Savannah, GA to Jacksonville, FL

The Everett Subdivision

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Townsend, GA -- Looking south towards Cox and Everett, this is the end of the line for the ex-SAL route. CSX abandoned this section late in 1985. Note the wide right-of-way to accommodate a passing track. Photo by Eugene Cain, April 1986.

In the late 1880s, the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad was expanding its system and decided to build their own line to Savannah, GA. Trackage rights had been sought over the Plant System's tracks but when that didn't work out they were forced to expand their own line to secure a connection to the north. The new line was begun in 1892 and was extended from a point north of Jacksonville (at a crossing then known as Hart's Road, today as Yulee, FL) to Savannah. Completed in 1893, this new route was 36 miles shorter than the Plant System's mainline and hugged the Georgia coastline. The Plant System was distraught over the completion of a competing new line in the marshes previously thought to be impassable!

Eventually, the FC&P was absorbed into the new Seaboard Air Line, while the Plant System became the Atlantic Coast Line. For the next 60 years, the SAL and the ACL were arch rivals — their parallel mainlines crossed each other's at no less than 75 locations. In the early 1950s, both the SAL and ACL announced they were undertaking a study of the possibility of merging the two systems, as considerable financial savings would be realized if the they merged. However, numerous problems and arguments kept the two railroads from merging until July 1, 1967, when the two became the Seaboard Coast Line.

At first, nothing changed on the "S" line. Previous merger talks in the 1960s recommended that the SAL route be considered the primary route between Savannah and Jacksonville, since it was 36 miles shorter than the ACL route. However, after the merger the SCL continued to operate both lines until the CSX merger in 1980. The "S" line had been proposed for abandonment in 1979 but it stayed in use through the Seaboard System era. By 1985, CSX had considered the "S" line as surplus trackage and with the many bridges to maintain the decision was made to retire part of the route from Riceboro to Thalmann. The last trains ran in October, 1985.

In early 1986, CSX began to remove the trackage south of Riceboro. A spur was left in place from Bladen to Thalmann to serve a wood yard but the line was shuttered in 1987. The route south of Bladen was redesignated the Kingsland Subdivision and CSX kept it open another 3 years. But in November of 1989 it too fell silent forever. The track came out in 1990 from Bladen to Seals, just north of Kingsland. CSX later regretted taking this section up but made no attempt to restore it. The major trestle at Woodbine was removed except for a small section that was converted into a fishing pier. The portion from Yulee to Kingsland is now operated as a shortline.

Many artifacts remain along the abandoned rail corridor, and most of the bridges still stand. There has been talk of converting the route into a hiking trail from Kinglsand to Riceboror, a total of about 80 miles of former SAL mainline.

Thanks to Eugene Cain for contributing information about this route.

When you say the section between Yulee and Kingsland is still operated as a shortline, does that also include the spurs serving Amelia I./Fernandina Beach and St. Mary's? Is that the reason for keeping this section open? I turned aside on a summer 2001 trip to look at Amelia as I went by & noticed the RR that still seemed to be in service, serving some kind of mineral operation on the N end of the island.

M Bailey
Lexington County
8/15/2009

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Yes the Row from Jacksonville,Fl to Yulee,Fl is stell owed by CSX and from Yulee, FL to Kingland,GA it is leasd by the First Cost Railroad from CSX and the spur to St. Mary's is Ownd by the St. Mary's railroad. all so the spur from Yulee, FL to Ferinda, FL is leasd by the First Coast Railroad from CSX

Jonathan W. Filion
Palatka, FL
9/2/2009

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Hi, I love these photos. I went around a year ago taking pictures in a few of the same spot. I didn't realize you had this page up so I repeated most of the same info on the GA portion of this site. Your info is way more in depth and I enjpyed reading it. You say the tracks end after the mill in Riceboro? I didn't make it that far on my exploration. The ROW has changed a lot since you took your pics. And tey are still debating about turning it into a bike trail.

