This line was originally chartered as the Alabama & Tennessee Rivers Railroad (A&TR) and was built in the late 1840s and early 1850s. The plan was for the line to go from Selma, on the Alabama River, to Gunters Landing on the Tennessee River. Walker Reynolds was successful in passing a law that required the line to go through Talladega on its way to Gunters Landing, presumably going through Anniston also. The A&TR apparently reached as far as the Anniston area (Blue Mountain) by the Civil War. "Eastern financiers" took over the line after the Civil War and renamed it the Selma, Rome and Dalton Railroad. (The historical sign at the old Southern station in Piedmont, AL, states that the name of this railroad was the Selma, Rome and Calhoun Railroad. The line actually bypassed Calhoun and went straight to Dalton. No other reference to the Selma, Rome and Calhoun has been found.) The plan was to now to continue the line to the northeast to Rome and Dalton, GA. The line was completed between its namesake cities and opened for traffic on May 22, 1870. The Selma, Rome and Dalton was taken over by the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad in 1880. The ETV&G was purchased as part of the new Southern Railway in 1894.
Southern operated the line as a secondary main until the late 1970s when the section from Piedmont, AL, to Atlanta Junction just south of Rome, GA was abandoned. Towns on this section include Ladiga, Spring Garden, Pleasant Gap, Rock Run, Bluffton and Tecumseh, AL, and Etna, Prior, Oremont, Cave Spring and Cunningham, GA. Norfolk Southern then abandoned the section from Fort McClellan through Weaver, Jacksonville, Merrellton, Piedmont Springs and Piedmont, AL in the late 1980s. The section from Piedmont to the southwest for several miles paralleled the former SAL main between Atlanta and Birmingham; these two lines were connected by two spurs that were located west of the parallel section. Norfolk Southern still operates the section of the old Selma, Rome and Dalton from Atlanta Junction through Rome to Dalton, GA, as part of its main line from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Norfolk Southern also continues to operate the rest of the line from Fort McClellan and Anniston through Talladega, Calera, and Wilton to Selma.
Much of the ROW can be made out along the abandoned section. Old Southern passenger stations still exist in Piedmont and Cave Spring. As seen in the pictures on this page, rails are still in place over a road bridge northeast of Cave Spring along US Route 411.