Southern Railway Company

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The Southern Railway was the product of nearly 150 predecessor lines that were combined, reorganized and recombined beginning in the 1830s, formally becoming the Southern Railway in 1894. It was combined with the Norfolk and Western Railway to form the Norfolk Southern Railway in 1982.


The pioneering South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company, Southern's earliest predecessor line and one of the first railroads in the United States, was chartered in December 1827 and ran the nation's first regularly scheduled steam powered passenger train the wood-burning Best Friend of Charleston over a six mile section out of Charleston, South Carolina, on December 25, 1830. (The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad ran regular passenger service earlier that year.) By 1833, its 136-mile line to Hamburg, South Carolina, was the longest in the world.

As railroad fever struck other Southern states, networks gradually spread across the South and even across the Allegheny Mountains. Charleston, South Carolina and Memphis, Tennessee, were linked by 1857, although rail expansion halted with the start of the Civil War. The Richmond and York River Railroad, which operated from the Pamunkey River at West Point, Virginia to Richmond, Virginia, was a major focus of George McClellan's 1862 Peninsular Campaign, which culminated in the Seven Days Battles and devastated the tiny rail link. The Richmond and Danville Railroad was the Confederacy's last link to Richmond, and transported Jefferson Davis and his cabinet to Danville, Virginia just before the fall of Richmond in April, 1865.

Known as the "First Railroad War," the Civil War left the South's railroads and economy devastated. Most of the railroads, however, were repaired, reorganized and operated again. In the area along the Ohio River and Mississippi River, construction of new railroads continued throughout Reconstruction. The Richmond and Danville System expanded throughout the South during this period, but was overextended, and came upon financial troubles in 1893, when control was lost to financier J.P. Morgan, who reorganized it at the Southern Railway System.

The Southern Railway, as it came into existence in 1894, was a combination of the Richmond and Danville system and the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad. The company owned two-thirds of the 4,400 miles of line it operated, and the rest was held through leases, operating agreements and stock ownership. Southern also controlled the Alabama Great Southern and the Georgia Southern and Florida, which operated separately, and it had an interest in the Central of Georgia

The Southern's first president, Samuel Spencer, drew more lines into Southern's core system. During his 12-year term, the railway built new shops at Knoxville, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia and purchased more equipment. He moved the company's service away from an agricultural dependence on tobacco and cotton and centered its efforts on diversifying traffic and industrial development. Sadly, Spencer was killed in train wreck in 1906.

By the time the line from Meridian, Mississippi, to New Orleans, Louisiana was acquired in 1916 under Southern's president Fairfax Harrison, the railroad had attained the 8,000-mile, 13-state system that marked its territorial limits for almost half a century.

The Central of Georgia became part of the system in 1963, and the former Norfolk Southern Railway was acquired in 1974.

Notable Features

Southern and its predecessors were responsible for many firsts in the industry. Its predecessor, the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road, was the first to carry passengers, U.S. troops and mail on steam-powered trains, and it was the first to operate at night. In 1953, Southern Railway became the first major railroad in the United States to convert totally to diesel-powered locomotives, ending its rich history in the golden age of steam.

Every diesel locomotive Southern owned had to be ordered with a high hood and pointed long hood forward, this was meant for crew safety in case of accidents with vehicles and from the first GP7 to the last GP50, they came with this option until the tradition stopped with the SD50.

From dieselization and shop and yard modernization, to computers and the development of special cars and the unit coal train, Southern often was on the cutting edge of change, earning the company its catch phrase, "The Railway System that Gives a Green Light to Innovations".

In the early 1960s, a popular steam locomotive excursion program was instituted under the presidency of W. Graham Claytor Jr. The steam program survived the merger which formed the new Norfolk Southern in 1982, but was finally discontinued in 1994.

Named Trains

Aiken-Augusta Special
Asheville Special
Birmingham Special
Carolina Special
Florida Special
Peach Queen
Piedmont Limited
Ponce de Leon
Royal Palm

Merger into the Norfold Southern

In response to the creation of CSX in 1980, the Southern Railway merged with Norfolk and Western Railway to form the Norfolk Southern Railway in 1982, further consolidating railroads in the eastern half of the United States.

Roads Owned by the Southern

Alabama Great Southern Railroad (AGS)
Central of Georgia Railway (CofG)
Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway (CNO&TP;)
Georgia and Florida Railway (G&F;)
Georgia Northern Railway (GANO)
Georgia Southern and Florida Railway (GS&F;)
Knoxville and Charleston Railroad
Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia Railway (TA&G;)

Major Railyards on the Southern

Chattanooga, Tennessee DeButts Yard (formerly Citico Yard)
Atlanta, Georgia Inman Yard
Linwood, North Carolina Spencer Yard
Birmingham, Alabama Norris Yard
Knoxville, Tennessee Sevier Yard
Macon, Georgia Brosnan Yard
Sheffield, Alabama Sheffield Yard

    from Wikipedia

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Southern Railway Company

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Southern Railway Company
Southern Railway Company
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