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The Journey From North Charleston to Jacksonville featuring Georgia State Railroad Museum 1/15/2023

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I awoke at the Best Western Magnolia in North Charleston, South Carolina and after checking out, we went to have breakfast at IHOP then I drove us to the station here and just missed photographing Amtrak's Palmetto train before it departed.

The Amtrak station station in North Charleston which replaced an Atlantic Coast Line/Seaboard Air Line station.

The station historical boards. We then made our way to Ravenel.

The Atlantic Coast Line station in Ravenel built circa 1900. As were leaving, a fellow National Railway Historical Society member, Drew Robinson from Tacoma, with a friend and his wife approached. We were all very surprised to see each other as it was out of the blue and Drew was not attending either of the major events in the area, and chatted for a few minutes. As time was getting on, we drove straight to Savannah and the Georgia State Railroad Museum, meeting Doug Scott, whom we invited to see the museum with us.

Georgia State Railroad Museum

This museum is located at the former Central of Georgia Railroad Savannah Repair Shops. The Central of Georgia Rail Road & Canal Company was chartered by the State of Georgia in December 1833. Construction at this facility began in 1851 and was completed in 1855. Another major phase of construction and expansion occurred in 1924-1927. All steam locomotive maintenance & repairs, as well as construction & remodel of other railroad cars were accomplished all within this facility.

The Repair Shops prospered through the late 1800s & early 1900s. The Central of Georgia was Savannah's largest employer for a time during this period, but eventually the decline of steam power in favor of diesel (maintained at the newer C of G's Macon Shops) led to the Savannah Repair Shops closing in 1963 after the company was purchased by Southern Railway, but it continued operating a passenger line until 1971 out of the neighbouring depot.

After the Southern Railway began demolishing several of the Repair Shop structures, a group of citizens halted the destruction and the Southern Railway transferred part of the property to the City of Savannah. In 1978 the site was recognized as a National Historic Landmark. The Academy Award-winning film "Glory", a story about the Civil War's African-American 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, was filmed on site. The success of the film sparked renewed interest in the property and in 1989, the City of Savannah asked Coastal Heritage Society to bring life back to the derelict buildings and operate it as a historic site focused on heritage tourism.

In 2003, the first of several Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax votes passed which would bring millions of dollars to preserving this facility as a historic site and museum. Regularly scheduled and active passenger rides (site tour by train) began in 2009, as well as a daily offering of various historic interpretation and guided tours to enhance the guest experience of the museum. The former Central Repair Shops are now the largest and most complete antebellum railroad facility of its kind in the world.

Our visit

We paid the fare to enter and received a ticket to ride the 1:00 PM train.

Central of Georgia 0-6-0 8 "Maude" built by Baldwin in 1909 as Central Railroad & Banking Company of Georgia 154, then upon the merger into the Central of Georgia Railway, it became 1108 and in 1954 sold to Macon Iron & Paper Stock Company. It is the oldest Central of Georgia locomotive in existence and was built as a conventional steam locomotive but was converted to a saddle tank in 1909. It served as a switch engine in the Macon area until 1953, and was christened "Maude" after the stubborn, back-kicking comic strip mule in Frederick Opper's "And Her Name Was Maud".

Savannah and Atlantic GP35 2715 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1964. The Savannah & Atlanta Railroad was incorporated in 1915 to connect the Georgia Railroad at Camak and the Savannah & Northwestern Railroad at St Clair. Two years later, it absorbed the Savannah & Northwestern. The Savannah & Atlanta ceased operations in 1921 and was bought by Robert M. Nelson. Central of Georgia purchased the line in 1951 although it retained its corporate identity until 1982 when it was absorbed into newly created Norfolk Southern Railway.

Savannah Riverfront Trolley Birney Safety Car 756 is a W5-class streetcar from Melbourne, Australia. This operation began in 2009 and ended in 2015.

Central of Georgia SW1 1 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1939. Delivered to the Savannah shops on 13th August 1939, it was the first diesel-electric bought by the railroad. It switched freight and passenger cars at the shops as well as on Central's nearby Seatrain Terminal on the Savannah River. This engine was sold to Atlanta Stone Mountain & Lithonia Railway in January 1957.

