Atlantic Coast Line
Historically, if a shipper had freight, and wanted to get it from, say, Miami to New York City, it had to travel on several different railroads. Today, CSX will do the entire job for you. This is the long-sought "seamless service" that CSX and NS used to justify much of the sense behind the break-up of Conrail. We're in the process of putting together a tour that you can use to follow the rails all the way from the Shared Assets Area in northern New Jersey to southern Florida. Several segments are now complete, and the overall tour site is here.
The tour segment contained on this page is from just south of Hardeeville, South Carolina, thru Savannah via the ex-Atlantic Coast Line/Southover Yard route, and ends at the Florida/Atlanta main line south of the city. This is a 20.5 mile tour, and is part of the completed Rocky Mount to Folkston segments, for a continuous tour of 482 miles. For more info about this piece of railroad, check out the Supplemental Data below. You can do this tour as part of the Frograil CSX East Coast Tour, or make it a day outing if you're visiting Savannah on vacation or business.
For information about the Other Tours within Frograil, go to the Frograil Tour Guide. If this will be your first tour using data within the Frograil system of tours, you really should explore the Tour Guide thoroughly before venturing forth -- there is a lot of good, basic information contained therein, which could save you some serious grief and time, while increasing the overall enjoyment of your outing.
Contents And Navigation
For information concerning the other Frograil tours which have been put together, go to the Tour Guide. A comprehensive packing list and other advice are also in the Tour Guide -- these will save you time and grief.
Peter Furnee, CSX logo
Tony Hill, Webmaster -- the guy who makes it go. All text within the tour is from Tony unless otherwise indicated. Any singular first-person pronouns within this entire Frograil Tour refer to Tony Hill.
Train Gifs. All train gifs used within this tour are from the Ed Bindler's train gifs site, which is here.
Tommy Parker provided help with information concerning locations within the Terminal.
If you'd like to contribute to this, or any other tour, please contact me at email@example.com, and let me know what you'd like to do. We'll work together: You supply the data/info, and I'll do the HTML stuff and upload it. You'll get a chance to review the fruits of your efforts before the general public sees the finished product, so you can let me have your corrections, additions and changes.
The Railroad -- Background. This entire segment is part of the CSX main line from the northeast to Florida. It was the Atlantic Coast Line's A-Line, and carried many passenger, perishable and time freights in years gone by. It still does. Mile points start at the James River in Richmond, and extend continuously numbered all the way well into Florida.
The Railroad -- Geography. For all intents and purposes, you're in urban surroundings for this entire tour segment. There are some definite rural areas at the extreme north and south ends of the Terminal, but they are mostly inaccessible to the general public.
The Railroad -- Traffic. Traffic is heavy, especially south of Central Junction to Southover Yard. Traffic south of the yard includes both Jacksonville and Waycross trains.
Mapwork: A DeLorme Atlas, which I strongly recommend for almost all Frograil tours, will not help you with this tour. You should purchase a good map of the Savannah area and study it as you read thru the tour before you attempt the tour on the ground.
Security: You're in the city for much of this tour, and have three things to be concerned with:
1. Personal security. Always fan with at least one other male. Savannah has its share of nogoodniks, so be cognizant of your surroundings.
2. Road security. The entire area from the first stop on this tour thru Alabama Junction is smothered in truck traffic, the majority of which is containers. Trucks are either inbound, outbound or tractors moving between shipments. Add the normal urban traffic, and you have a very busy traffic situation, so be extra careful while driving between locations.
3. Railroad security. Besides the obvious need to stay away from the tracks, there is the very real need to avoid trespassing on railroad property. Especially after 9-11, this is a hot issue, and the railroad and municipal police take their responsibilities very seriously. Just because taking railfan pix and watching trains are very innocent activities, your very presence on railroad property makes you potentially a liability, and potentially a serious one.
Abbreviations. I try to limit the number of abbreviations to very common terms, such as CSX and NS. However, some terms get used repeatedly and are given here to help you understand them.
AG. "At-grade" -- It may or may not be a railfan location, but you can be assured that the tracks and street/road are on the same level.
NAG. "Not at grade" -- Usually, a NAG crossing is a poor place to take pix, but not always. However, you should be warned if a crossing isn't at grade, and that's why I try to always clue you in.
NARL. "Not a railfan location" -- In my humble opinion, this location is not worth the visit; indeed, it is probably to be avoided. NARL's result from no photo access, dangerous conditions, or personal security considerations.
