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.
GP7 #126 sits at the freight depot in Huntsville, Alabama with a short cut of cars during March of 1971.
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. For more information about the railroad please click here to visit the Central of Georgia Railway Historical Society's website. For further reading, history, and background on the Central of Georgia please click here.
CoG boxcar #5505 advertises for its owner in the Huntsville yard during February of 1972.
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.
Norfolk Southern's Central of Georgia heritage locomotive, ES44AC #8101, shows off its predecessor's original livery at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer during the July 4th holiday in 2012.
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
21, 23, 24, 28-35
The Baldwin Locomotive Works
The Electro-Motive Corporation/Electro-Motive Division
Wearing a Southern-inspired livery, SW1 #7 rests in Huntsville during March of 1969.
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.