The Central of Georgia Railway, The Right Way

The Central of Georgia Railway is sometimes a forgotten classic fallen flag system of the South. At its largest the Central stretched from Atlanta to Albany, east to Savannah, and west extending into Alabama, with the farthest reach to Birmingham. In 1956 the CoG would lose its independence forever when it was taken over by the Frisco (the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway). The Frisco remained in control of the railroad until it was forced to divest it by the ICC in 1963 at which point it was purchased by the Southern Railway and had its name changed to the Central of Georgia Railroad when it was merged with the Georgia & Florida, the Wrightsville & Tennille, and the Savannah & Atlanta. Surprisingly, the CoG continues to survive under the Norfolk Southern banner, albeit only on paper.  

The CoG dates all of the back to 1833 with the creation of the Central Rail Road and Canal Company that year by Savannah interests. The purpose of the company was to the save the city of Savannah from a perceived threat by nearby Charleston to take away its port business. Not long after the company’s initial chartering it was renamed the Central Rail Road and Banking Company of Georgia and construction of a railroad to Macon began soon afterward.   By 1843 the Central had completed its initial main line between Macon and Savannah, a distance of over 160 miles. From this point forward most of the Central’s growth and expansion came by the way of mergers and acquisitions.

After the railroad had completed its line to Macon it reached Atlanta via the Macon & Western Railroad, Augusta via the Augusta & Waynesboro (1854), and Columbus via the Southwestern Railroad (1869), along with many other smaller systems. By this point the Central stretched throughout much of Georgia and was a well-managed railroad by the late 19th century save for the company that controlled it, the Richmond Terminal Company, which allowed it to fall into receivership upon a bond default. 

As a result, in 1895 the railroad emerged as the Central of Georgia Railway and continued its growth through acquisition. By the 1920s the railroad mostly reached its final length stretching from its home city of Savannah to as far west as Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama; as far north as Atlanta and Chattanooga; and as far south as Albany, Georgia. For a railroad, which only operated in essentially two states and reached Chattanooga it operated an impressive 2,000+ mile system.

Since the Central connected many of the South’s largest markets it maintained a steady flow of traffic, particularly interchange traffic with other railroads. While the railroad had a rough stretch between the Great Depression and World War II it was back on its feet after the war. However, success usually draws interest and in 1954 the Central was taken over by the Frisco, who used it has a means to reach Savannah and the East Coast. However, the Frisco was only able to retain control of the Central until 1963 when the ICC forced it to sell of its interests in the railroad at which point the mighty Southern Railway nabbed it.

A significant reason why Southern became so successful was because its innovative nature and sound business practices (and the company very much lived up to another slogan it used, "The Southern Gives A Green Light To Innovations"), especially in the railroad's later years. The Southern was quick to adopt new technologies that improved efficiencies such as Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) and began double-tracking lines to improve operations (it would eventually finish double-tracking its entire main line between Atlanta and Washington, D.C.). Because of its innovative nature it probably comes as no surprise that the Southern was quick to make the switch from steam to diesel as well, completely dieselizing its motive power fleet by 1953.

Diesel Locomotive Roster

The American Locomotive Company

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
S14, 61940-19412
S221, 23, 24, 28-351940-194811
RS3108-119, 133-1591950-195339

The Baldwin Locomotive Works

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
VO-100022, 26-271940-19433

The Electro-Motive Corporation/Electro-Motive Division

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
SW11-3, 71939-19414
NW220, 251941-19422
GP7106-107, 120-1321950-195115
GP9160-170, 1040-10421954-195714

Fairbanks Morse

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity

Steam Locomotive Roster

Class Type Wheel Arrangement
C-1 Through C-4Consolidation2-8-0
J-1 Through J-3Santa Fe2-10-2
KBig Apple4-8-4
P-1, P-2Pacific4-6-2
S, S-1Switcher0-6-0/T

Then, in 1971 the company was renamed as the Central of Georgia Railroad after the Southern merged three smaller railroads into it, the Georgia & Florida, the Wrightsville & Tennille, and the Savannah & Atlanta. Following the takeover of the Central by the Southern the railroad’s identity mostly disappeared. However, even today, the Central remains a subsidiary of Southern successor Norfolk Southern and is still on the books as an operating railroad (NS still even sub letters some locomotives with CoG markings).  Prior to the Central’s loss of independence with the 1954 takeover by the Frisco the railroad had an interesting and classy livery used on its diesel locomotives, which was quite similar to the Baltimore & Ohio’s regal blue, gray, and gold (with yellow trim) passenger livery except that the Central’s paint scheme used a brighter yellow, along with red, for its trim.

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