Photographic Considerations. As I've done in several Other Tours, I've attempted to rate the photo fields for all 4 quadrants of many crossings detailed in the tour. The following format is used: NE2, SE1, SW 4, NW4, where you go clockwise around the quadrants from northeast to northwest, and numerical ratings, from 1 to 4, with a 1 being excellent, and a 4 being non-existent, are assigned. Note that I'm rating only photo field availability, not the photogenic qualities of the site. I'm a picture taker, not a photographer, and you guys who are good photographers will have to make your own determinations. Also, in trackside locations that are not crossings, I'll use an E3/W2 or N1/S3 convention, using just the compass directions and a photo rating.
WEBMASTER'S NOTE: I do not recommend or condone walking along the tracks, as this means trespassing or exposing yourself to danger. You will have to be creative, in some instances, to avoid trespassing while getting to the detailed locations included herein, but you will either have to be creative or not visit those sites. At no point in this tour guide, or any other tour which is part of Frograil, is it recommended that you trespass or expose yourself to danger. If you are a fool and have a leg cut off (or worse), don't come crying to me: You have been warned. Trains are big, powerful, and often surprisingly quiet. Don't end up being a statistic.
Savannah Terminal -- Railfan sites:
|Alphabetical Sequence||Sequential Order:
North (East) to South (West)
|Burroughs||Port Wentworth -- EMD Road 482.5|
|Port Wentworth -- EMD Road||Port Wentworth -- Pinder Point Road|
|Port Wentworth -- Pinder Point Road||Savannah -- Big Hill Road|
|Savannah -- Alabama Junction||Savannah -- Wheathill Road|
|Savannah -- Alabama Junction North||Savannah -- Central Junction 490.4|
|Savannah -- Alabama Junction South||Savannah -- Amtrak Station|
|Savannah -- Amtrak Station||Savannah -- Telfair Junction|
|Savannah -- Big Hill Road||Savannah -- Alabama Junction North|
|Savannah -- Central Junction||Savannah -- Alabama Junction|
|Savannah -- Telfair Junction||Savannah -- Alabama Junction South|
|Savannah -- Wheathill Road||Burroughs 502.9|
If you are beginning the tour where the North Charleston -- Hardeeville tour segment ended, here's how to proceed: From the Purrysburg crossing, drive back down to US-17, take a left, and head back towards Hardeeville.
If you are beginning the tour from somewhere within Savannah, go north on GA-21 until just before you get to I-95 (exit 109).
Port Wentworth -- EMD Road. With a street name any railfan would love, we begin our tour of the Savannah Terminal (referred to henceforth as "Terminal") at the first significant location south of the Savannah River. From the north, take I-95 south from Hardeeville at the end of the Charleston - Hardeeville tour, and take the first Georgia exit, number 109 for GA-21. Go south, and at the first stoplight, take a left onto O'Leary Road. This will take you east by some motels and gas stations, the heavy truck dealer, and then you'll be in the country. The first right, after a mile or so, is EMD road. Park off O'Leary, a little past EMD, and walk up EMD Road to the crossing.
Be aware that the chemical plant is out of sight, but there is plenty of traffic over the crossing, so stay alert. It is also very noisy, as the plant to the northeast makes a persistent dull roar, and I-95 may be out of sight, but is just to the north, and is extremely busy and noisy.
As they are for much of the entire Frograil CSX East Coast Tour, the tracks are at a somewhat northeast - southwest bias. Here are the photo ratings: NE3, SE1, SW2, NW3. Do be careful to stay off the chemical company's property. Immediately south of the crossing is a defect detector at MP 482.5, which we will use as the starting mile point for our tour thru the Terminal.
Port Wentworth -- Pinder Point Road. Drive back to GA-21 and continue south. Mapquest will show you an area referred to as Monteith, but there is no access. The first real street to your right after Montieth Road/GA-30 will be Pinder Point Road. It is easy to miss. Take a right and park in the vicinity of the crossing. The bias of the tracks has shifted significantly to northwest - southeast, which is very irregular for the entire A-Line tour. Photo ratings are NE1, SE2, SW1, NW2.
When you're ready to move on, you'll want to take a moment to go across the tracks and look carefully at the gorgeous homes and their magnificent grounds. If you can visit during the early to mid part of April when the azaleas are at their peak, you'll see why the south is so easy to love. The homes are not huge, opulent mansions, but they are substantial and quite lovely. The landscaping will knock your socks off.
