The Decline of the Rails

The depot in Eastman, Georgia

Photo: Robert Brackett

At the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth century, many small towns in Georgia developed because the railroad went through the center of town. After WWII one could travel almost anywhere in Georgia by train.  During the 1960s and 1970s, however, railroads discontinued their passenger service one by one as roads improved and cars became more available and affordable.  Amtrak began passenger service on select routes in 1971 with support from the United States government.  The long time, traditional, town-to-town rail service in Georgia came to an end when Southern Railway finally discontinued passenger service and turned its routes over to Amtrak in 1979.  Depots typically looked like this one located in Eastman, Georgia.  Many small-town depots have been repurposed today as antique stores, restaurants, and tourist information buildings.

Terminal Station in Atlanta, Georgia

Terminal Station. View from Spring Street. (Lane Brothers Commercial Photographers Photographic Collection, 1920-1976, Special Collections Department, Georgia State University Library.)

Terminal Station, one of Atlanta’s downtown passenger terminals, was built in 1905 and demolished in 1972.  It is now the site of the Richard B. Russell Federal Building.  Southern Railway’s headquarters was located next door on Spring Street.  Another station, Union Station, was built in 1930 on Forsyth Street.  This photo of Terminal Station shows the “railroad gulch,” the low lying area where the tracks ran through south Atlanta behind the station.  Today the gulch has been mostly filled in and covered over by part of Phillips Arena and the Georgia World Congress Center.

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