charter to build a railroad and a canal from Savannah into the interior of the state.
    Well-known railroad engineer Alfred Cruger was hired to select the route of the new railroad in 1834. Cruger planned on cutting through central Bulloch County until local war hero Brigadier General Cone made it very clear he was opposed to the building of the railroad.
    General Cone conducted his own personal campaign against the building of the Central anywhere inside Bulloch County, warning residents of what he saw as the railroad's many dangers: he told farmers that the railroad would scare their horses to death; and told their wives that the railroad would cause their chickens to stop laying eggs and cows to stop producing milk.
    As a result of the furor, the Central laid down its main line along the Ogeechee around Bulloch County, passing through Dover and Rocky Ford instead. Still, Bulloch County residents could more easily now catch a train to Savannah or Macon.
    Because investors were wary of putting money into the railroad, the Georgia Legislature allowed the Central to change its name to the Central Rail Road and Banking Company of Georgia. People immediately began investing money in the new railroad. Soon, the line was completed, and passenger and freight trains were operating between Savannah and Macon.
    Its 190 miles of track made it the longest single ownership railroad in the country. Once the Central had acquired the Macon and Western Railroad, the railroad now extended all the way to Atlanta. The Central next absorbed the Savannah and Northwestern Railroad.
    This railroad oversaw the operation of local railroad baron George Brinson’s many railroads, including the Stillmore Air Line Railway (Stillmore to Wadley), the Brinson Railway (Savannah to Newington), and the Savannah Valley Railroad (Egypt to Saint Clair). The Central now made regular stops at Egypt, Oliver, Halcyon Dale or Halcyondale), Cameron, Dover, Ogeechee, Rocky Ford, Scarboro, Paramore Hill and Millen.
    By 1890, the Central had connected the city of Atlanta directly to the popular resort destination of Tybee Island.  In 1895, the Central Railroad became the Central Railway. These two terms (railroad and railway) were interchangeable, simply signifying that the company had been given a new charter.
    Railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman bought a controlling interest in the Central of Georgia Railway in 1907. Harriman controlled both the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroad systems.  After two years, he put the operation of the Central under his Illinois Central Railroad.
    The Illinois Central sold off its Central stock in 1942 as war broke out, but after the war ended the Central began to thrive as it finally began to become profitable again. The Saint Louis-San Francisco Railway (more commonly known as the Frisco) had purchased the majority  of the Central's stock in 1956.
    The Frisco, which desired to gain direct access to the Atlantic seaboard, had failed to consult with the Interstate Commerce Commission, which chose to deny them the right to undertake a Frisco-Central merger .
    The Frisco's owners, therefore, sold its Central stock in 1963 to the Southern Railway. This railway had been formed in 1894 when the Memphis and Charleston, the Richmond and Danville, and the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroads were merged to become the Southern.
    The Central Railway's name was changed once again to the Central Railroad when Southern Railway system decided to merge it, the Georgia and Florida, the Wrightsville and Tennille, and the Savannah and Atlanta Railroads under the Central Railroad banner in 1971.
    The Central Railroad was kept alive even after the 1982 merger of the Southern and Norfolk and Western railroad systems, which then became the Norfolk Southern Corporation. Unfortunately, few if any engines or rail cars can be seen with the Central logo, as the railroad now exists only on paper.
    Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at

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