Savannah -- Water Works. In the northern Savannah area, this is probably the best AM train watching location, at least as far as photo ops are concerned. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Continue south on GA-21 from Pinder Point Road, pass some NAG/NARLs, and go under the NS (ex-Savannah & Atlanta) overpass. Most of NS's intermodal and port traffic takes the overpass to Port Wentworth and points south along the river. For those of you that want an over and under shot, I don't see how you can get it without trespassing, but I'm no photographer. I don't consider the area of the overpass to be a railfan location, because of trespassing concerns.
Just south of the overpass, look for a very large water tank. This announces the area of the Savannah water works property. The entire area, including the areas around the tracks, is nicely maintained, and there is plenty of room for wide open photos, @ NE3, SE1, SW1, NW1. The southwest quadrant is especially nice. The MP 486 marker is just north of the crossing.
However, keep in mind that the water facilities in any city are sensitive locations, so I recommend that you introduce yourself to the security personnel if you wish to spend more than a few minutes taking pictures.
Savannah -- Big Hill Road. Continue south on GA-21. The crossing at Gulfstream/Crossgate drives is AG, but is brutally busy and noisy; it is also rather tight. Ignore it and you'll be rewarded in just a short while. Ignore GA-307 for the same reason. Watch closely for Big Hill Road on the right. Take the right into the street (believe me, there is no big hill anywhere that I can find), and the road seems to just disappear in an amorphous area of homes. Just drive up to the stop sign and continue on.
Big Hill Road is a real Savannah treat. As you progress west on it, you'll pass a white church building in immaculate condition on the left, cross the tracks, and there is a municipal park on the right. This park offers the absolute best PM location in northern Savannah. The kids can run around and play or watch a ball game, the family can enjoy a picnic, and the viewing is terrific, at NE3, SE2, SW1, and NW1. On the southeast quad, don't trespass on the church's property.
So, the location is good for photos, but why is this road such a treat for railfans? Continue further west on the road, and you'll come to a second set of tracks. This is the busy CSX main line down from Atlanta/Augusta, via Fairfax, South Carolina. As the TV shill yells out: "But wait! There's more!" Continue yet further west, and you'll come to the 3rd set of tracks crossed by this road. This is the Norfolk Southern down from Atlanta and Augusta, via Millen, Georgia. Immediately south of this crossing is the NS Dillard Yard northern throat.
While I don't really recommend it, if you know your symbols and can cut thru the normal scanner jibber-jabber, you can see a lot of trains along Big Hill Road within a very short distance. Just keep your speed way, way down, as this is a quiet residential street, and the residents understandably don't take kindly to jerks zooming up and down the road.
Savannah -- Wheathill Road. Once again, head further south on GA-21, and look for a school on the right. Take a right after the school, and you'll now be between 2 schools. Indeed, this entire road, Wheathill Road, winds between school facilities all the way from GA-21 to the crossing, which is just past the high school football stadium. Quite frankly, the crossing isn't much of a photo location, at NE4, SE4, SW1, NW4, but that southwest quad is pretty good. This spot will get you trackside in a hurry, if you know there's a train and you need to scoot trackside.
Because of the sensitivity connected with non-school personnel hanging around school facilities, I would not consider spending any time here during school hours, except to take a shot and then depart.
Savannah -- Central Junction. In Europe, all roads may lead to Rome, but in Savannah, all railroads lead to Central Junction. Historically, four major railroads crossed here: Atlantic Coast Line (now the CSX A-Line), Central of Georgia (abandoned), Savannah and Atlanta (now NS main to Macon and Augusta), and the Seaboard Air Line (now the CSX Augusta line). The Central of Georgia may be gone, but the other three lines are wide open. All of these lines come together under the US-80/GA-26 overpass. This is MP 490.4 on the A-Line.
If you have been following the tour from the north, just get back to GA-21 and take a right to head further south. Note that GA-21 is swinging steadily to the east to become southeasterly, but the tracks are still slightly northwest - southeast. GA-21 will become an interstate, I-516, and you should take the first exit to head west on US-80. When the road rises up, look to the right, and you'll see the junction laid out just north of the overpass. Actually, this location may physically be in Garden City, but to keep it simple, we'll consider it to be part of Savannah.
