Last revised: April 28, 2023
By: Adam Burns
With the Appalachian Mountains located to its western periphery, and coast plains in the east, Georgia offers an interesting mix of natural geography.
The state has always been important for railroads, particularly Atlanta. This was especially true during the Civil War when the Western & Atlantic offered the only route through the Appalachians, linking Atlanta with Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Interestingly, this railroad, fully completed in late 1849, is still owned by Georgia and leased to CSX Transportation. Its importance was not lost on both sides during the war and was the location of the "Great Locomotive Chase" (otherwise known as Andrews Raid) that took place in the spring of 1862.
Historically, Georgia's rail mileage peaked around 1920 at 7,326 miles. Today, a little over half of that is still in active service. This is not a new phenomenon, as most state have lost half, or more, of their rail network since the 1950s.
Famous companies to serve the state include the Southern Railway, Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Air Line, and Louisville & Nashville/Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis. These lines have since disappeared into larger conglomerates Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation.
Today, Georgia is home to several heritage railroads and museums which keep alive it history with trains. These include the Azalea Sprinter, Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, Georgia Museum Of Agriculture & Historic Village, Georgia State Railroad Museum, Okefenokee Heritage Center, SAM Shortline Excursion Train, Southeastern Railway Museum, Southern Museum Of Civil War & Locomotive History, St. Marys Railroad, Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad, and Thronateeska Heritage Center.
The state's popular heritage railroads scattered throughout its borders, from St. Marys and Blue Ridge to Cordele and Nashville. The scenery afforded during these trips offer riders the chance to see the very best of the state, in addition to enjoying a great meal and relaxing experience.
Launched in 2021, the Azalea Sprinter is operated by short line freight carrier CaterParrott Railnet. All trains depart from Nashville with trips running as far as either Willacoochee, Moody or Valdosta.
The tourist line hosts several different excursions and specials throughout the operating season. Among their popular events are dinner trains hosted on select dates. These trips, which depart from either Nashville or Willacoochee, typically last about 2 1/2 hours, round trip.
According to the railroad the dinner trains, which are hosted within restored dining cars, include a "...five-course meal, live music, cash bar and great service all while traveling through rural South Georgia." Their website offers complete information regarding dates, times, and accommodations of these trains.
The most popular tourist railroad in Georgia is the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. It is located in the northern mountainous regions and operates over 13 miles.
The company does not offer full dining services on-board but its "Premier Class" accommodations (18 years or older) provide an enjoyable trip.
According to the railroad; "you will experience individualized service in a coach featuring:
The SAM Shortline, located in Cordele, Georgia is a beautiful operation that features nearly a 70-mile round trip.
There are no dinner trains provided by the railroad but they do offer the following upscale accommodations which offer some type of refreshment:
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Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource on the study of steam locomotives.
It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website.
It is quite staggering and a must visit!