Seaboard Air Line Railway

Seaboard Air Line Railway was formed in the 1880s by the consolidation of the Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad, which dated back to the earliest decades of American railroads, and other lines in the Carolinas into a single system. Eventually, over 100 lines would be incorporated into the SAL.

Seaboard’s lease of the Georgia, Carolina & Northern Railway in 1889 gave it a connection to Atlanta. Florida & West India Short Line

The line between Lyons, Ga. and Montgomery, Ala. had been built by the Savannah, Americus & Montgomery Railway in the early 1890s. In May, 1895, the SA&M was sold under foreclosure to the Georgia & Alabama Railway, a new company organized by Seaboard's John Skelton Williams.

In 1896, Williams bought the Abbeville & Waycross Railroad, which ran from Abbeville to Ocilla, and absorbed it into the Georgia and Alabama.

In 1899, Seaboard bought the 1017-mile Florida, Central & Peninsular Railroad, a key part of which was a line from Savannah to Jacksonville.

On July 1, 1900, the entire system was consolidated and reorganized as the Seaboard Air Line Railway, a 2600-mile network stretching from Virginia to Florida. The Seaboard Air Line name had been used previously, but as a marketing name rather than the name of the company. (At the time, "Air Line" referred to a direct route, or at least a route more direct than that of any competitor.)

SAL bought the Lawrenceville to Loganville line from the Georgia, Carolina, and Northern Railway in 1901.

Ten-wheel passenger engine built for Seaboard by Baldwin in early 1900s.


Seaboard Air Line engine no. 2501

Engine no. 2501 in 1930. Jack Spottswood, photographer. (From: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory).

A connection from Atlanta to Birmingham was built in 1904 by an SAL subsidiary, the Atlanta & Birmingham Air Line Railway. SAL absorbed the A&BAL shortly after completion of the line.

On December 31, 1917, operations began on a new Savannah-Charleston line. Much of the Seaboard’s freight traffic that formerly passed through Columbia, S.C. was diverted to the new line.

Seaboard announced a lease of the Georgia, Florida & Alabama Railway in June 1927. The GF&A ran from Richland, on SAL's Savannah-Montgomery line, south to Tallahassee, on the Seaboard line that ran from Jacksonville to the Chattahoochee River.

1943 photo by Jack Delano. Online at Library of Congress here.

The Orange Blossom Special at Sebring, Florida.
(State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)

The company was reorganized as Seaboard Air Line Railroad in 1946. Its main offices were in Norfolk, Virginia.SAL logo

By the middle of the twentieth century the system comprised 4146 miles of railroad: 1558 in Florida, 846 in Georgia, 736 in South Carolina, 630 in North Carolina, and the remainder in Virginia and Alabama. The company employed nearly 18,000 people. In 1951 it transported 43 million tons of freight and 1,465,186 passengers using 399 diesels, 213 steam locomotives, 24,000 freight cars, and 490 passenger cars.

Seaboard absorbed the Macon, Dublin & Savannah Railroad in 1958. Since 1902 the MD&S had connected the Seaboard at Vidalia with Dublin and Macon over a 92-mile route. Because its extension to Savannah was never built, Vidalia remained the southern end of the line.

SAL merged with Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in 1967 (nearly a decade after merger talks were announced) to form Seaboard Coast Line Railroad.

Seaboard Coast Line Industries and Chessie System merged in 1980 to form CSX Corporation.

Lawrenceville-Loganville abandoned 1932.
(See Seaboard System Railroad, Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, and CSX for other abandonments.

SAL lettering in backrest of bench at Elberton's old Seaboard depot.

Maps and Timetables:

1847 map of Seaboard & Roanoke at Library of Congress

1896 map at Library of Congress

1906 timetable, Columbus - Albany line (50K) 

1916 map (648K)

1916 map, simplified (104K)

1918 timetable (436K)

1932 map (122K)

1947 map at University of Alabama Map Library

1953 map, Abbeville - Fitzgerald (213K)

1954 map, Bainbridge - Havana (362K)

1955 map, Columbus - Richland (470K)

1953-55 map, Richland - Dawson (394K)

1953 map, Dawson - Albany (255K)

1955 map, Chattahoochee River - Richland (300K)

1955 map, Richland - Americus (235K)

1966-68 map, Altamaha River - Kingsland (352K)

1968 map, Altamaha River - Riceboro (251K)

Suggested Reading:

Larry Goolsby. Seaboard Air Line Passenger Service: The Streamlined Era. Lynchburg, VA: TLC Publishing, 2011.

William E. Griffin, Jr. Seaboard Air Line Railway; the Route of Courteous Service. Lynchburg, VA: TLC Publishing, 1999.

Robert Wayne Johnson. Through the Heart of the South; the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Story. Erin, Ontario: Boston Mills Press, 1995.

Albert M. Langley Jr., W. Forrest Beckum, Jr., and C. Ronnie Tidwell. Seaboard Air Line Railway Album. North Augusta, S.C.: Union Station Publishing, 1988.

Lines South. Magazine of the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line Railroads Historical Society, Inc.

Richard E. Prince. Seaboard Air Line Railway; Steam Boats, Locomotives and History. Published by Richard E. Prince in Green River, Wyoming, 1966. Reprinted March 2000 by Indiana University Press.

Seaboard bridge over College Avenue in Athens.

View up tracks to highway bridge over the rails

Mound of dirt at end of tracks

Most of the former SAL main line down the Georgia coast was abandoned by CSX in 1986-88. The two views above show the end of the tracks at Riceboro in Liberty County. (Photos by Jamey Smith.)

A 3.5-mile section of the former railroad near White Oak in Camden County has been converted to a rail-trail.

A few miles south in Woodbine a 2-mile rail-trail leads to the former Satilla River railroad bridge.

More info at:
Atlantic Coast Line & Seaboard Air Line Railroads Historical Society


Seaboard promotional booklet, c. 1906. Online at Internet Archive here. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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