The Georgia State Railroad Museum is housed in the former repair shops of the Central of Georgia Railroad complex, the most complete antebellum train facility in the country. The buildings and the nearby passenger depot and train shed are, together, a National Historic Landmark. Many of the buildings are open to visitors including the partial roundhouse, partial machine shop, tender frame shop, and blacksmith shop. The roundhouse still features an operational turntable. Several cars and other rolling stock are on display, including the oldest portable steam engine, and there is an even a hand car that visitors can ride. Train rides are also offered. The buildings are also part of the National Register of Historic Places District, Central of Georgia Railroad: Savannah Shops and Terminal Facilities.


  • Aerial view of the museum complex
    Aerial view of the museum complex

Central of Georgia, which was founded in 1833 as Central Rail Road Canal Company but changed its name a few years later, started building the structures in 1851 and continued to do so until the early 1920s. The company did build shops and other buildings in the 1830s but these did not survive. Central of Georgia grew to become one of the largest companies in the South. By the beginning of the Civil War, it owned 229 miles of track, 59 locomotives and 729 rail cars.

The war, however, proved detrimental to the company's fortunes. The Confederate government ordered railroad companies to send rolling stock to other companies that transported the most troops and military goods/equipment. The need for passenger service increased as well and this reduced the demand for freight service. The company was able to make profits on passenger service but maintenance of tracks was difficult because they were being constantly used. Additionally, the ravages of the war itself as well as General Sherman's "March to the Sea" destroyed the company's tracks and cars, amounting to 140 miles of track, 14 locomotives, and 97 cars.

The company rebounded from the war and started to make profits again from freight service in 1867. It repaired destroyed rail lines and added 1,500 more miles of track. The company started to use diesel steam engines in the 1940s but maintaining and repairing them in the shops at the complex proved to be unsuitable. As a result, the company gradually shifted operations to Macon. In 1963, the Southern Railway Company bought Central of Georgia and finally closed all operations at the complex. The museum opened in 1989 and is operated by the Coastal Heritage Society. 

Caramia Jr., John. "A Brief History of the Central of Georgia Railroad." Coastal Heritage Society. 2013. http://www.chsgeorgia.org/Savannah_Attractions/pdf/A_Brief_History_of_the_Central_of_Georgia_Railroa....