Hapeville really isn't part of Atlanta, but the urban sprawl has kind of taken over, and the town is a little difficult to find on a map. Take I-75 south out of Atlanta to the US-19/US-41/Central Avenue exit, and go north on US-19/US-41. You can't miss the Ford Motor Company plant. Indeed, you'll probably see several switchers in front of the plant, but there are three problems with this location. First, you're immediately north of Hartsfield/Atlanta Airport, and there are lots of airplanes making this a very noisy spot. Central Avenue is also quite busy, adding more to the noise level. Second, Central runs right in front of the plant, and there is nowhere to fan between Central and the plant. Shots across Central are no problem, but you'll have to "dodge" the cars going by in both directions. Finally, like all such industrial locations, security is very tight, so don't even think about putting one foot down on plant property.
The railroad is the NS ex-Central of Georgia line from Atlanta to Macon, and it sees very little traffic south of the plant. An ADC Atlanta Atlas would be helpful in this area.
Thanks and a tip o'the hat to Bart Youngblood for this information.
Atlanta, the "Colossus of the South," is indeed a railroad colossus. Although there are now only two railroads, CSX and NS, they are powerful, active companies, and they send a zillion trains thru town every day. Howell Tower was THE place to see trains, but security is tight, and discretion is the better part of valor.
The tower sits inside a fairly large wye. Entrance to this area is at the foot of Foster Street. Drive to the tower itself, and park with a good view to the west. Either stay in your car or very close to it. I have spent several hours here on two separate occasions, and was not bothered by railroad police. However, if you run all over and act like an idiot 3-year-old, you can expect to be busted, and you deserve to be. This must be considered one of the train-watching super spots in all of America. Use a telephoto lens to get better photographic results--and help you stay in your car. That said, however, in March of 2001, Woody suggested parking in the auxiliary parking lot for King Plow, or at the xxx video store for photo access. He definitely suggests not entering the tower/wye area. After 9-11-01, you are probably even more strongly advised to stay out of the area.
An ADC Atlanta Atlas would be helpful in and around the Howell Wye.
As of late 2005 and early 2006, several reports to the effect that the Howell Tower is off limits to railfans have been received. Stay away.
As another alternative for Howell Tower : From downtown, go north of US-41/GA-3. Several blocks south of the Howell wye area, GA-3 goes to the west, but you want to stay due north on US-41/GA-3E. In about 4 blocks north of the GA-3/GA-3E split, take a left to go west on 10th Street. Park before 10th dead ends at the tracks, and be careful not to block any commercial activity in the area. Recently, some No Trespassing signs have been erected in the area, so you need to be careful not to trespass
The gravel area where the road ends is apparently off railroad property, and it appears that you can walk up and down the gravel area parallel to the tracks, but do not venture past the NS/CSX diamonds. Walk beyond the diamonds, and you'll be a guest of Fulton County for a while. This is at the King Plow timetable location.
Thanks and a tip o'the hat to Bart Youngblood for this information. An ADC Atlanta Atlas would be helpful in and around the Howell Wye.
As a general rule, I do not recommend going into any railroad yard. You are obviously trespassing, and with the heightened sense of security in the nation after 9-11-01, we must be very careful about trespassing on any industrial property. Here, however, is a bit of an exception, and it's worth a visit. Hulsey is a large CSX yard in the eastern part of the Atlanta terminal. There is a crew change point right off of Boulevard (which is the name of a major street) close to downtown. There is an exit for Boulevard from I-20, and you want to follow Boulevard north until you get to the CSX sign.
Take the road up the hill to the small parking lot. We believe this to be a public road. You can park back in the corner of the lot. This is actually before the entrance to the yard itself, and is just parking for the crew change point. As a result, you can get lots of roster shots here. Bart Youngblood, who provided this information to us, suggests staying at your car, and no matter what, do not venturebeyond the guardrail. Wave to the CSX folks and be friendly, but don't hang around -- get your shots and be on your way.
An ADC Atlanta Atlas would be helpful in and around this area.
