Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Classic Southern Shortlines 1: Sandersville Railroad

Sandersville Railroad; Sandersville, Ga.; December 11, 2014
The southern U.S. is just full of classic shortline railroads. Over the past few years I've had the chance to make several visits southward and have visited such classics as the Pickens Railroad, the Georgia Central, and more. This past December I spent the better part of a full day on each of three railroads and we'll do a mini-series here in the blog on these lines. First up is the Sandersville Railroad in Georgia.

The Sandersville was chartered in 1893 as a subsidiary of the Central of Georgia. Nicknamed "The Kaolin Road," the prime commodity held by the Sandersville is clay; many of the covered hopper cars used in the operation are owned by the Sandersville. The line extends about five miles northwest of its namesake town to serve Imerys Pigments & Additives and the Kentucky-Tennessee Clay Company. It also extends about two miles south of town to the interchange with Norfolk Southern in Tennille.
Sandersville Railroad; Kentucky-Tennessee Clay Co., Sandersville, Ga.; December 11, 2014
I was visiting the area on December 11 along with my brother Bruce. We were coming down from Macon, Ga., where we had looked for something running on the Georgia Central -- there wasn't anything. We decided to regroup and hit the Sandersville. As we approached the north end of the line, we spotted SW1500 No. 1100 and a slug working at Imerys Pigments & Additives. Figuring it wouldn't be long before he came out, we waited. The wait wasn't long as the switchers came out with one car in tow (top photo).

Work on this end of the line was not done, however, as the train backed into the adjacent Kentucky-Tennessee Clay Company to do a bit of work.
Sandersville Railroad; Kentucky-Tennessee Clay Co., Sandersville, Ga.; December 11, 2014
This didn't take long, either, and after shuffling cars at the small yard adjacent to the two industries, the locomotives continued on their way, now with a sizable train, to Sandersville.
Sandersville Railroad; Sandersville, Ga.; December 11, 2014
As the train gets closer to downtown Sandersville, it passes through a residential section of the town. And when I say it passes through, I mean it passes through... Right down the middle of the street.
Sandersville Railroad; Sandersville, Ga.; December 11, 2014
After passing the shop complex in downtown Sandersville, the train paused at the yard on the southeast side of town to shuffle more cars. This yard is adjacent to the railroad's bulk transfer facility, as well as Weyerhauser and a short branch serving a plethora of clay and pigment facilities. Once the switching was done, the train proceeded on to the Norfolk Southern interchange at Tennille.
Sandersville Railroad; Tennille, Ga.; December 11, 2014
Norfolk Souther was also in town doing switching, occupying the track the Sandersville train needed to use. NS quickly backed into the yard and changed tracks so the interchange traffic could come in.
Sandersville Railroad and Norfolk Southern; Tennille, Ga.; December 11, 2014
Once the interchange was done, we headed back to the Sandersville shop, where the the railroad's offices are also located. We entered the foyer and knocked on the door. Immediately we were waved into the office where David Ray, the railroad's general superintendent, introduced himself. He confirmed what we had feared -- the last train of the day was now in the yard and finished. However, he did offer us a tour of the yard and shop, which we eagerly accepted. We got in our car and followed him back into the shop area. Once there, he pulled out a couple of Sandersville ball caps  and handed them to us. Thank you!
Sandersville Railroad; Sandersville, Ga.; December 11, 2014
As we toured we got the complete rundown -- the railroad has three crews that come on each morning, staggered one hour apart. Each has it's own assignment and does its work as quickly and efficiently as possible; each crew takes interchange traffic down to Norfolk Southern, and by mid-afternoon the railroad is usually finished for the day. We also got to see the railroad's complete roster in the shop area, including four SW1500s, one SW1200 and two slugs.
Sandersville Railroad; Sandersville, Ga.; December 11, 2014
From here we ventured back to the Georgia Central and continued our trip. But we had a fantastic time on the Sandersville and look forward to getting back there for a visit again soon. You can find more Sandersville photos here.

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