Southern Railway Jim Crow coach 1207 built by Pullman in 1920. It later became Waccamaw Coast Line 1207 "Waccamaw River".

Central of Georgia 2-8-0 223 built by Baldwin in 1907. After World War II it was transferred to Wrightsville and Tennessee short line owned by the Central of Georgia before being retired in 1952.

Atlantic Wood Industries business car "Port Wentworth" orginally Gentral of Georgia parlour car "Edith", built by Pullman in 1925. It was converted to coach 647 then rebuilt into an office car in 1970. The railroad considered it surplus and sold it to Altanta Creosote Company, and it is on extended loan from Atlantic Wood Industries.

Central of Georgia business car 5341 "Columbus", ex. Illinois Central office car 100 1920, nee Illinois Central sun parlor observation car 3855 built by Pullman in 1913.

Central of Georgia United States Mail Railway Post Office Car 493 built by Bethlehem in 1937.

The museum train on the turntable.

United States Army 44 ton switcher 7069 built by General Electric in 1942. It worked at the Army's Deseret Chemical Warfare Depot in Clover, Utah and was later transferred to the United States Air Force. The Claremont Concord Railroad in New Hampshire bought 7069 in 1988 and it worked for the railroad until 2008, when it was purchased by the Coastal Heritage Society to join the museum's collection.

Hopper car of unknown origin.

Van Dyke tank car built by United Tank Line in 1904. The museum recovered this car in February 2022 from Coffee Bluff where it was used as water storage to feed chickens.

Central of Georgia caboose X92 built by the railroad in 1942 from a 1916 ventilated boxcar and lettered as Southern Railway X791.

The museum train once again.

Georgia State Railroad Museum's DM10 10 ton switcher 10 was originally owned by the North Florida Railway as 2 built by Davenport in 1927.

Wabash baggage car 345 built by American Car and Foundry in 1928. When the joint Wabash-Union Pacific "City of St. Louis" train was inaugurated in 1946, Wabash contributed this baggage car. However, it had only friction bearing trucks and as such, could not be kept in the train's consist out to the West Coast on Union Paific. So the Wabash equipped it with roller-bearing trucks so it could travel on Union Pacific. The car was also painted in the initial paint scheme of the City of St. Louis, the two-tone gray scheme with "City of St. Louis" painted on the letterboard, with smaller "Wabash" letting on either end of the letterboard. The Wabash Railroad Historical Society was instrumental in getting No. 345 repainted back into Wabash livery.

Central of Georgia wooden open platform coach 2 built by the railroad in 1878 as a coach and rebuilt in 1904 as a railway superintendent's car.

Claremont Concord Railroad 380 hp diesel-electric switcher 119, nee Boston and Maine built by General Electric in 1948. It was the last of ten GE 44 ton switchers bought by the railroad between 1940 and 1948. The 119 was later purchased by Pinsley Railroad, a shortline holding company, and then moved to the Claremont Concord Railroad. It was in service until 2004, when it was sold to the museum. Some time before its sale, 119 was repainted in its original delivery colour scheme and was named "William P. Dow".

Savannah Central 0-4-0T 30, ex. Macon Iron and Paper Stock, Incorporated, exx. Georgia Power Company 30, exxx. Dixie Construction Company, nee Hardaway Contracting Company 105, built by American Locomotive Company in 1913. It last operated at Georgia Power's Arkwright Plant switching coal cars.

Tender of Savannah Central 0-4-0T 30.

Atlantic Steel 0-4-0T 1 was built by H. K. Porter in 1905 for Wellerman-Seaver-Morgan Engineering of Cleveland, Ohio. It was later sold to the scrap dealer Southern Iron & Equipment Company of Atlanta and then to Atlantic Steel 1 where it worked until the end of World War II, by which time its small size had rendered it obsolete.

Museum scene.

Norfolk Southern coach 960053, ex. Southern Railway 960053, exx. Southern Railway 728, exxx. Central of Georgia 374, nee Central of Georgia 520, a modernized baggage coach rebuilt from the coach built by Pullman in 1924.

