St. Marys Railroad

The St. Marys Railroad (reporting marks, SM) is a Class III short line based out of St. Marys, Georgia and connects the small town of Kingsland to the west, about 11 rail-miles away. Under its founder, Captain Lemuel Johnson, the operation had an ambitious plan (as did most new railroads in those times) of expanding west, north, and south although funding could never be secured to see these dreams realized. Still, the railroad that was eventually built remains in operation today although its small size and lack of customers makes its future uncertain at the present time. To its credit, however, the St. Marys' current owner has always dreamed of owning his own railroad so hopefully under the Boatright Companies' leadership the short line will prosper.

St. Marys Railroad SW1200RS #506 (ex-Canadian Pacific #8150) performs some chores at Kingsland, Georgia in April of 2013. Warren Calloway photo.

The St. Marys Railroad has had an interesting history over the years, especially considering that it has only served two small towns in southeastern Georgia since it was chartered. The system was originally known as the St. Marys & Kingsland Railroad and after connecting its namesake cities the StM&K was renamed as the Atlantic, Waycross & Northern in 1911. The point of this renaming was in hopes of extending the line to the north and west, notably the town of Waycross. Unfortunately, funding for this route never materialized enabling its completion.  Had it down so the AW&N would have reached another, larger city and acquired an additional interchange partner with the Atlantic Coast Line (the railroad already held an interchange with the Seaboard Air Line at Kingsland).

St. Marys Railroad SW1200RS #506 performs switching chores at St. Marys, Georgia in April of 2013. Warren Calloway photo.

After the failed extension of the AW&N and the death of its founder, Lemuel Johnson, in 1918 the railroad went through several name changes and ownership. Soon after Johnson's death the short line was sold to the Southern Fertilizer & Chemical Company of Savannah and over twenty years later was sold again to the St. Marys Kraft Corporation, a subsidiary of the Gilman Paper Company, in 1939. Gilman was a local company located near St. Marys and under its ownership the railroad was renamed as the Saint Marys Railroad. While the short line did not really prosper under Gilman it did remain profitable, enabling it to purchase its first diesel locomotive in 1945, a General Electric 65-Tonner #500.

Another view of SW1200RS #506 at St. Marys, Georgia on April 10, 2014. Warren Calloway photo.

Unfortunately, the future looked bleak for the short line after Gilman was sold to the Durango Paper Company in December of 1999 following the death of its founder, Howard Gilman. At this point the company was capable of producing 2.6 million pounds of paper per day and employed more than 1,000. Under Durgano's ownership it was hit with numerous safety violations and by 2002 was bankrupt, which resulted in the plant's closing. Naturally, being the railroad's largest customer it was a major blow to traffic by losing the paper business.  In 1955 the St. Marys Railroad saw its only considerable expansion when it constructed a 4.5-mile spur about two miles west of St. Marys along its main line to serve the United States Army Ammunitions storage terminal at Kings Bay. This allowed the short line to expand its traffic base from what was essentially just outbound loads of paper via the Gilman's plant.

St. Marys Railroad SW1200RS #506 moves a string of freight cars at Kingsland, Georgina in April of 2013. Warren Calloway photo.

St. Marys Railroad All-Time Locomotive Roster

Builder Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
AlcoRS35013/1951 (Replaced by #503)1
AlcoRS35021/1956 (Replaced by #504)1
EMDSW15005036/1971 (Sold to Birmingham Southern in 2/07 and numbered BS #355.)1
EMDMP15DC50410/1974 (Sold to Watco in 6/06 and numbered WAMX #1504.)1
EMDMP15DC5055/1976 (Sold to Birmingham Southern 2/07 numbered BS #373.)1
EMDSW1200RS5061/1960 (Ex-CN #1270, Acquired 2/07.)1
GE65-Tonner50019451


St. Marys Railroad MP15DC #505 pulls a cut of cars from the CSX interchange as the switcher heads back to St. Marys having just departed Kingsland. Doug Kroll photo.

Today, the railroad is under the ownership of the Boatright Companies, a multifaceted railroad business which offers rail car servicing, tie sales, and Hi-Rail equipment among other things. It is my understanding that St. Marys currently has a traffic base in coal, pulpwood chips, chemicals, along with the business it provides to the military base.   Additionally, in recent years the railroad began offering excursions, which now run from February through the Christmas holiday season.  Currently the railroad’s roster includes only a GE and EMD switcher, although at point the St. Marys also had Alco RS3s. Information courtesy of Paul Pleasant.




Top Of Page

› St. Marys Railroad

Header Photo: Drew Jacksich




Researching Rights-Of-Way

A popular pastime for many is studying and/or exploring abandoned rights-of-way.  Today, there are tens of thousands of miles scattered throughout the country.  Many were pulled up in the 1970's and 1980's although others were removed long before that.  If you are researching active or abandoned corridors you might want to check out the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Historical Topographic Map Explorer.  It is an excellent resource with thousands of historic maps on file throughout the country.  Just type in a town or city and click on the timeline of maps at the bottom of the page!



Studying Diesels

You will be hard pressed at finding a better online resource regarding diesel locomotives than Craig Rutherford's TheDieselShop.us.  The website contains everything from historic (fallen flags) to contemporary (Class I's, regionals, short lines, and even some museums/tourist lines) rosters, locomotive production information, technical data, all notable models cataloged by the five major builders (American Locomotive, Electro-Motive, General Electric, Fairbanks-Morse, and Baldwin), and much more.  A highly recommended database!



Electro-Motive Database

In 1998 a gentleman by the name of Andre Kristopans put together a web page highlighting virtually every unit every out-shopped by General Motors' Electro-Motive Division.  Alas, in 2013 the site closed by thankfully Don Strack rescued the data and transferred it over to his UtahRails.net site (another fine resource).  If you are researching anything EMD related please visit this page first.  The information includes original numbers, serials, and order numbers.