From I-285 in the northwest corner of Atlanta, take exit 11, Atlanta Road/GA-3, and head southeast towards downtown. Atlanta Road will become Marietta Boulevard once in the city. You'll cross over beaucoup tracks just west of Howell, and immediately arrive at a major intersection with Perry Boulevard coming from the west. This is the end of Perry, and GA-3 continues to the left (east) as Marietta Street. Take this left, and you'll shortly go over one set of tracks, and then you'll jog 90° from southwest to northeast. This is where GA-3 crosses the southeast leg of the Howell Wye. The overpass is a potentially good railfan location.
In terms of safety, this is definitely an area to use caution -- and a daytime-only location. Be out before evening rush hour. Homeless people frequent the location and the wooded area to the west of the bridge is littered with trash. Rick visits the location during his lunch hour -- but even at lunchtime he brings a buddy with him. Expect the Atlanta PD to stop and ask what you're doing; be a responsible adult and you'll probably have no problem, either with the locals, the homeless or the police. Parking can be a problem. Rick suggests parking at the King Plow Arts Center (with permission of the security guard) and walking up to the overpass.
For photos, the top of the overpass limits your angles for shots. Also, as a practical matter, carrying around shiny, obviously expensive photography gear in this part of Atlanta is not wise. I have an el cheapo 35mm that I carry around in my pants pocket. It's not worth getting bopped over the head in a place where the pix will probably be so-so, anyway.
These negative limitations aside, you'll see a bunch of NS and CSX trains entering and departing Howell. Many trains coming from downtown Atlanta stop to wait for other traffic to clear access to Inman and Tilford yards and the wye. To wrap it up: Not the nicest neighborhood, but with some caution and common sense, it is a good place to see a bunch of trains. An ADC Atlanta Atlas would be helpful in and around the Howell Wye.
Thanks to Rick Coble and other members of the YahooGroups CSXrailfans e-mail info group for sharing this information with us.
Vinings is on the northwest corner of the Atlanta terminal, and is the site of the CSX (L&N, NC&StL, and W&A) mainline from Atlanta to Cartersville, where the line splits to go up to Knoxville or Nashville. As you can imagine, it is one of the busiest freight railroad lines in the southeast. Expect to see 1-2 trains an hour here. CSX is on a steep grade, coming out of the Chattahoochee River to the southeast. Surprisingly, the railroad line itself is state-owned property.
From I-75/I-285 in the northwest part of Atlanta, take I-285 west to the Paces Ferry Road exit (about 3 miles). Go up the ramp and go back to the east on Paces Ferry one mile to the tracks. Good open shots for southbound trains are in a somewhat narrow window of from about 10AM to 2PM, while northbounds are best shot in the early morning hours.
Life support: Eat sushi in a Western Railway of Alabama RPO car which once ran on the Crescent Limited. The restaurant, Orient Express, also has dining room tables less than 100 feet from the CSX mainline with great views. The Ramada Inn at I-75 and Windy Hill Road, offers a reasonable rate with a complete hot breakfast included. The hotel is 3 miles from the tracks. An ADC Atlanta Atlas would be helpful in and around this area.
This excellent site report is courtesy of Richard Burn, who commutes by this site daily.
This is probably the best place in the area to simultaneously catch both CSX and NS. From the US-1/US-25/US-78/US-278 bridge over the Savannah River, go south into Augusta, go south less than a mile to a right (to go west) on Walton Way. After about 2 blocks, go south on 6th Street to Taylor Street.
The railroads come together for about 100 yards thru here, and there is street parking, but that can be hard to find during weekdays. A better parking spot is where Taylor and Sixth intersect -- this is the location of the old Georgia and Florida freight station. You can park in the grass back from the track.
Frograil thanks Larry Smoak for this information.
NSC This is a very important junction, where the lines from the west (Birmingham) and north (Chattanooga) come together for the run into Atlanta and Howell Yard. Unfortunately, the tracks are immediately north of US 78, and picture taking is extremely difficult, if not impossible. That said, Ken Roble, Jr. informs me that there is a wide open area between the Birmingham and Chattanooga mainlines, apparently where the station used to stand. He reports railfanning is fine at this location. While I assume that area must be railroad property, I don't really know, and suggest you check it out if you're in the area.
This is a heads-up, only. There is a new, very major intermodal yard being constructed about 2-3 miles north of the Austell junction of the Atlanta -- Birmingham/Chattanooga main lines. According to Bill Stringfellow, it looks as if there will be at least one highway overpass, which might be good for us fans. This facility will probably be in operation within a year or so. It's also reported that a new connection will allow eastbounds from Birmingham to go northeast at Austell, and vice versa, to gain the new yard.