Georgia law unsafe railroad crossing sign.

The smokestack was completed in 1855. This 125 foot chimney was used to draw smoke from the blacksmith shop and boiler room via underground tunnels. The lower portion of the stack held a 40,000 gallon iron rainwater collection tank and had small rooms under the tank which served as privies and showers for the shop workers. The wrought iron straps were added in 1902 when the masonry underwent major repairs to fix damage probably caused by lightening strikes. Built of Savannah Grey brick and lime mortar, its height and the wind blowing across its opening at the top drew smoke through the tunnels and up the stack. Southern Railway began selling brick from the the stack soon after the complex closed. The missing brick was restored in the early 1990s.

The train's boarding area.

The roundhouse was completed in 1855 at which time the building was circular. In 1926, half of the roundhose was demolished, redesigned and expanded to accomodate larger steam engines. The roundhouse was divided into 34 bays.

Planing shed and lumber shed.

The engine house and boiler room, built in 1855, housed a boiler and stationary steam engine that provided power for the extensive belt-driven machinery throughout the site. Currently it houses a Finlay stationary steam engine built in Macon in 1852. It is the oldest Georgia-made stationary steam engine in the United States.

Interior of the engine house and boiler room.

The Blacksmith Shop. Completed in 1855, it housed thirteen forges and steel hammers used the fabricate metal components needed by the railroad to repair, rebuild or build locomotives and other pieces of rolling stock. Smoke from this building went through tunnels to the smokestacks.

The Coach Shop building was constructed in 1924 to replace the building which was destroyed by fire in 1923. Here both freight and passenger cars were built, repaired and refurbished.

The former Machine Shop houses lathes, boring mills, grinders, sharpers, milling machines and planers which allowed workers to resurface worn metal parts ior create new parts needed to repair or rebuild locomotives. This building was completed in 1855 and a second floor was added in 1879. Hurricane David destroyed the majority of this structure.

The train out on the museum grounds.

Museum views.

Another view of the museum train on the turntable.

Part of the Carpenters Shop.

The rest of the Carpenters Shop.

Central of Georgia 430 parlor-drawing room "Charles Carroll" built by Pullman in 1924, rebuilt to baggage car 430, and is now part of the Savannah Children's Museum.

Atlantic Coast Line caboose 0686 built by the railroad in 1966.

The Coach Shop was built in 1924. Here both freight and passenger cars were built, repaired and refurbished.

The Paint Shop was built in 1925. The upper level of this building was used for both stripping and painting of passenger cars. The lower level included offices, the electrical department and a testing lab. Currently it is used to display a number of rolling stock and historic machines.

Sugar Beet 0-4-0F 9 fireless locomotive built by H. K. Porter in 1921 to operate in a sugar beet factory. It was apparently ordered as a cab-forward, but was later converted to a standard configuration. This engine is typical of light weight locomotives used in agriculture where temporary rails were often laid so that cars could be loaded close to a harvest and then transported to the factory.

New Hope Valley Railway Burro Model 15 crane and integrated crane car 1005 was built by the Cullen-Friestedt Company of Chicago.

The roundhouse was completed in 1855. It was circular and was only 250 feet in diameter. In 1926, half of the building was demolished, re-designed and expanded in order to accommodate larger steam locomotives. The roundhouse was divided into 34 bays, each 134 feet long. The floor was made out of wood bricks because they absorbed grease, oil and water and were easy to maintain and protected tools and cast iron parts from damage when dropping.

The museum train was returning to its base.

That great engine once again.

The train at the loading area. Doug, Elizabeth and I boarded this train for our 1:00 PM train ride. Sit back and enjoy the views.

The train pulled down to the switch and then went to the turntable.

The trip around the turntable. Next we went into the Paint Shop.

Seaboard Air Line box car 17954 built by Pullman-Standard in 1934.

Fruit Growers Express refrigator car 57826 built by the company circa 1920s.