Suzy Krone
Brunswick
10/12/2009

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This is as neat of a web thing as I have seen, good job.

rocketbob
Dadeville, AL
1/19/2010

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Me and my brother visited this area last year hoping to find additional remnants of the old telegraph line that ran alongside this abandoned line. However, we didn't find much of anything except a few pieces of glass insulators and a few crossarms. We did realize that the majority of this runs through Georgia Pacific property as well as a few hunting clubs around Jones, so we didn't want to trespass. Do you have any information on who to contact to get permission to walk the line and do some research?

Mike Herron
Toccoa, GA
2/24/2010

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I think it would be nice if the former rail line will be reopened for high speed trains European style for Amtrak like Amtrak's Acela trains between Jacksonville and Savannah to Columbia or Charleston,SC to Richmond,VA and Washington,DC. The travel time of these trains will be reduced between its cities along this reactived railroad line for trains running at 200 mph (320 km/h.

Sylvain Lacroix
Montreal,QC Canada
9/24/2010

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I wondered if part of the reason they abandoned the line was sue to the old wooden tressles. I think it's another reason why the kick around the idea of turning it into a bike trail and then don't. There are lots of bridges to maintain and fix as well as lots of commercial pine forests and hunting clubs. I wish I could some how just hike or ride on the railroad too, with out trespassing. I was riding on it with my dual sport. I wonder if I could some how work out a deal to get onto private parts?

Suzy Krone
Brunswick, GA
3/21/2011

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The Railroad (CSX) was all too in a hurry to reduce trackage they deemed surplus. Many lines met this condition

and it is easily understood why the trackage had to go. Here though was a well maintained CTC controlled basically ruler straight mainline. It would have been perfect for Amtrak and could have gotten today's Passenger Trains off the busy freight line. I wonder if anyone even gave it a second thought??? Many of the bridges were replaced with concrete structures. The trestle at the Altamaha River presented the most difficult challenge. Most of the former S line north of Jacksonville could have been sold to Amtrak and CSX could have retained trackage they wanted to operate.

Oppurtunities lost. But it would be nice to see the Trail come to pass. There were dual Telegraph Pole lines on either side of the ROW. They were all gone by the early 1990s, but a few poles are still standing here and there!!!

I don't know anyone to contact about obtaining permission to be on the ROW. Eugene Cain

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
5/12/2011

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I really do not know where else to post. But I was wondering if freight trains still go through madison, georgia. I know there is a historic madison, georgia train depot. Are those train tracks next to the madison train depot still active. I am trying to figure out which traks are active, and which ones are abandoned. Another question is who owns and operates the athens line? I am a littel bit confused on that.

David
Key West, FL
11/9/2011

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David, Both CSX and NS serve Madison, Georgia. The CSX Mainline is the former Georgia Road between Atlanta and Augusta. The NS line is the former Central of Georgia route to Athens, Georgia. CSX also operates the former SAL mainline through Athens to Greenwood, SC.

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
11/17/2011

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Looking for any slides or photos of the old Seaboard Coast Line (Amtrak) station in Thalmann, Georgia. Have a few, but still looking for anything on this depot which closed October, 1979. Can anyone be of assistance. Thank You.

Bob

Bob
Atlanta, , GA
12/18/2011

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Does anybody have pics of this line still in service? If you due please post or send info on it.Love seeing pics and storys of this Sub division.

Willis Ford JR
Charleston , SC
1/13/2012

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Have traveled this former Seaboard ROW many times, but never knew about the swing bridge over the Altamaha River north of Everett.

One of the route's remaining depots that's easy to get to is in Kingsland, moved and restored one block east of US-17. The Dorchester depot is in the hands of the Historic Seabrook society but sits unrestored in a wooded area.

The original wooden Riceboro depot was moved to a marina/campground area which, although I was there years ago, I cannot remember its location. Anyone know where it is? The replacement pre-fab metal depot sat inside a wye in the industrial plant area. Not sure if it's still there.

Bob Venditti
Weston, FL
6/1/2012

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There is tolks that the line may be rebuilt from Yulee to the CSX Brunswick Sub. so the intermobel trains going two/from the port in Jacksonville can bepass downtown.

