1882 and 1905
In 1882, the Southern Railroad was built. The train traveled from Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tennessee. The railroad helped to put Powder Springs on the map.
The old Depot sat downtown on Murray Avenue along the tracks, back behind the old brick building that sits between Lewis Road, near the traffic circle. This old building was once a cotton warehouse used by the cotton Gin, which sat next door. It was then used from the early 1900’s to the mid 1980’s as the lumber yard and storage by the Hardware Store that was located on Broad Street. This made it easy for these merchants to ship their merchandize, as well as receive any supplies needed for their businesses. The Depot was demolished in 1973.
The Southern Railroad was originally known at the East(tern) Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad. It was later called the Norfolk Southern Railroad. The Southern Railroad still operates today as CSX but does not make any stops in Powder Springs.
In 1905, the Seaboard Railroad was built. The train traveled from Atlantato Birmingham, Alabama. This railroad also helped to put Powder Springson the map. It was a vital passenger and commercial link to Atlanta. It carried mail, passengers, general freight and cattle.
The Seaboard Railroad was called the Seaboard Coast Line. The railroad actually originated in Florida and ran north up the coast through North Carolina to Virginia. It spurred off the original line to expand to the west to reach the towns that did not have rail service. Another name was the Seaboard Air Line Railroad even though there was no “air service”. This name was more to describe the railroad as “streamline” with its service to quickly get to one destination to the next.
The old Depot sat along the railroad tracks on the righthand side of Dillard Street before crossing the tracks (Silver Comet Trail) where Dillard Street currently ends. The Depot was torn down in 1945. The railbed is now the Silver Comet Trail, a multi-use trail.
Both Railroads opened up new markets for the shipment of the towns goods to other areas of the country. The town was able to receive goods quicker and easier. It also provided passenger service to Powder Springs and out of Powder Springs to the rest of the world. The railroad was essential to the growth of the town, as it made travel, jobs and business very good for the locals. Transportation, hauling and passenger services were being provided.
Cotton could now be shipped easier. From 1899 to 1910 Peaches were grown here and shipped out by rail. A few years later, Tomatoes were grown and shipped out. Mail could be sent and received in mere days.
Access to jobs outside of Powder Springs were now opened to the people of Powder Springs. The railroad itself provided job opportunities for the town folk, as well.
Train Excursions begin to run in the summer months to the resort town of Powder Springs. The first one was advertised in 1882 by the Georgia Pacific Railroad Company and the Cincinnati & Georgia Railroad Company on Thursday, June 1st, 1882. It was billed as their “FIRST EXCURSION – ATLANTA TO POWDER SPRINGS AND RETURN.”
Another one billed as a “GRAND EXCURSION Train Ride planned on Friday, May 18,1888 and put together by the Powder Springs High School which provided the Powder Springs Brass Band entertaining the riders.
The Excursion Train leaves from Austell at 5:45 am going to Cave Spring and returning the same day. Stops along the way are, once leaving Austell, Powder Springs, Lithia Springs, Douglasville, Hiram and Dallas. Governor John B. Gordon accompanying the travelers.”
Opportunities and jobs on the railroad were now available to the community. When the Southern Railroad Depot was built at the end of Atlanta Street around 1882, a number of blacks began to move into the area around it. Several adjacent land-owners developed plats and began to sell lots here. Around the same time the railroad constructed “section housing” for its African American workers at the intersection of present day Butner and Lewis Streets. These duplex houses, now gone, had two rooms in each unit. Many of the men had got tired of farming, not being able to make a living for their families and not owning their land. The railroad now provided a better opportunity for these families.
Section housing was also built along the Seaboard Railroad close to the tracks around Dillard Street and present day New Macland Road. These houses were provided to the families of men who maintained the tracks and switching equipment. Several of these houses were sold by the rail- road when the Depot was torn down in 1945 and moved back from the tracks. Charles and Charlene Pope lived in one of the houses until sometime in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s when New Macland Road was to be widened. They sat about where the Walgreen’s Drug Store is today.
There were jobs maintaining the railroad tracks, the trains themselves, as flagmen, engineers and Porters.
Archie Watson Young (1917-2001) former Atlanta Black Cracker Baseball Player, was a Porter for 30 years for the Southern Railway on passenger trains. Frank Moon (1923-2001) worked for Southern Railroad. Waymond Bookout (1899-1960) was a Flagmen and Conductor of Pullman Cars for Southern Railroad. Albert Voyles (1911-1996) began working at 16 for his father, then a section foreman, in Powder Springs, for the Seaboard Railroad. He worked first as a laborer then as section foreman in charge of maintaining the tracks and switching equipment. After working for the railroad for 42 years, he retired and they moved back to their childhood hometown of Powder Springs. Glenn Mitchell worked as a Flagman for the Southern Railroad for many years. (His uniform is on display at the Seven Springs Museum).
These were just a few of the men who made their living working on or for the railroads.
Memories – According to an article in the Marietta Daily Journal around 1989 or 1990, Sara Frances Miller remembers that lots of people rode the train (Seaboard) to Atlanta for the day. That a letter from Powder Springs could be delivered to a lot of points in one day. The Seaboard made five runs a day through Powder Springs affording many opportunities to ride the train to town.
Catherine Mellichamp remembers riding this train. She said that she and her friends used to go into Atlanta to the movies in the afternoon. She said “it was a delight”. They would get off at the old Terminal Station in downtown Atlanta and went to the old Paramount or Roxy Theaters.
Leaving Powder Springs at about 5:30 or 6 pm on the weekend, they took the midnight train back. The trip cost 15 cents and took a half hour. These trips on the train were made enjoyable because they could walk around in the trains while they rode. Mrs. Mellichamp admitted that there
was one hazard of riding those old trains. The ashes would come in if you opened the window and get in your eyes. Also, another impact on the community was that occasionally tramps would jump off trains behind their house, come to the back door and beg for food from her mother. When they would wander up, my mother did not mind feeding them. Her mother gave them water to drink and wash and fed them on the back porch, “white and black alike”. She added that most were considerate but some were unappreciative.
Madeline Moon also has fond memories of the trains. Her father, Frank Moon, was an Engineer and Conductor for Southern Railroad on the route from Atlanta to Chattanooga. She and her mother walked to the Train depot everyday when his train came through town. He would toss a chocolate candy bar to her as he passed. When the train stopped for passengers, Madeline, and sometimes her friends, would board and ride to Chattanooga where they would eat before boarding for the return trip. She fondly remembers all the Moon Pies she ate on those trips!
The trains brought prosperity to Powder Springs along with opportunities for all the residences of the town. Although, the Seaboard Railroad is gone, people are still able to enjoy the “railroad” as they use the Silver Comet Trail. You might say that the “passenger train rides again!”