Saturday, June 22, 2013

Western & Atlantic Railroad

After being tasked by the state of Georgia with seeking a route for a railroad from the Chattahoochee River to the Tennessee River, on September 10, 1837 Abbott Hall Brisbane drove a stake into the dirt in the middle of nowhere on the east side of the Chattahoochee twenty miles from the new town of Marietta, Georgia.

With that action, both a railroad and a town, ingloriously named Terminus (as in "the end of the line"), were born.

Terminus gave way to the cute-but-quaint Marthasville before the railroad that gave birth to the town finally gave the village it's grown-up name when the name Atlanta was coined as the feminine of Atlantic.

A few previous posts have referred to the Western & Atlanta Railroad, and the W&A will be central to many future posts, so a general overview is in order.

The state of Georgia began building the Western & Atlantic, commonly referred to as the "State Road", in 1838. Regular service between Atlanta and Marietta began in 1845. By 1848, the 138-mile long line was completed to Chattanooga with the exception of Chetoogeta Mountain, now Tunnel Hill, north of Dalton. Until the tunnel through the mountain was completed in 1850, passengers would have to disembark with their luggage on one side, climb the mountain, then board a new train to continue their journey.

The W&A served as a vital link between Virginia and the port cities of the Deep South during the Civil War, making it first the target of James Andrews' failed 1862 raid known as the Great Locomotive Chase. In 1864, the W&A served as the corridor for Sherman's invasion of Georgia during the Atlanta Campaign.

Cram Map of Georgia, 1883
From Cram Map of Georgia 1883 showing railroads in Northwest Georgia.
The Western & Atlantic began in Atlanta, ran northwest through Marietta and Cartersville to Kingston,
north to Dalton, then northwest to Chattanooga.

Except for minor route improvements, the only significant changes in the route of the Western & Atlantic from its beginning through the present were the relocation of track when Lake Allatoona and the new Etowah River bridge were built.

The W&A is still owned by the state of Georgia and is leased to CSX.

More on the history of the Western & Atlantic Railroad will be coming soon.

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