|(Photo by Todd DeFeo)|
SAVANNAH — For more than a century, Savannah was an important city for the Central of Georgia Railroad.
Starting in 1851, the railroad built a roundhouse, machine shop, blacksmith shop and other facilities here to service locomotives and rolling stock. The facility — built on the site of the Revolutionary War’s Siege of Savannah in 1778 — was completed four years later.
Founded in 1833 as the Central Rail Road and Canal Company, the railroad was originally built to connect Macon and Savannah, thereby allowing Georgia products to reach the port city of Savannah. The railroad, like much of the state’s landscape, was decimated by Union troops during the Civil War, but it later expanded throughout Georgia and beyond.
About half of the roundhouse — about 250 feet in diameter — was demolished in 1926 and re-engineered to accommodate larger steam engines that were in use by the railroad at that time. But, by the 1960s, with the introduction of diesel locomotives, the shops were past their prime.
In 1963, the Southern Railway, the successor of the Central of Georgia Railroad, closed the facility. Eventually, the railroad, which had no use for the facility, began demolishing buildings on the property.
In 1989, the Coastal Heritage Society took over management of the facility to preserve the shops for future generations. Today, the Roundhouse Railroad Museum is home to more than 40 pieces of railroad equipment, including locomotives and rolling stock.