The Tallulah Falls Railway

The Tallulah Falls Railway ran approximately 58 miles from Cornelia, GA to Franklin, NC. It was the product of decades of attempts at connecting the two states via the mountains, with the first attempts and proposals coming as early as 1836. 

A northbound freight train comes into Clayton, 1946. (F.E. Ardrey Collection)

It was later to become part of the Blue Ridge Railroad, which itself would not be completed, save for a small bit of railroad grade and the Stumphouse Tunnel, which remain today as part of the Blue Ridge Historical Trail, about 12 miles east of this line in South Carolina.

Stumphouse Tunnel (SC Picture Project)

"In 1854, construction began on the abortive Blue Ridge railroad intended to link Anderson, SC with Knoxville, TN. The state of Georgia got involved by chartering the "North Eastern Railroad" in 1854 to link from Athens to the proposed Blue Ridge line at Clayton, but no actual construction on the North Eastern commenced until after the war, in 1871. By this time the Atlanta and Richmond Air Line had built a southwest-northeast trunk line through the region. A road was constructed from Athens to the A&RAL, and used trackage rights to Cornelia (formerly named Rabun Gap), where it turned out again and headed north. Construction by the Richmond and Danville system passed the Habersham County seat of Clarkesville to reach the resort town of Tallulah Falls at the Tallulah Gorge in 1882." (Abandoned Rails)

Finally beginning service in 1881, it served the logging interests of north Georgia and North Carolina, and was instrumental in constructing dams along the Tallulah River. (Right of way)



The line was also known for its many trestles, as it had 42 along the rugged terrain. Two of the trestles collapsed during the operation of the line, which resulted in deaths, one in 1898 and another in 1927.

The Big Cannon Trestle at Wiley, the longest trestle along the line. (F.E. Ardrey Collection)

It went into bankruptcy in 1923, and its owners petitioned for its abandonment as early as 1933, but public support for the railroad would allow it to continue running until 1961.

Late in its life, it gained additional notoriety as the railroad line used in the Disney movie The Great Locomotive Chase.

Thanks as always for reading!

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