Posts Tagged ‘Railroads’

Romance of the Rails

July 20, 2009

Some people satisfy their love affair with trains by building elaborate model train layouts.     

Smoky Mountain Trains Museum, Bryson City, NC

Smoky Mountain Trains Museum, Bryson City, NC. It has one of the largest collections of Lionel model trains in the United States.

Others go on vintage train excursions, and some take trips on Amtrak trains.  But, there is a very special group. They buy and renovate private railroad cars.  That is a very expensive proposition, but a Columbus couple has done just that.

Let me tell you about Borden Black and Nelson McGahee.  Borden’s last name is actually McGahee, too, but she goes by Borden Black when she wears her journalism hat.   Nelson is a civil service employee at Fort Benning.

He is also a total railroad buff, and, since Borden is married to him,  so is she.  They are so much into it, they have been restoring a 1925 Pullman private car for years.  I asked Borden for a picture of it and she sent the one below.  For this picture, she changed the color of the paint job to what it will be before they actually hook it to a train.  This color is the way it looked originally, she said.

Borden Black and Nelson McGahee's private car, Charolette, NC.

Borden Black and Nelson McGahee's private car, Charlotte, NC.

Pending a federal inspection,  they plan to couple the car to a special train of 23 private cars that an Amtrak engine will pull from Washington D.C. to Cape Canaveral, ending up in Savannah for the The American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners National Convention on November 5.   Want a ride? They’re selling tickets for day trips.  They’ll run between $290 and $390 (that includes the $90 fee for joining the private car owners’ association) for different legs of the trip.  You can learn more by emailing Borden and Nelson at  They can seat nine people and serve them breakfast and lunch. 

Dining room on the Dearing,  Borden Black and Nelson McGahee's private car

Dining room on the Dearing, Borden Black and Nelson McGahee's private car

 Borden says she’s going to do the cooking.

Railroading in Georgia Started in Savannah

July 13, 2009

When we think of Savannah, we think of its port.  But there is another form of transportation that has played a huge role in development of the city. Savannah is home of the Central of Georgia Railroad.  The Roundhouse Railroad Museum, a National Historic Landmark,  really brings that home for us. 

Turntable at the Roundhouse Railroad Museum, Savannah, GA

Turntable at the Roundhouse Railroad Museum, Savannah, GA

This National Historic Landmark site is the oldest and largest existing nineteenth-century railroad operations complex in the nation. Construction began in 1850. Thirteen of the original structures remain today.  The turntable was restored and it still works.  

I was there recently and, except for the fact that I almost passed out from the heat and humidity, enjoyed it a lot.  The heat was relieved when I went inside the air conditioned Central of Georgia Office Car.

Central of Georgia office car,  Roundhouse Railroad Museum, Savannah, GA

Central of Georgia office car, Roundhouse Railroad Museum, Savannah, GA

The office car started out as a Pullman parlor car in 1925.  It morphed into a passenger car during World War Two when there was a dire shortage of passenger cars, and eventually became an office car, which was used by the railroad’s top executives. 

Lounge, Central of Georgia office car, Roundhouse Railroad Museum, Savannah, GA

Lounge, Central of Georgia office car, Roundhouse Railroad Museum, Savannah, GA

 Oh, I remember telling you in an earlier post that I would explain this picture.


It’s the office car’s bathroom.

Cooling Off Like the Rich Folks

July 5, 2009
Gotta get outta this heat and humidity.  What to do? Do what the rich folks do. Go to Highlands, North Carolina.
Viewing area on the way up the mountain to Highland's, NC

Just getting  there is fun.  Riding up those curvy mountain roads, the view is beautiful.      



Once there, the high is 76 degrees.  That’s 76 compared to Columbus’ 98. 


 Downtown is picturesque, with lots of quaint old stores that sell high price stuff.


And there are plenty of fun side trips, things like a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.  You board the train at Bryson City, NC.