Central of Georgia wooden caboose X-10 built by the railroad in 1922 as Central of Georgia 31511. These were later referred to as "short cabooses". After its construction, this particular caboose was used by Central of Georgia for an undetermined length of time. It was then transferred to the Wrightsville & Tennille Railroad, a subsidiary of the Central. It was used by them until s retirement in 1968. This caboose was donated to the Coastal Heritage Society by Mrs. Dottie Johnson, moved to the museum in 2001 and stabilized.

An ongoing project is the restoration of the Georgia Railway 67 built by the Georgia Car Company in 1912. It is a replica of a wooden 1895 passenger car and used in the 2019 Disney film "Lady and the Tramp".

On the way back to the roundhouse.

On the turntable again, then the train pulled us back to the switch and reversed back to the station. Elizabeth and I then joined a tour of the Atlantic Wood Industries business Car "Port Wentworth" given by conductor Jan Cottell.

This car once belonged to the Central of Georgia.

The lounge area of this car.

Bedroom one had Pullman blankets.

Bedroom two had Southern Railway blankets.

The dining area of this car.

The porter's room.

The kitchen area.

The name on the outside of the car; this ended our tour.

A portion of the wooden bricks which form the floor of the roundhouse, which ends the coverage of this museum. We purchased a mug in the gift shop before Elizabeth and I walked across the street for a surprise.

Southern Railway coach 805 "Georgia" built by Pullman-Standard in 1951 now lettered as as Central of Georgia 805 "Georgia". We said goodbye to Doug Scott and continued on our journey.

The drive to Jacksonville

Central of Goergia Savannah station built between 1860 and 1876. From here I drove us to Ludowici for a station.

Georgia Coast & Piedmont Ludowici station built in 1911. In 1906 the Collins and Reidsville Railroad, the Reidsville and Southeastern Railroad and the Darien and Western Railroad merged to form the Georgia Coast and Piedmont Railroad. The railroad operated mainly on a line between Collins and Darien, exnding to Brunswick in 1914. In 1915, the railroad went bankrupt with bondholders filing a request for receivership in 1916. In 1919, after a bid by New York-based salvage firm of Gordon & Freedman, a portion of the railroad was sold to become the Collins and Glennville Railroad. Created from the Collins and Ludowici Railroad, the Collins and Glennville Railroad was founded in 1921 and operated 23 miles of track between Collins and Glennville and lasted until 1941 when it was abandoned.

We continued on to Jesup for its station.

Atlantic Coast Line Jesup station built in 1903.

The Jesup station historical plaque. After this I drove us to Folkston and parked across the tracks from the station.

Folkston Funnel Railfan Park

Located in a small remote town north of Jacksonville, Florida, a short distance off I-95 is the busy railroad town of Folkston, Georgia. Folkston is one of five Georgia towns that welcomes railfans. With an idea borrowed from the Rochelle Railroad Park, Folkston built their own. Located on a double track mainline of CSX, 90% of all trains to and from Florida pass through Folkston. On the east side of the tracks you have the traditional railfan park, which includes a viewing platform (with radio scanner, and lights), restrooms and parking lot complete with a well-groomed lawn along the tracks which really adds to the peaceful enviorment. On the west side of the tracks is the old train station building which is used by the chamber of commerance. Picnic tables and another well-maintained lawn is perfect for train watching when the sun moves to the west side of the tracks. At night, flood lights illuminate the tracks for nighttime train watching. Amtrak also passes Folkston eight times a day, but they do not stop. Some of the daily highlights include the Amtrak Auto-Train and the Tropicanna Orange Juice train (operated by CSX). FolkstonĀ is one of the top train-watching spot in Georgia.

Atlantic Coast Line Folkston station built in 1892, which was not open since it was nearly evening.

Water tower with "Gateway to the Okefenokee".

CSX 3929 East with CSX DPU 5217 in its train. After this train we walked over to the railfan shelter and then walked across the track to a caboose.

Baltimore and Ohio caboose C3779 built by International Car in 1971, painted as Chessie System/B&O 903779.

A mural on the wall.

CSX 5271 East. Elizabeth drove us to BJ's Restaurant before we made our way to the Best Western Southside in Jacksonville for the night.