Tallulah Falls Railway

The Blue Ridge and Atlantic Railroad was sold under foreclosure in 1897, and the Tallulah Falls Railway was organized the next year to take over its properties. With the financial backing of Southern Railway, the new owners extended the line to Clayton in 1904, to North Carolina in 1906, and to Franklin in 1907. The result was a 57-mile line from Cornelia to Franklin.

Around the time that the railroad was under construction north of Clayton, the Southern was considering a grander plan, one which would incorporate the TF and several other existing lines into a new route over the Appalachians to Knoxville, Tennessee.

If constructed, the railroad would have continued from Franklin down the Little Tennessee River valley to Southern's Murphy Branch (Asheville-to-Murphy, N.C.) near Almond. From there, trains could proceed a few miles to Bushnell where the Tennessee & Carolina Southern branched off and followed the river 14 miles to Fontana. From Fontana, new tracks would be built alongside the Little Tennessee to Calderwood, where they would join existing lines to Maryville and Knoxville. The plan was never implemented.

In 1917 the TF reported operating 58 miles of railroad between Cornelia and Franklin with 5.72 miles of sidings. Equipment reported included 5 locomotives, 10 passenger cars, 46 freight cars, and 6 service cars.

The TF’s nickname was the Rabun Gap Route. (Although some local people jokingly called it the "Total Failure.")

Passenger service came to an end in 1946. The last freight train ran on March 25, 1961. A short section from Cornelia to Demorest remained in operation for several years longer, but was abandoned sometime before 1985.

A small museum with exhibits related to the TF is on US 441 at Rabun Gap.

The TF was known for its trestles. There were 42 of them, ranging in length from 25 to 940 feet.

Suggested Reading:

Brian A. Boyd, Tallulah Falls Railroad; A Photographic Remembrance (Clayton, GA: Fern Creek Publishing, 2000).

Kaye Carver and Myra Queen, editors, Memories of a Mountain Shortline; the Story of the Tallulah Falls Railroad (Rabun Gap, GA: The Foxfire Press, 1976).

Maps, Timetables, and Other Information:

1897 map (64K)

1908 map (80K)

1916 map (56K)

1917 timetable (124K)

1913 map, Habersham County (504K)

1920 map, Rabun County (498K)

1936 photo, at Cornelia depot (70K)

1940 timetable (67K)

1954 map, Cornelia - Tallulah Falls (261K)

1954 map, Tallulah Falls - North Carolina (230K)

Tallulah Falls Ry 1906 timetable

From: Official Guide of the Railways, 1906.

More:

Many fascinating old photos of the TF and several of its communities are online at the Rabun County Historical Society's website.

Nineteenth-century illustration of Tallulah Falls. The unusually steep-sided gorge may have formed from a stream capture event caused by the Tugaloo River eroding through a ridge to divert the Chattooga and Tallulah rivers. Those two streams now flow into the Savannah River basin, but they may have been tributaries of the Chattahoochee in the geologic past.

(From: Summer resorts and points of interest of Virginia, western North Carolina, and north Georgia. New York: C. G. Crawford, printer, 1884. Online at Internet Archive here.)


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