Sunday – April 20, 2014
Georgia State Railroad Museum
The rain finally subsided overnight here at the Fort McAllister Historic State Park in Richmond Hills, Georgia. An overcast sky with the temperature reaching the mid-seventies is forecast for today, with the possibility for sunny skies this afternoon. We decided we would take a road trip to the Georgia State Railroad Museum in Savannah.
We departed the State Park under an overcast sky and by the time we arrived in Savannah, the sky had cleared and the warmth of the sun beamed down upon us. Perfect timing for our visit to the railroad museum.
The Georgia State Railroad Museum is located on the grounds of the Savannah shops complex that served as a major repair facility for the Central Georgia Railroad. The Roundhouse Railroad Museum complex is recognized as a National Historic Landmark District and has been designated by the State Legislature as the Georgia Railroad Museum.
The Central of Georgia Railroad & Canal Co. was chartered in 1833. The purpose of the railroad was to bring products grown or manufactured in Georgia to Savannah for export, primarily cotton. By 1843, the Central of Georgia had constructed 190 miles of railroad track, and formed the longest continuous railroad under one central management in the world. Construction of the Savannah repair shops began in 1851. In the Pre-Civil War South, the Central possessed the second largest holding of rolling stock with 50 locomotives and 500 cars.
During the Civil War, the government ordered the Central to release most of its rolling stock for use by the Confederate military. General William Sherman led Union soldiers on their march through Georgia to the sea. The troops traveled down the railroad, and destroyed the Central’s rail connections by heating the rails over fires, and wrapping them around trees and telegraph poles. During the war, the Central suffered major losses and it took several years to restore the rolling stock inventory.
In 1895, the Central was sold under foreclosure and was reorganized as the Central of Georgia Railway. The Central reached its peak in the early 1920s and was the largest employer in Savannah. During the Great Depression, the Central continued operation as a leading employer. In the late 1940s, the Savannah shops began servicing the newer diesel locomotives, but a roundhouse is not conducive to diesel maintenance. Soon the majority of the diesel locomotives were sent to the newer Macon, Georgia shops. In 1963, Southern Railway purchased the Central and the Savannah shops were closed.
After years of neglect, the Southern Railway began demolishing several structures at the Savannah shops complex. However, a group of concerned citizens halted the destruction and the Southern Railway transferred the property title to the city of Savannah. The site sat abandoned and decaying until 1989, when the Coastal Heritage Society accepted management of the Savannah shops complex. With major support from the city of Savannah, the structures are currently being restored.
The museum features over 40 pieces of railroad equipment, including one of the oldest Southern-made stationary steam engines in the world. Exhibits include:
A large structure completed in 1855, the roundhouse formed a complete circle and was 250 feet in diameter. Locomotives were stored overnight, refueled, and received light repairs.
Used to rotate locomotives and rolling stock, allowing them access to all of the stalls in the roundhouse.
Completed in 1855, the shop contained various types of large machinery, such as lathes and drills, used to repair locomotive parts.
This type of garden was common among industrial sites in the 1800’s.
Tender Frame Shop
Completed by 1855, the shop was used for the construction of wooden frames and piecing together the metal castings for the locomotive tender cars.
Completed by 1855, the chimney is 125 feet tall and was used to draw smoke from several areas of the site via underground tunnels. In addition, the lower portion of the stack held a 40,000-gallon cast iron water tank, and the small rooms under the tank served as privies.
Completed by 1855, this building originally contained 13 forges that were used to fabricate metal components used to repair parts on locomotives.
Boiler Room Building
Completed by 1855, this building housed a boiler and stationary steam engine that provided power for the extensive belt driven machinery systems employed at the shops. Built in 1852, in Macon, Georgia, the Findlay stationary steam engine is the oldest Georgia-made stationary team engine in the United States.
Completed by 1925, this structure was used to store mechanical parts for repairing and constructing locomotives and rolling stock. It also housed a print shop.
Completed by 1855, the lumber shed was used to store lumber for use in the Carpenters’ Shop.
Built in 1853, this shop was where the majority of carpenter work took place for the passenger and freight cars, furniture, doors and windows.
Completed by 1924, this building was used to repair and overhaul the rolling stock.
Completed by 1925, this building was used to paint the rolling stock.
The Georgia State Railroad Museum is a must visit for any railroad buff. The admission fee is $10.00 for adults and is valid for three consecutive days of visits.
Tomorrow another adventure begins.