Chartered in 1856, the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad traversed southern Georgia from Screven to Thomasville. At Screven, it connected with the Savannah, Albany & Gulf Railroad which provided a connection to Savannah.
The railroad began in a conflict between competing Savannah and Brunswick companies, each of which was seeking to build a railroad from the Atlantic coast to southwest Georgia. The Savannah company (the SA&G) had much of the capital needed for its project, while the Brunswick company (the Brunswick & Florida) had little. The latter, though, had a provision in its charter which legally gave it a monopoly over much of the planned route.
The solution was a compromise in which each company would build to a point in southeast Georgia from which a single new "trunk" line would proceed further west. That new line was the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.
The rails from the coast reached Blackshear in April of 1859 and Homerville about six months later. In July of 1860, the first train entered Valdosta. Thomasville was soon connected, and work began on the link from that town to Bainbridge on the Flint River, where steamboats provided passage to the Gulf. The A&G's failure to pay railroad contractors McDowell and Callahan in late 1860, however, resulted in delays that slowed further westward progress. A few months later, the Civil War brought a change in priorities, and it was not until 1867 that the railroad was finally extended to Bainbridge.
Much of the region traversed by the A&G and the SA&G consisted of sparsely populated pinelands with few farms or towns. Several rivers had to be bridged, including the Ogeechee, the Altamaha, the Satilla, and the Alapaha. Many miles of floodplains and wetlands had to be crossed, necessitating long earthen fills and numerous trestles. The work was done by the two companies' slaves, of which there were some 1,200 by 1860.
During the war the A&G and the SA&G were consolidated. To assist the movement of troops and supplies, the A&G and the Pensacola and Georgia Railroad jointly built a branch line from Lawton (now DuPont), Georgia, to Live Oak, Florida, the first rail connection between the two states. Its completion, however, came too late to provide much help in the war effort.
In 1869 the A&G purchased the line between Thomasville and Albany then under construction by the South Georgia & Florida Railroad.
Henry Bradley Plant bought the A&G in 1879 at a foreclosure sale and renamed it the Savannah, Florida, and Western Railway. At the time it consisted of a 237-mile main line from Savannah
to Bainbridge with branches adding up to a total of 350 miles
Atlantic & Gulf steam engine No. 3, a wood-burner named Satilla, is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
Maps and Timetables:
1860 map (298K)
1867 map (249K)
1870 map (230K)
1870 timetable (260K)
1874 map (280K)