Western & Atlantic Railroad
The Georgia legislature recognized the importance of fostering railroad construction to open up the western portions of the state and granted charters to build three major lines in 1833: Augusta to Athens, Savannah to Macon and Macon to Forsyth. The legislature followed up by establishing the Western & Atlantic Railroad (W&A RR) in 1836 to connect the Chattahoochee River to the Tennessee River. They also provided for the extension of the railroads from Athens and Forsyth to the Western and Atlantic.
In 1837 surveyors for the three railroads selected a locale 7 miles southeast of the Chattahoochee River as a southern terminus for the railroads. A small settlement, aptly named Terminus, arose at this location. While work was progressing on the Western and Atlantic, Terminus grew, changing its name to Marthasville in 1843 and to Atlanta (in honor of the railroad) in 1845.
Lt. Col. Stephen H. Long surveyed and laid out the 108-mile route to the Tennessee border in 1837. Three potential routes from the Tennessee border were provided. He estimated the cost at 2.1 million dollars and provided a detailed plan for the first 25 miles. The Georgia legislature authorized the Georgia Railroad based on the plan. The Georgia legislature funded the railroad over the veto of Governor Gilmer using the federal funds from the sale of public lands and borrowing the remainder. Bids for the first 25 miles were issued in April 1838 and hiring started on March 2.
The lack of funds as a result of the national Panic of 1837 - 1842 delayed and finally halted construction. Construction began again as the economy improved. The first 22 miles from Marietta to Atlanta were completed in September 1845. The line was completed to Dalton in July 1847. Because of the difficulty in constructing the tunnel north of Dalton, at Tunnel Hill, the track on the other side of the proposed tunnel was started and completed to Chattanooga before the tunnel was completed. The tunnel opened on May 9, 1850 completing the W&A RR.
Even before the line was completed, the W&A RR was bringing in significant revenue into the Georgia treasury. In 1847 it contributed $125,000 to state revenue. By 1860 the W&A RR was contributing 50% of the state's revenue. When the Civil War began in 1861, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee were 1st, 2nd and 3rd in miles of railroad track (1771, 1404, and 1197 miles). The Union forces chose to follow the railroads from Nashville to Chattanooga to Atlanta to allow easy supply to the advancing troops, as well as denying the Confederacy the use of the railroads for supplies and troop movement. A booklet issued by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1896 gives an overview of War Sceenes and View Pointers of the battles between Chattanooga and Atlanta.
Copper and silver coins that were in circulation prior to the war were being hoarded because their metal content was more valuable than their face value. As a result, the Georgia legislature authorized up to $200,000 in Western & Atlantic Railroad "change bills" in denominations of 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢ and $1 on December 17, 1861. This listing includes all of the existing W&A RR change bill types issued. The change bills were dated starting January 20, 1862, series A, through March 1, 1863, series M.
K, L & M Series
Oct'62 Jan & Mar'63
W & A RR
E-mail Questions or Comments