The Savannah and Albany Railroad was chartered by Savannah interests in 1847 in an effort to provide a seaport connection for the expanding trade of southwest Georgia. Albany, the region's trade center, had developed at the head of navigation on the Flint River, but the stream's relatively small size and the lack of suitable harbor facilities at Appalachicola made it difficult to ship cotton to the outside world.
In 1854, the railroad's name was changed to Savannah, Albany and Gulf Railroad, reflecting the desire to continue the rails from Savannah beyond Albany to the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, Brunswick was also seeking to build a railroad to Albany and Florida, one that could possibly divert the southwestern trade to its port rather than Savannah's. Brunswick had less capital available than did Savannah, but it had an advantage in that the charter for its railroad, the Brunswick and Florida, gave it a monopoly over the planned route of the two lines.
The solution was a compromise between the Savannah and Brunswick companies in which each would build to a point in southeast Georgia from which a new single line would proceed further west. That new line, the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad, known unofficially as the Main Trunk Railroad, was chartered in 1856.
The SA&G continued to operate under its own name between Savannah and Thomasville, although west of Wayne County the tracks were considered to be those of the Atlantic & Gulf. The confusing arrangement ended in 1863 when the SA&G and the A&G consolidated into a single company known as the Atlantic & Gulf.
About forty miles of the railroad was destroyed or damaged in December 1864 as part of Sherman's March to the Sea. In his operations report, Col. John M. Oliver of the 15th Michigan Infantry noted that his troops "destroyed fourteen trestles, varying from 30 to 150 yards long, and the Gulf railroad bridge across the Ogeechee, a magnificent bridge 500 yards long...." This came on top of much greater destruction along the Central of Georgia and the Georgia Railroad between Atlanta and Savannah during the previous three or so weeks.
Maps and Timetables:
1859 timetable (48K)
1860 map (298K)
1863 timetable (168K)
Civil War period map (138K)
More on the web:
1863 annual report of the SA&G (online at Internet Archive here)