Jonathan Filion
Palatka
2/6/2013

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Mr Cain comment stated that there was dual telephone lines along the route. The dual was for: The poles with a short (at the top) crossarm was for signals. The other one with maybe 4-6 crossarms were Western Union and company telephone service. Most railroads had their own communication department and worked with Wester Union in sharing and maintaining those routes. In the 1980's north Southern Pines, NC these dual lines were still along the track. I have some of those insulators from the Western Union and Seaboard route The old WU line was abandon now cleaned up along the route.

George Bailey
Rocky Mount, NC
3/27/2013

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I don't think CSX will put this line back in to Bladen. It had been abandoned since 1990 and is heavily overgrown and parts have been completely wiped out around Woodbine, Georgia. What CSX may infact do, is rebuild the Gross Cutoff line and reopen it for intermodal traffic. There has been considerable talk of this project in recent years. The line would reconnect with the A Line at Callahan. CSX still owns that ROW unlike the Everett Sub, which they no longer own.

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
9/14/2013

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Mitch, I would like to know more about thse duel pole lines. I knew the pole line with the short crossarms at the top were for signals...the short crosarms themselves carried

4400 volts...enough juice to fry your eggs!!! The EC route up near me from Savannah to Charleston had the duel pole lines too, but no short crossarms at the top of either pole line. All those wires on the other poles were for Western Union??? Up in North Carolina, north of Raliegh, there were 3 pole lines following the SAL. One of the pole lines had multiple crossarms. Wonder who owned the third line???

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
9/14/2013

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What a interesting line, so any photos of this stretch of track is great to see! I have a Seaboard System Savannah Div ETT (No 4) that was effective Jan 1, 1985. Looking at it, there are some good running 79mph stretches listed in it southbound all the way to Gross, FL which I find odd. 60 mph was max speed south of Gross, but 79mph speeds were allowed on the Gross Cut-off route. Did Amtrak use this route to the very end or had they moved to the "A" line by that point? What else used the line to the end?

As for the codeline and such, seems like the short tier (440) electric lines were (from looking at old pics) Hamlet northward to Richmond and from somewhere south of Denmark, SC into Florida, I remember seeing these same style poles along the "S" line in Florida on US 301 as well. CSX has ridden a lot of pole line on most their mainlines in the last decade.

Carter Buchanan
Greenville, SC
12/29/2013

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Carter, Amtrak left the Everett Sub late in 1979. Trains continued to operate over the line through mid 1985. I remember the summer of 1985 and seeing trains coming off the Everett Sub at Ogeechee south of Savannah. The rails were still polished, but by September, the rails were dull looking. I didn't know the trains had stopped running. We didn't discover the track had been torn up until April of 1986. Trains 175/176 ran right to the end as well as a few freights that were rerouted through Waycross. It was a sad day...April 13th, 1986. I have since found a few more Pictures I intend to add soon....of the track being torn up.

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville , SC
12/29/2013

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Oh yeah, the 79 MPH speed limit was in place because the track was ruler straight for the most part. Just a couple of curves around Everett and Thalmann. It was flat and trains could make some good time along this tangent, which is why I can't understand CSX abandoning it. Except for the speed restriction at the Altamaha River, there were no other problems along the entire route.

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
12/29/2013

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I am surprised the track was still rated for 79mph passenger train speeds long after Amtrak had rerouted to the A line. I would have figured a certain bit of maintenance had to be performed to keep the track at a top speed of 79mph if Amtrak had routed via Jesup.

Looking at some other pictures of the Everett Sub online last night, it looks like some heavy jointed rail was still on the S line around Bladen on the main till the line was abandoned, that had to be a fun ride if Amtrak detoured any that way between 1979 and the lines abandonment.

As for what became the Kingsland Sub, looking at my Seaboard System timetable, there is a gap between MP S635.0 and MP S632.0 in Jacksonville (near Moncrief Yd). Was this connected at one time as well? Those mileposts around Jacksonville, especially on the S line, mess me up whenever I try to research it.