There is a relatively new overpass in Austell, just to the east of the place where the Birmingham/ Chattanooga lines diverge. It goes over US-78 and the tracks. While photos are impeded by walls and chain link fencing over the tracks, you can get photos from the nice, raised sidewalks.
Many kudos to Phil Maton for this information.
[NOTE: This is a most interesting story, and your webmaster will add to it in the future, with the input from the folks who are given credit below. While this entry is a bit of a work in progress, so is the railroad itself!]
In 1997, a group of people from NARCOA (North American Rail Car Operators Association), plus other volunteers, cut down thousands and thousands of trees. Why? Back in the late 70's, CSX walked away from its line stretching between Ellijay and Blue Ridge. This is a section of trackage on what was a secondary main between the Atlanta - Cartersville main line at Elizabeth and Murphy Junction. From this latter junction two lines went northward: on to Etowah coal lines on the L&N, and Southern lines to Asheville.
The main reason for opening the track was to move equipment up to Blue Ridge to start the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Just before Thanksgiving, 1999, the first 4 carloads of revenue freight -- logs -- moved south from Blue Ridge. The railroad hopes to get more freight business along the way. As time and money permit, the track will continue to be upgraded.
[Note: As of July 2001, the only freight moving north of Whitestone on the GNRR is some occasional log trains from Blue Ridge, at about 2-3 per week. The copper facility in Copper Hill, TN, has been closed, and CSX has closed the line north of Copper Hill. Operations within the grounds of the Georgia Marble Company are now handled by GNRR, and the switch engines are likewise owned by GNRR now. GNRR locos can be found at Blue Ridge, Tate and Elizabeth, when not in use on the railroad.]
To get to Blue Ridge, head north from Atlanta on I-575, which ends at Tate. Continue north on GA-5 all the way into Blue Ridge.
Both Bill Stringfellow andMartin K. O'Toole have provided information about these sites. Further, TRAINS Magazine had an excellent article about the entire Etowah - Elizabeth "Old Line" in its March 1997 issue.
Southern Junction is where the CSX (ex-ACL) and NS (ex-SOU) lines into Brunswick cross. It's in the northwest corner of town, directly under I-95. If you drive between exits 36 and 38 on the interstate, you'll see the junction, but not all of it, as much of it is directly under the highway. So, take exit 36 and go south on US-25/US-341 maybe a half mile to Glyndale. Turn left on Glyndale to go north towards the tracks. You'll soon cross the NS and then the CSX tracks. Take a left onto Old Jesup Road, and immediately past the interstate, park on your left.
You'll see a typical Southern Railway green sign with white letters to the northwest. That's the NS line. The closest line to you is the CSX. All trains in and out of Brunswick have to go thru this junction. It is, however, a very noisy place, as you can imagine, and is therefore not a particularly good railfan location.
Probably the best place to catch NS yard action, this is an easy location to get to from the motels in the I-95 area of exit 36/US-25/US-341. Go south from the exit to a very sharp left onto Old Jesup Road. You'll come to a point where Williams Street comes from the east and Whitlock Street comes up from the south. Take the hard right to get on Whitlock, which will parallel the east side of the NS yard for quite a ways south. The point at which you turned from Old Jesup Road onto Whitlock is known as "Arco". This is a good AM location, but do stay well off any railroad property. Do not park on the railroad side of the street; park to the east.
There aren't many trains in and out of Brunswick, but the port and the city's industries generate a steady stream of business, and the yard is pretty busy, 7 days a week. It's a good place to sit and relax and watch how a railroad really gets its work done.
CSX East of Thomson, south of I-20, on GA 80. A small, but quite active yard with 1-4 engines.
Strangely, most folks have never heard of Cohutta, but it's the site of an important Norfolk Southern junction, and a good place to watch trains. Here, the very heavy traffic up from Atlanta splits to go northwest towards Chattanooga or northeast towards Knoxville. There are gravel parking lots easily accessed on both sides of the tracks. The southbound signal is easily seen from the crossing.