This crude drawing has some obvious flaws, but will do to describe the layout. You are standing on the overpass looking northwest. From the west side, the first track is the NS (ex SA) line coming out of Dillard Yard, the second is the CSX Augusta line (ex-SAL), and the 3rd and 4th tracks are the CSX A-Line (ex-ACL, they are parallel, not sloppy like the drawing!). You might consider some down on shots from the US-80 overpass, but it's really busy, and you'll need to be extra careful. Don't be surprised if local law enforcement runs you off, although there really is a pretty good shoulder on both sides of the bridge. The south side looks into the sun, and there is lots of road traffic, so don't consider walking back and forth across the bridge.
After the junction, you can take the first right onto Junction Avenue, then right onto Louisville Road, and drive towards the tracks. The area doesn't seem to be posted, but it is quite difficult to tell where railroad property begins and ends. The rule is to stay well back, and you'll probably be OK. This seems to be a fairly safe area, but I'd certainly suggest you have at least one male friend with you, and definitely suggest you depart well before dark. In this day and age, you'd better be well back from the tracks, or you'll probably end up being a guest of the city of Savannah (or Garden City) for the night. This is definitely an afternoon location, as there is no way to get to the east side without blatantly trespassing, and the photo angles are lousy anyway. As you can probably tell, I'm not fond of this area, and personally don't consider it a railfan location.
The two CSX lines are quite busy, but the majority of the NS traffic entering the terminal stops at Dillard Yard just to the north, and the port and intermodal terminal are reached by going north out of the yard and over to those customers via the overpass north of the water works. There are some customers in the eastern and southeastern parts of Savannah, and NS serves them via Central Junction.
Savanna -- Amtrak Station. From the overpass over Central Junction on US-80, go west on US-80 to a left on Chatham Parkway. Continue on Chatham to a crossing of the Georgia Central (ex-Seaboard Air Line), and then take a left onto Telfair Road. There is a sign to the Amtrak station at this turn. Note that there are things named "Telfair" something or other all around here, so be careful that you're on Telfair "Road". Go northeast on this road, cross the A-Line, and then take your first real left onto Seaboard Coast Line Drive. Drive past the trucking terminals all the way back to the station. You'll immediately recognize it, because it's very large, and it's not architecturally a thing of beauty. It is, however, a pretty impressive structure, and was built for functionality, not beauty.
Drive past the station to the far north end of the parking lot and park. Get out your lawn chair, cooler, and scanner, and walk as far north as you can on the platform. Set up, sit back, and let CSX and Amtrak bring the show to you. You don't have to cross a bunch of tracks or worry about artistry -- let the railroads do the work. This is mostly a morning location, as there is no access from the west. Signals are visible both to the north and south. For CSX action, this is the best spot in the Savannah terminal.
Savannah -- Telfair Junction. This isn't really a railfan location on the tour, but it's important to try and decipher what happens south of the Amtrak station. As this location is described, please note that the Webmaster is not an expert in Savannah railfanning, and welcomes any corrections, suggestions and embellishments. From the Amtrak station, head south back towards Telfair Road, and take a right to cross the A-Line again, and just past the crossing, take a left to enter Tremont Road southeast. In winter, you'll see the "SE Passenger Station" electronic tower at MP 491, but once the shrubs and weeds leaf out, it will be invisible. You'll then come to a junction whereby a lead from the A-Line enters what was the Seaboard Air Line's Savannah Yard. This lead was put in only after the ACL/SAL merger, and for the purposes of the Telfair Junction description, please ignore it.
In days gone by, the Seaboard Air Line's main line from Atlanta entered the area from the west on what is now the Georgia Central Railroad. Passenger trains went straight on into Savannah and freight trains diverged into SAL's Savannah Yard. It is this junction that was Telfair Junction, and today, it almost still is. The physical junction is to the west of Tremont Road, in an open area under I-16. This will become clear to you as you watch GC trains switch the north end of the yard. This is all very logical and orderly until you come across the new lead from the A-Line into Savannah Yard. Today, this is an important lead, but prior to the merger, it didn't exist. Don't try to get trackside in the Telfair area, as it is all deep within CSX property.
Savannah -- Alabama Junction North. Alabama Junction is probably the most complicated junction in Savannah, and is such because of the changes that took place after the SAL/ACL merger. What once was a simple junction of 2 railroad lines is now much more complicated. On a personal note, the first time I saw this place was back in the early 1980's. There was no Internet, no MapQuest, no DeLorme, etc. Just a guy out trying to see some trains. I couldn't understand what "Alabama" had to do with Savannah, but I saw 2 big trains in a hurry, before I had to get back to doing husband-type things. Today, the junction is much more complicated, but the weeds/shrubs are under much better control, and this is a fascinating piece of railroad. Incidentally, the word "Alabama" comes from an SAL predecessor railroad, and as such, really does mean that this is the junction to Alabama, albeit through Atlanta.