Carter Buchanan
Greenville, SC
12/30/2013

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Carter, The Gap in Jacksonville stretched from Honeymoon Yard to Milldale Jct. and was removed sometime in 1984. This was the beginning of the end for the Everett Sub, although it was still a through route as trains could be routed via Gross or Milldale to Grand Jct. I am sure trains

did not run the 79 MPH, but the track was still in fine shape and the "Pigs" ran all of 60 MPH I was told right up to the last day, which was sometime in September of 1985. I have posted quite a few pictures of this line on RR Pictures Archives.com...just look me up. I caught one of the last trains to operate on the Kingsland side in late 1989 just days before it was shut down. I would like to see these pictures you found if they are not mine. please send a link if you can. I can tell you a few stories about the Everett Sub...my email is uge2020@yahoo.com

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
12/30/2013

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Willis Ford has some pictures on rrpicturearchives.net that is grandfather (William Lee Blair, whom worked for Seaboard) took around Everett when the track was being removed.

Carter Buchanan
Greenville, SC
12/30/2013

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I see you took this picture Eugene. Some heavy duty jointed rail still clicking along before pulled up. Was there still a lot of jointed rail left on the Everett Sub till the end?

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=2632045

Carter Buchanan
Greenville, SC
12/30/2013

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Carter, Welded Rail extended from Savannah to near Townsend,

Georgia but I am not sure where the welded rail stopped. I

have most of those Pictures Willis gave me and it looks like the rail was jointed at Everett. I know it was jointed at Thalmann. despite that, the track was in excellent running shape. A major tie renewel had taken place a few years before the line was abandoned. DUH!!!! I continue to do research and will update the story when I know more. Willis is a good friend of mine and we have shared a lot of Seaboard stories. There were 40 plus trains a day here back before the merger. The welded rail project was brought to a hault when the decision was made to keep the ACL the primary freight route. That, along with the new Hump Yard at

Waycross and the bad trestle at Everett eventually spelled doom for the line, although the route still could have been used for the Pigs and all that coal that emerged in the mid 1980s. Too little too late, and it's all gone now.

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
12/30/2013

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As much as I hate to say it, but coal is pretty much gone. Looking at a map, yeah, the S line was more direct, but in the grand scheme of things I guess its a shorter segment to maintain from Jesup to Folkston. I'm not sure, but railbanking seems to be a new thing compared to the 1980s, keeping the track there for future use (NS at least has been good at this, like Saluda grade near me), maybe CSX should have railbanked this too.

Carter Buchanan
Greenville, SC
12/30/2013

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I wouldn't close the door on coal just yet. Obama will not be in office forever and I doubt if coal is dead by a long

shot. In the 1980s, CSX and other Companies were looking to cut costs and save money. I can understand why the S Line was cut off. Even the A line today dosen't carry very much between Jesup and Folkston...Amtrak, Intermodals, and a few

coal drags. Certainly the SAL was indeed surplus, but what they failed to realize is that the SAL was the only other way to go between Savannah and Jesup in case of a wreck. By cutting this line, they created a gap in the system. Then they did the same thing when they pulled the remainder of the line up south of Bladen..the back door into Jax, so to speak. Yes, Railbanking would have been better, or even selling the S Line trackage to Amtrak!!!! They could still have run their hot pigs there. In fact, had ANYONE been thinking at the time...the entire S Line could have been conveyed to Amtrak and they could have retained trackage rights on the portions they still operated. Nobody thought of that. Could Amtrak even have afforded this....probably not, but they would have had their own route and their trains would have been off the busy A Line. Many blunders and many lost opportunities and a trail of gravel 80 miles

long with no trains and the Georgia Trail was never built there either. But once upon a time.....

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
12/30/2013

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Some of the best memories of my youth are breakfast or dinner in the dining car while flying over the "Marshes of Glynn". I hope my children will one day get to experience such a simple joy, Abandoned by not forgotten.

Ron Winburn
Charlotte, NC
3/31/2015

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Some of the best memories of my youth are breakfast or dinner in the dining car while flying over the "Marshes of Glynn". I hope my children will one day get to experience such a simple joy, Abandoned by not forgotten.

Ron Winburn
Charlotte, NC
3/31/2015

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