HistoryIt was chartered in 1833 in Augusta, Georgia. In 1835, the charter was amended to include banking. Originally the line was chartered to build a railroad from Augusta to Athens with a branch to Madison.
The railroad opened in 1845 with its Chief Engineer being J. Edgar Thomson and Richard Peters as the first Superintendent.
At that time the rates were as follows:
- 5¢ per mile for passengers
- 50¢ per 100 miles (160 km) for freight
- The Western and Atlantic Railroad was chartered to build a line from 7 miles (11 km) south of the Chattahoochee River, at a point that was named Terminus (present-day Atlanta) to Chattanooga, Tennessee (formerly Ross Landing).
- The South Carolina Railroad was building a line from Charleston, South Carolina to North Augusta, South Carolina (formerly Hamburg).
- The Memphis and Charleston Railroad was being built from Memphis, Tennessee to Chattanooga.
- The Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad were both constructing rival lines between Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee.
BankingThe banking side of the business was quickly more successful than the railroad side. The Georgia RR & Banking Company was perhaps the strongest bank in Georgia for many years. The bankers used some of their wealth to buy controlling interests in the Atlanta and West Point Railroad and the Western Railway of Alabama, which provided a continuous line from Atlanta to Montgomery, Alabama, although the WofA was standard gauge (4' 8½"), while all the other lines in the south were broad gauge (5' 0").
Civil War yearsDuring the American Civil War, the Confederate States of America maintained a gunpowder factory in Augusta. Carloads of gunpowder would be transported on the Georgia Railroad to various battlefields in the "Western Campaign."
Although the Civil War saw heavy damage to railroads such as the Georgia Railroad, management used their considerable resources to restore operation as quickly as possible. The Georgia Railroad even resorted to temporarily abandoning the Athens branch to secure enough rail to reopen its main line. Returning Confederate soldiers were given free rides home to the extent that the company's limited rail network would allow.
They also honored all Confederate script issued by their bank. No depositor lost their savings even if Confederate money had no value. It helped that the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company had the financial strength to honor those promises. Meanwhile, most southern banks were busy repudiating any obligations related to Confederate currency. This helped solidify the bank's reputation as one of the premiere banks in the southeastern United States well into the 20th century.
Post war yearsThe Georgia Railroad Freight Depot, designed by architect Max Corput, was completed in 1869 and is the oldest building in Downtown Atlanta. The company was later rechartered as the Georgia Railroad Bank, then a subsidiary of the First Railroad and Banking Company, which eventually opened banks in Atlanta under the name of First Georgia Bank.
The banking operations were merged with First Union in 1986 and First Union subsequently merged with Wachovia Corporation, which is now Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
The Georgia Railroad Bank entered the insurance business using subsidiaries such as First of Georgia, however these were subsequently sold at considerable profit to the company.
In 1881, the president of the Central Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia, Colonel William M. Wadley, personally leased the railroad properties of the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company, including the A&WP and WofA. Wadley assigned half of the lease to the Central and half to the L&N. Following the panic of 1897, the Central went into receivership and its portion of the lease lapsed, whereupon it was eventually reassigned to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. In 1902, the ACL acquired controlling interest in the L&N and thus the Georgia, A&WP and WofA became non-operating subsidiaries of the ACL.
With the building of the Savannah and Atlanta Railroad, which connected with the Georgia Railroad at Warrenton, Georgia, the Georgia Railroad now competed with the Central of Georgia Railroad for traffic to and from Savannah. Soon, however, the ACL came to dominate the Augusta interchange traffic through its Charleston and Western Carolina Railway subsidiary and the ACL's own spur from its main line at Florence, South Carolina, so now the Georgia Railroad could compete with the Seaboard Air Line Railroad and Southern Railway (U.S.) for traffic from Atlanta up the eastern seaboard.
A unique feature of the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company charter was that the legislature gave the corporation a huge tax break. That was challenged many times in the courts, but the company always won. The charter also called for daily except Sunday passenger service. The lawyers advised management to maintain passenger service on all lines so as to not violate the charter, and thus the Georgia was perhaps the last railroad to operate mixed trains in the "Lower 48," well into the Amtrak era.
Subsumed by CSXThe Georgia Railroad originally fell under common management with the Atlanta and West Point Railroad and the Western Railway of Alabama, commonly known as "The West Point Route."
In 1967 the ACL merged with the Seaboard Air Line Railroad to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad [SCL]. In the early 1970s SCL merged with the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and the Clinchfield Railroad to become the Family Lines System. Family Lines continued to operate the Georgia Railroad under its initial charter and thus the Georgia Railroad was maintained as a separate company, with Family Lines leasing the rail properties.
1983 saw the end of the Georgia Railroad as a separate company after Family Lines purchased the railroad properties of the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company, which had until then been the subject of the lease.
The Seaboard System subsequently merged with the Chessie System in 1986 to form CSX Transportation.
Today the original Georgia Railroad and Banking Company is in the real estate development business, controlling numerous properties along its former rail lines.
- Distances of Depots from Atlanta
|2||Stone Mountain, Georgia||16|
|6||Social Circle, Georgia||52|
|11||Union Point, Georgia||95|
|13||Barnett, Georgia||114||Near U.S. Highway 278 and I-20|
|14||Camack, Georgia||125||Old spelling|
|17||Saw Dust, Georgia||146||Now called Harlem|
|18||Berzelia, Georgia||152||Near Berzelia Pond|
|19||Belair, Georgia||162||Now called Grovetown|
Family Lines System
Seaboard Coast Line Railroad
Southern Railway (U.S.)
Savannah and Atlanta Railroad
Georgia Railroad Freight Depot
Atlanta and West Point Railroad
Central Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia
Memphis and Charleston Railroad