From Chattanooga, go south on I-75 into Georgia. About 15 miles from the border, take exit 341 (Tunnel Hill/Varnell) and go east towards Varnell via local road 201. At Varnell, take a right onto GA-2 and go east towards Praters Mill. About 1 1/2 mile after crossing the tracks in Varnell, take a left to go north on GA-71. Go north about 5 miles and look for Clara's Diner on the left, and Manis Grocery on the right. Turn left at Clara's Diner and drive to the tracks. This road crosses the tracks about 50 yards before they split.
With thanks to Robert Duncan for this nice railfan location.
From I-75, go west into town via US-280. Take a right to go north on 7th Street/US-41, then a left to go west on 11th Avenue. Take a right on 8th Street and park to the left, just before the crossing.
CSX's busy Atlanta - Manchester - Waycross main, and the moderately busy NS Macon - Jax main cross here, as does the short line Heart of Georgia.
A tip of Frograil's hat to Martin Boyask and Bill Walker for this information.
Just northwest of Augusta, there is a railroad point known as "Dan", that contains 2 siding tracks and a spur into a large, very active quarry. From I-20 northwest of Augusta, take exit 200, and head west on River Watch Parkway. You'll virtually immediately see the sidings and main track which parallel the Parkway. The quarry itself is north of the road, hard by the Savannah River. The railroad action takes place while cars are being set out and picked up. Do not attempt to enter the quarry grounds, and be alert, as those truck drivers get paid by the load, not by the hour.
The railroad line itself is the Greenwood - Augusta CSX (ex-CWC) line, and is fairly busy.
Frograil would like to thank Neel Flannagan for this location.
There are some railroady things worth observing in East Point, and Bart Youngblood has provided this interesting site for us:
CSX (ex-Atlanta and West Point) and NS (ex-CofG) meet in downtown East Point to continue north together into the Atlanta terminal. Take US-29 north until you get to the Marta station, and turn right on Cleveland Avenue, and then left at the "Buggyworks" building. There is a large parking lot right next to the tracks past this building, which allows you to stay close to your car. You can see the signals going into Industry Yard, which is just north of this point. NS traffic to the south is irregular and light, with the exception of autos and parts for a Ford plant which is just to the south. CSX has the bulk of the traffic, as this is their Atlanta - Montgomery main line, and there is an intermodal yard in Fairborn about 15 miles to the south.
For driving directions to this location, see Garden City -- NS Big Hill Road . There are two CSX crossings of Big Hill Road. The first, from GA-21, is the A-Line, and the second is the Augusta line. Note that the Augusta line crossing is tight, and trains can really book thru here. I saw a loaded coal train heading towards Central Junction at what had to be 50 mph. This is not a railfan location. On the other hand, the crossing of the A-Line is an excellent afternoon railfan location.
From GA-21, immediately after you cross the A-Line, take a right towards the Bazemore ball fields park. The large grassy area between the park road and the railroad is used for parking, so park facing the tracks. Get out your lawn chairs and coolers, cuz this is a nice place for the family to horse around between trains. Let the kids run off some of that excess steam. There are no southbound signals visible, but there are signals up at the GA-307 crossing that are lighted only when something is going to happen, so keep glancing up there. You'll want to keep your eyes and ears open. There are telephone poles on the west side, but the wires are mostly gone, and the poles aren't so close to each other as to be a major problem. There is no photo access from the east side, to include the church area.
In the western portion of Savannah, several rail lines come together at Central Junction. From there, they radiate outward. Big Hill Road crosses, at grade, three important lines radiating northward from Central Junction. Here is the western-most.
From the intersection of GA-21 and GA-307 on the northwest edge of Garden City, go south on GA-21. You'll go over a very small drainage ditch (which is on the map), and should take your first right, which is Big Hill Road. The street sign is hard to see, and you'll probably think you've made a mistake, but the first right past the drainage ditch IS Big Hill Road. After turning off GA-21, you'll see a street cutting back to the right, and a white, plain church next to the latter road. This is Big Hill Road heading cross country. In succession, you'll go over the double track CSX A-Line, the single track CSX Augusta line, and then the double track NS main line/north yard throat.
