Georgia’s history was heavily influenced by the development of railroads during the 1800’s. In 1837 the Western and Atlantic Railroad began construction of rail tracks leading from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to meet the Georgia Railroad at what would become the City of Atlanta, and work was completed in 1845. Railroads allowed cotton and other products to be transported out of Georgia to markets on the East Coast. Railroads also allowed a large influx of business people from the East Coast who invested money in enterprises that stimulated economic growth in Georgia. By 1850, Georgia contained more miles of train tracks than any other state in the South.
The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is the only mainline railroad excursion service that is still based in Georgia. The original narrow gauge train tracks used by the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway were constructed from 1877 through 1886 by the Marietta & North Georgia Railroad, which ran from Marietta to Murphy in North Carolina. In 1990, a group of local investors purchased the railroad tracks and opened the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway with vintage climate controlled and open air railcars designed for sightseeing in comfort.
The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway takes passengers on an exciting 26-mile round trip excursion. The train starts at the historic train depot in downtown Blue Ridge, travels along the banks of the Toccoa River through historic Murphy Junction and stops at the quaint sister towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee. McCaysville and Copperhill are really one town with two names because the town is split by the Georgia and Tennessee State Line. Passengers can debark and enjoy exploring this unique town, shopping in stores or sampling local delicacies from cafes and restaurants. The return trip to Blue Ridge takes approximately one hour.
The SAM Shortline Excursion Train
The only other scenic railroad tour in Georgia is south of Atlanta on the 68 mile SAM Shortline Excursion Train that runs from Cordele to Archery. Passengers are transported in air conditioned, vintage 1949 rail cars on an 8 hour ride through Lake Blackshear, Leslie, Americus, Plains and Archery. A stop is also made at the Georgia Veterans State Park where passengers can debark and explore the park’s museum containing aircraft, armored vehicles, uniforms, weapons, medals and other memorabilia from the Revolutionary War through the Gulf War. Passengers who wish to spend more time exploring towns along the train route can make special arrangements with the reservations department of the SAM Shortline Excursion Train to pick them up again on the return trip.