Georgia Southwestern Railroad

The Georgia Southwestern Railroad is a 234-mile shortline based out of Dawson, Georgia. The railroad may be labeled technically as a Class III carrier but it is the third largest rail operation in the state behind Norfolk Southern and CSX! The GSWR’s operates trackage that was owned by both the Seaboard Air Line and Central of Georgia (the railroad even has a few of its locomotives painted in CoG-inspired livery), dating back to the latter 1800s. When the GSWR began operations in 1989 it was a subisidary of the South Carolina Central railroad. However, today it is owned by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc., a company which specializes in the operation of shortline railroads all across the country. With the railroad having a diversified traffic base and interchange points with both of the eastern Class I systems, the company's future looks very good.

Georgia Southwestern GP38 #3801 performs switching work at local industries in Dawson on December 12, 2008. The shortline wears a livery inspired by the Central of Georgia. Doug Kroll photo.

As mentioned before the lines that make up the Georgia Southwestern Railroad system are comprised of two former Class I systems, the SAL and Central of Georgia. The Seaboard's trackage was originally built by the Americus, Preston & Lumpkin of 1884 to connect its namesake cities. The company's line was completed by 1887 and a year later was renamed the Savannah, Americus & Montgomery Railroad. In 1895 the company again went through a name change as the Georgia & Alabama Railway. At its peak the G&A connected Montgomery, Alabama with Lyons, Georgia (which was located west of Savannah). In 1896 the G&A took control of the Columbus Southern Railway which had been built in 1890 connecting Albany with Columbus. In 1900 the G&A came under the control of the SAL.

The final railroad that was eventually leased by the SAL in 1928 was the Georgia Pine Railway, which was chartered in 1895 to build a line north from Bainbridge. Three years later in 1898 the railroad had a 28-mile line in operation to Damascus. After the railroad was renamed as the Georgia, Florida & Alabama Railway in 1901 it soon began building north and south eventually reaching Richland, Georgia that same year (and a connection with the Seaboard Air Line) and Tallahassee, Florida a year later in 1902.

The other part of the Georgia Southwestern Railroad's system was built by the Central of Georgia, a Southern Railway predecessor. There were two sections. First was the CoG's secondary line between Columbus and Americus, which was soldby NS to the GSWR in 1995. The second line originally connected the CoG to Montgomery, Alabama and NS leased the property to shortline Georgia & Alabama Railroad between between Cuthbert, Georgia and White Oak, Alabama in 1989. In 1995 the GSWR purchased the G&A and the track remains in use by the railroad today.  The Georgia Southwestern Railroad’s most well known freight is peanuts (of all things!) but it does have a traffic base in other commodities such as stone, chemicals, and forest products. The railroad also once used to haul excursion trips behind a pair of ex-VIA FP9s but this was discontinued after a change in contract negotiations with NS forced passenger trips off of the line (the FP9s are now used merely for freight service).

Georgia Southwestern Railroad Diesel Locomotive Roster

Builder Model Type Road Number Notes Quantity
EMDGP9702, 6432, 6541Ex-Southern, Ex-B&O3
EMDSD40-2904, 4000-4003, 6313Ex-NP, Ex-MP, Ex-MILW6
EMDGP401339, 1342, 1351-1352, 4005, 4026-4029Ex-MKT, Ex-NP, Ex-N&W9
EMDGP7u2127, 2160, 2176, 2185, 2207Ex-AT&SF5
EMDGP382880, 3802, 3837, 3858, 5078, 5124Ex-C&O, Ex-Southern6
EMDGP38-23801, 3812-3813Ex-C&O, Ex-Southern, Ex-T&P3
EMDFP96302, 6308Ex-VIA2

Georgia Southwestern GP38 #3802 takes a break from its assignments at the yard in Cuthbert, Georgia on May 11, 2006. Doug Kroll photo.

At its peak the railroad once owned 258.4 miles of track but after cutting back the line between Cuthbert and Columbus its system now includes only 234 route miles. The GSWR also has trackage rights to Albany via Norfolk Southern and Bainbridge and Saffold via CSX where it connects with another G&W owned line, the Chattahoochee Industrial Railroad.  For a complete GSWR locomotive roster is listed above.  The future sure looks bright for this line as its carloadings continue to increase by at least 1,000 annually. I guess the railroad’s slogan sure fits it well, “The new reliable railroad” (A slogan the Central of Georgia used for years).

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Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

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