On the southwest quadrant of the crossing, you'll see a road going down into the yard, but that's clearly posted, as are other trackside areas. This is not a problem, because you'll have plenty of opportunity to get good train pix well off railroad property. Both shoulders, on both sides of the tracks, are mown and you can park on them. Avoid parking on railroad or private property. Since Big Hill dead ends a few hundred feet beyond the crossing, there is very little street traffic here. This is an excellent place to shoot NS trains, and the traffic is probably as good as that on the CSX A-Line.
My God, are municipal authorities out there getting intelligence? This is scary. As we've seen in a few other places recently, the folks in Manchester have constructed a platform for train observation and photography in Manchester. CSX lines from Birmingham and Atlanta meet here to journey south to Waycross. There's a picture of the platform in the February 2000 issue of TRAINS. [Webmaster's comment: If you don't subscribe to TRAINS, you're missing a fine railroad publication.]
Manchester is located between Atlanta and Columbus, on GA-85. Coming from either the north or the south, GA-85 crosses the tracks downtown. The observation platform is located south of the overpass. There is a large parking lot right at the platform, and a scanner on the platform will keep you aware of what's happening around you. Across the parking lot is a Mexican restaurant, and there are several fast food joints in Manchester, also.
From I-75 southbound out of Atlanta, take the SR-155 exit in the McDonough area. Go east on SR-155. At the end actual exit ramp, BTW, you'll see the NS ex-Central of Georgia branch from McDonough to Griffin. There is very little traffic. You'll parallel the tracks to the east for a short while, and then in another 2 miles or so, you'll cross the very busy NS ex-SouthernAtlanta - Macon main line. Shortly after the latter, you'll come to a 4-way intersection, and will need to go south (right) onto US-23. Go about 1.5 - 2 miles south, until you come to an industrial park entrance. Turn into the industrial park, but be careful, as some of the locals use the park as a cut-through, and there can be rather fast traffic sometimes.
You'll see the crossbucks for the main line crossing, and should find a place to park. This is the south end of the McDonough siding, and is marked "Grove" on the timetable. This is a great spot for watching one of the busiest lines in the southeast. The giant utility complex at Scherer is perhaps 30 miles south, so you'll see lots of coal activity in addition to grain trains, intermodals, auto trains, and manifest freights.
Thanks and a tip o'the hat to Bart Youngblood for this information.
Geography-wise, Millen might be considered to be out in the middle of nowhere. Railroad-wise, nothing could be further from the truth. Located more-or-less between Savannah and Augusta, and situated on US-25 just north of the Ogeechee River, Millen receives all traffic from Savannah on the NS (ex-Central of Georgia), and contains a yard and full wye. Traffic for Augusta goes north; traffic for Macon goes west. This is not a sleepy little junction. The yard is active, and with Sandersville to the west generating large volumes of kaolin clay, a lot of traffic from the west uses the north leg up to Augusta.
On US-25 at the Ogeechee River, go north over the yard, and take a right on GA-17. You'll cross the line to Augusta, and will be able to note how shiny both northern legs of the wye are. Continue east for 2 or 3 blocks past the tracks, and go south on either Gray or Daniel streets. These will end in the vicinity of the large Southern station, which is used by the NS yard and crews in Millen. You'll note a crossing at the east end of the yard (right at the station), but it's busy and fairly tight, so I'm not sure it's a very good photo location. Instead, continue east on Cotton Avenue (which parallels the tracks and station area), and then go south on GA-17, when it turns 90° to the south. Look for a photo spot just south of the tracks -- try Davis Street. Bill Walker suggests setting up across the street from the Jarrard Chevrolet dealership. There there is a small, well-shaded park with benches, and Bill also reports that morning is the best time to catch yard and thru action.
As with all large busy wyes, it's impossible to get to the right spot to catch all trains. However, if you have a scanner with a good antenna, there are defect detectors less than 6 miles north, west and east of the station. Do your homework, and you should be able to catch most of the action.
This is a town on the busy NS Atlanta - Austell - Chattanooga main line. It has an interesting railroad history, and is certainly worth a visit today. The Knoxville, TN -- Birmingham, AL, (ex-L&N -- ex-SAL) mainline came thru town and, just west of town was the ex-SAL junction to Birmingham and Atlanta. CSX still has this track thru town, but everything south of the junction to Atlanta has long been abandoned. In fact, this is becoming a nice 37-mile hiking and biking trail. Also, the line which went west to Birmingham is cut 8-10 miles east of the Alabama border.