  GSMRR 2 

07 02_HIGHLANDS NC ETC._1069 

Not many train rides offer a view of  folks rafting, but this one does.



Just miles and miles of beautiful views along the Tuckasegee River and Lake Fontana.


That ride brought back memories of when passenger trains were a common mode of transportation, and one of life’s highlights was eating in a nice dining car.

 07 02_HIGHLANDS NC ETC._1076

So I got to beat the heat the way rich folks do… for three days.

Savannah Revisited #2

June 30, 2009

On my recent visit to  Savannah,  I had to reflect on the way that while the city has grown with new, impressive high-rise hotels and a spectacular new bridge across the Savannah River, it maintains its connection with the past, with history.

Georgia Queen, Savannah, Georgia

Georgia Queen, Savannah, Georgia

The contrast of then with now was pronounced as a paddle wheel river boat pulled away from its dock loaded with school children on a day cruise and headed toward the very modern Talmadege Memorial Bridge that crosses the Savannah River.

Georgia Queen cruises Savannah River, Savannah, Georgia

Georgia Queen cruises the Savannah River, Savannah, Georgia

Savannah has been a port since it was founded in 1733, and that port is still busy.  But, Savannah was also Georgia’s first railroad town,  and the Savannah History Museum, which occupies the old Central of Georgia office and warehouse building,  sports a late 1800’s locomotive,  along with a lot of other interesting exhibits that depict Georgia’s past. 

Historic Locomotive, Savannah History Museum,  old Central of Georgia depot, Savannah, Georgia

Historic Steam Locomotive, Savannah History Museum, Savannah, Georgia

Coming up,  a real Oscar.

Rail Transit Can No Longer Be Ignored by Georgia Legislators

April 20, 2009

For a lot of my childhood, I lived a block  from the Central of Georgia Depot on 6th Avenue in Columbus.  That depot was a very busy place, especially during World War two.  Not only were there major passenger trains like the Seminole and the City of Miami, which connected Chicago to Florida,  that made a stop in Columbus, but local passenger trains to Macon,  Montgomery, and Atlanta.  During the war,  my mother and I went by train from Columbus to Joplin, Missouri to visit with my brother who would soon be sent to England and Germany.  I was about 13-years-old at the time.   Railroads put every passenger car they had into service,  including some very old ones,  and the train that took us from Birmingham to Springfield, Missouri was so long it was pulled by not one, but two steam engines. 

After the war,  the emphasis  on automobiles and highways,  and the rapid growth of airlines, just about killed the passenger train business.   Well, for those who believe there are cycles to history, the train cycle is here.  Trains are the most economical and fuel efficient way to transport masses of people.  Finally, national leaders, including Presdient Obama,  are recognising this. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday,  “President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday for a national high-speed rail network that would include lines crisscrossing Georgia connected through a hub in Atlanta.

“The plan would create a European-like system with trains that could run at more than 100 mph. Obama is pledging $8 billion toward development of the system as part of the economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

Finland Passenger Train Car (Courtesy: Jonic)

Finland Passenger Train Car, upper deck (Courtesy: Jonic, Wikipedia)

Our leaders at the Georgia state capitol, however,  have been in love with highways and cars to the extent they, for the most part, ignored rail,  and critics say this could  hamper Georgia in taking advantage of the federal funding for rapid rail.

The legilsature left the Marta system in Atlanta hanging out to dry by not taking action that would allow the system, which is more popular than ever,  to use funds it already has to keep it up and running.  There is a 40-year-old state law that says Marta can’t spend reserve funds on operating expenses.  That made sense 40 years ago when Marta first started, but now that it is a mature system, it makes no sense at all.

As I reported earlier, Columbus Representative Calvin Smyre and State Senators Seth Harp and Ed Harbison say that situation will have to be faced and corrected when the legislature goes into a predicted special session in July to come up with a new budget.  Let’s hope they and other legislators come to grips with this problem because it is critical.