Tag Archives: Georgia Depots & Railroadiana

Last Supper Mural, 1980s, Crawfordville

This easily overlooked landmark is actually a manufactured image, made for Hollywood, but nonetheless has become a symbol of the town for me.

As a work of art, it’s a grand interpretation of the folk art religious signs once found on fence posts and roadside messages once found throughout the American South.

The artist Joey Potter contacted me and said: I painted this mural on the train depot wall in the early 1980s when I was a scenic for cinema and stage…for the movies Stars and Bars and Home Fires Burning

As the detail views attest, the mural is fading into oblivion.

The depot itself appears to be highly endangered, though the owner has placed a new roof on it, so there may be hope for its future. In The Courthouse and the Depot (Mercer University Press, Macon, 2002) Wilber W. Caldwell identifies it as a depot of the Georgia Railroad. The combination of the broad eaves, the gentle curve of the roof and the distinctive broken based pediment is unique to depots built on the Georgia Railroad in the 1880s and early 1890s.

The depot is posted so please do not attempt to trespass here.

Crawfordville Historic District, National Register of Historic Places


Restoration of the Alapaha Depot

Alapaha’s iconic Brunswick and Western Railroad Depot, built in 1890, has been an important community landmark since its construction, but like many small down depots, had fallen into disuse in recent years. Concerned citizens, led by Mayor Ben Davis, accomplished the beautiful restoration you see in these photographs in an amazingly short time. From 2021 until the dedication of the new facility in December 2022, volunteers and skilled carpenters alike came together to spruce up this symbol of early Alapaha.

Congratulations to Mayor Davis and the people of Alapaha for a job well done, and a lesson to all that historic buildings are worth saving and can be saved when a community comes together.

Warehouses, 1909, Cairo

Two historic freight warehouses survive along the tracks in Cairo. As a shipping point for syrup, they were quite busy, especially during the 1930s, when the town gained attention as the nation’s leading cane syrup producer.

Cairo Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Depot, 1905, Cairo

The old Atlantic Coast Line depot in the middle of downtown Cairo was a busy location in its early years, carrying produce, and the syrup that made the town famous, to buyers all over the country. As dependence on depots waned, the venerable building was repurposed in the 1970s as the Cairo Police Department. Recently, a demolition of the non-historic interior was completed and a master plan to restore it to its original condition was initiated by Lew Oliver, Inc., a renowned architectural firm responsible for numerous successful projects throughout the region. I’m a big fan of Mr. Oliver’s work and know that Cairo will be pleased with what he will do with this depot.

Cairo Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Hahira, Georgia

No one knows exactly where Hahira [pronounced hay-HI-ra] got its name, but it was incorporated in 1891. One source states that it was named for a plantation, which the owner named for Hairaairee, a village in West Africa. No such place name can be found in Africa today, but it is very close to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, actually located in eastern Africa. Another legend maintains Hahira derived its unusual name from Hahiroth, a biblical place name.

Whatever its origin, the small city at the northern end of Lowndes County is growing, along with the rest of the county. New housing developments are popping up everywhere.

Savannah & Atlanta Railway Coaling Tower, Sardis

The text that follows is abridged from a plaque at this site, which was dedicated to the people of Sardis in 2017. To me, the most unusual thing about the tower is how modern it looks, even if it resembles an old frontier fort. Though the text doesn’t definitively say when it was built, I believe it was during the ownership of the Savannah & Atlanta Railway, circa 1917-1921.

The Sardis Coal Chute, also known to locals as the Coaling Tower, is a reminder of the days when steam locomotives dominated the railroads and when Sardis was a booming little town. This intact coaling tower…was once used to load coal into the tenders of steam locomotives using a gravity feed system. The tower was built with solidly reinforced concrete and stands approximately 90 feet tall…The 142 mile rail line, Savannah & Atlanta, ran from S&A Junction, between Camak and Warrenton, to Savannah…

Sardis did not have a railroad until 1911 when the Brinson Railway was extended from Millhaven to Waynesboro. Later, on March 26, 1914, the line became the Savannah & Northwestern and even later, in July 1917, became the Savannah & Atlanta Railway. The line entered receivership in 1921 and was sold to Robert M. Nelson in 1929. The Central of Georgia bought it from Nelson in 1951. In 1962 the Central of Georgia abandoned the line between Waynesboro and Savannah and Sardis was once again left without a railroad.

Millen & Southwestern Railroad Depot, 1890s, Thrift

The long forgotten village of Thrift experienced its greatest growth at the turn of the 19th century with the presence of the Millen & Southwestern Railroad, though growth is a relative term. The population in 1900 was just 61.

I believe this structure to be a depot of the Millen & Southwestern and, luckily, it has been preserved by the property owners. The loading platform is missing, but otherwise the depot looks to be in good shape.

Georgia Woodlands Railroad, Hillman

The Georgia Woodlands Railroad is a short line which runs 17.3 miles from Washington to Barnett. It primarily moves products such as wood chips, lumber and lumber products, as well as other industrial materials. Originally built as the Washington line of the Georgia Railroad in 1852, it has remained in use under various companies ever since.

Georgia Railroad Depot, 1898, Camak

Camak’s rare two-story depot dates to circa 1898. It’s still used by CSX. The town itself was named for James A. Camak (1822-1893), who served as the first president of the Georgia Railroad, and was incorporated the year the depot was built.

The Warren County website details the importance of railroads in the area: The Georgia Railroad Company was chartered December 21, 1883, to build a line of railroad from Augusta to Athens with branches to Madison and Eatonton. Camak became the location for that line. The charter was accepted March 10, 1834, in Athens, Georgia at the home of James Camak, for whom the town is named.  Construction began early in 1835. The charter was amended in 1835, to permit the company to go into the Banking Business. Under the amendment, the company became The Georgia Railroad & Banking Company. Upon the opening of the road through Warren County, stations were established west of Thomson at Camak.  By further amendment to the Charter, a branch from Camak to Warrenton was authorized. This line was completed and opened for business in 1839. Georgia’s first railroad tracks were laid in the mid-1830s on routes leading from Athens, Augusta, Macon, and Savannah. Some twenty-five years later, the state not only could claim more rail miles than any other in the Deep South but also had linked its major towns and created a new rail center, Atlanta. The railroads continued to expand until the 1920s, when a long decline began that lasted into the 1990s. The rail line between Augusta and Atlanta is studded with towns named for early company officials: Camak (James A. Camak, president), Dearing (William E. Dearing, president), and Thomson (J. Edgar Thomson, chief construction engineer)...

Atlanta and Hawkinsville Railroad Depot, 1888, Zebulon

The Atlanta and Hawkinsville Railroad was chartered in 1886 and, though it never reached Hawkinsville, built this depot along the way in 1888. The line was renamed the Atlanta and Florida Railway in 1893 and was sold to the Southern Railway in 1895.

In recent years, the depot was beautifully restored and is now home to the Lions Club and used for other functions, as well.