The NS mainline is anything but about to be abandoned, however. Expect an arithmetic average of some 2 trains per hour. The main goes right thru town, so there are plenty of places to park and watch the activity. This is the seat of a helper district, and the engines are stationed here. The overall railroad line is on a rather steep SE-NW angle from Atlanta to Chattanooga, but thru Rockmart it jogs to go thru the entire town on a virtual east-west basis, which will help with photography of trains in both directions.
With thanks to Bill Stringfellow for this information.
Some 5 miles east of town is the summit of Braswell Mountain, the top of the ruling grade for both northbound and southbound trains between Austell and Rome. This is the busy mainline of the NS Atlanta - Austell - Chattanooga route, and sees some 2 trains per hour. Take US-278 east from town, and turn left onto Brushy Mountain Road to the tracks. [With thanks to Bill Stringfellow for this information.]
GEORGIA CENTRAL From the intersection of Telfaire and Tremont, go north on Telfaire. Go east on Gwinnett, until just under the I-516 overpass. There is a switcher here, and road freights head west from here. Unfortunately, this is a very noisy location, so be alert.
From Atlanta, go south on I-75 to exit 228, or I-675 to exit 1. Go east on GA-138 into the town of Stockbridge, until you get to the area of the overpass. This is a nice community, and there is a Sonic Drive-In within walking distance. There is also a Food Depot at the overpass.
The overpass provides viewing of up to 4 trains per hour on the very busy NS Atlanta - Macon ex-Southern main line. There are wide sidewalks on the overpass, but the street is busy, so keep your wits about you at all times. There is a sidewalk down to trackside on the east, and roads to the tracks on the west side, but you'll have to be careful not to trespass.
There is a passing siding which begins on the north side and continues south of the overpass, and meets are quite common. Signals protecting the siding and main are clearly visible. Afternoons and evenings seem to be the best train watching time, but the traffic is varied, and you can expect to see a train at virtually any time.
Frograil thanks SFC Bob Arnold for this information.
The Georgia Northeastern runs from Marietta to Elijay, Georgia, and has just recently been re-opened northward to Blue Ridge, home of the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The relatively new I-575 roughly parallels the route. Towards the north end of the line, at Tate in Pickens County, are the engine facilities. DPA-LTA's 2000 Locomotive Roster & News shows 11 rostered engines, so a Sunday visit to Tate would probably yield some goodies for your collection.
Take I-575 north to first traffic light (the interstate ends just southwest of Tate). Turn right, cross the tracks, and then turn left. The L&N depot is at the crossing, and the shops are to the left down a road visible at the crossing. GNRR is friendly to SAFE railfans, but always check in at the depot or shop before you even get your camera out of the car. This railroad is hauling in excess of 10,000 cars of freight a year, so it's not a mom&pop operation.
Thanks to Martin K. O'Toole for this information. Further, TRAINS Magazine had an excellent article about the entire Etowah - Elizabeth "Old Line" in its March 1997 issue. If you don't subscribe to TRAINS, you should consider doing so -- it's a good asset for any railfan.
CSX From I-75 and US 84, take US 84 east to Boone. Follow Boone south to the tracks. There is a local road freight that switches the yard, and it also lays over here. 0-3 engines.
NS Yard and engines are at the intersection of Fry and Martin Luther King. 2-6 engines. The CSX secondary main is one block north of the NSC main. This is a fairly active site.
CSX The yard stretches along US 84, on the southwest part of town. And believe me, it does stretch on and on and on. This is an immense facility. Of course, railfans are as welcome as cholera in the yard, so forget it--but that's OK, because there's a great place to watch trains in town. Right downtown is the b4ig, old train station, and immediately south of the tracks, there is a big parking area. You can bring a cooler, lawn chairs, and lots of film, and watch the trains go in and out of Waycross.
You'll soon be dismayed that a train from Atlanta whizzes over your head and curves around into the yard, well to the south of you. But something interesting happens at Waycross which I've never seen anywhere else. Mainline trains come off the overpass from the north, enter the yard throat, and then proceed to back up all the way past the station. Quite a few miles are involved here. I don't understand the mechanics of why they do this, but it makes for good photo ops.
NSC At the intersection of US 1 and GA 88, is the ex-Central of Georgia station. There are frequently 2 road engines here.