The Atlanta & Richmond Air-Line was organized in North Carolina in 1870, combining the Georgia Air-Line Railroad Company and the Air-Line Railroad Company of South Carolina. It was controlled by the Richmond & Danville Railroad, a predecessor of Southern Railway. The R&D planned to build a line from Charlotte, N.C. to Atlanta but could not do so under its own name due to limitations in its charter.
The first 53 miles from Atlanta were finished by 1871. In 1872, the R&D extended its credit to guarantee the last stages of construction. The entire line was completed in September, 1873.
Much of the grading was done through the manual labor of convicts leased to Grant, Alexander & Company by the state. During the three years of construction, as many as 200 prisoners were forced to work on the line.
The company entered receivership in November, 1874 and was sold under foreclosure in December, 1876. The new bondholders reorganized the line as the Atlanta & Charlotte Air-Line Railway in February 1877.
Note: At the time, "Air-Line" referred to a direct route, or at least a route more direct than that of any competitor.
Maps and Timetables:
ca. 1870 map of entire line at North Carolina Maps
1872 map, Atlanta section (305K)
1873 map, Georgia section (74K)
1874 timetable (670K)
Fairfax Harrison. A History of the Legal Development of the Railroad System of Southern Railway Company. Washington, D.C., 1901. Online at Google Books.
Maury Klein. The Great Richmond Terminal; A Study in Businessmen and Business Strategy. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1970.
Scott Reynolds Nelson. Iron Confederacies: Southern Railways, Klan Violence, and Reconstruction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
John F. Stover. The Railroads of the South 1865-1900; A Study in Finance and Control. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1955.