When ACL and SAL combined forces, they naturally combined their assets in Savannah. The crossing of the SAL and ACL at Alabama Junction was a simple, AG crossing, but the effort to combine the two railroads caused a connection between the ex-SAL Savannah Yard and the ex-ACL both to the north and south of what would become the Georgia Central Railroad. Today, Alabama Junction is actually 3 junctions, with an ex-SAL lead joining the ex-ACL north and south of the Georgia Central, and the latter itself.
As you drive south from Telfair Road, the first thing you'll notice is the large Savannah Recycling plant. This is a metals recycler and fills up to 8 cars per day with scrap iron. It's worthwhile to just sit and watch the ballet between the railroad and this industry shift cars. The "switcher" in the scrap yard is a large fork lift, which just hunks up in front of or behind a car, and gives it a shove. Crude, but efficient, and one of the reasons why these cars always look so beaten up. Park on the right, beyond the recycler, and stay in the area of your car -- don't cross Tremont Road to the tracks. Photo fields from your parking area are excellent. Let your eyes follow the "new" entrance from the ex-ACL to the ex-SAL Savannah Yard. You'll see the SAL MP 500 marker. It is interesting to note that the SAL mileage is 500 and the ACL mileage is 491 (behind you on the A-Line). All the way from Richmond, Virginia, the difference in route miles between these two erstwhile competitors is a grand total of 9 miles.
The primary classification yard for CSX in the Terminal is Southover, but there is still a good deal of traffic in and out of Savannah Yard. To add great interest to Savannah's mix, CSX has made Savannah Yard its main intermodal yard in the area, and it has contracted out switching duties to Rail Link, so you'll likely see the switchers reproduced above heading in and out of the yard on their way from/to the port. Thru unit trains and Amtrak also use this connection to scoot thru north of the A-Line, and then rejoin it at Burroughs. On the scanner, this is referred to as "the passing track". Bob Clouston has provided information about Rail Link and Savannah Yard ops.
There are no railfan locations west of Tremont Road.
Savannah -- Alabama Junction. Just a short way south of the northern connection to Savannah Yard, you'll come to the crossing that is the original junction. There are three electronic towers here, and are, in order: RCCI HSE A A491.70, and the final two are combined as one, in ALA JCT 491.70 HSE B. Again, stay on the west side of Tremont Road, and the photo ops are NE3, SE3, SW2 and NW1. GC is a pretty busy line compared to many short lines, and you might get lucky and see one of their trains or a transfer movement at the junction.
Savannah -- Alabama Junction South. Another short way south of Alabama Junction is the southern counterpart to the "new" connection north of the original junction. Stay on the west side of Tremont Road to the area of the crossing, and the photo ops are rated a 2, both north and south of the crossing. Go a little further south, however, and the photo fields are wide open to both the north and south.
There is another electronic tower between the street and the A-Line (ALA JCT HSE A 491.7) and another one a little further south (ALA JCT CASE C).
Beyond this point, your Webmaster tried to thoroughly explore any access points to the A-Line south and thru the entire Southover Yard area. In order from the north, the US-80/Ogeechee Road is NAG/NARL, Union Junction no longer exists as a junction and is NAG/NARL, and the area south of Walton Street is posted ("Southover" on MapQuest). The Staley Avenue crossing no longer exists and the area is inaccessible. Access from the south is completely denied, because the entire southern border of the yard is with Hunter Army Air Field. Even those of us with Military ID cards do not attempt to fan from Hunter. Other than the direct route into the yard via ACL Boulevard, which is off-limits to all but CSX employees and suppliers, I could find no railfan locations. Therefore, we will now take the most direct route to Burroughs, the next stop on the tour.
Burroughs. Because railfanning beyond this point in Savannah is fruitless, continue south on Tremont until it T's at US-80/Ogeechee Road, and take a right. You'll come to the intersection with I-516, and should head south (this may be signed as "East"), and then take the first exit to get on Veterans Parkway. This will end at GA-204, a semi expressway, and you should take this road northwest. Along the way, Mapquest shows that Grove Point Road is close to the A-Line, but there is no access. When you get to US-17, go south (left), and after about a mile, take a left onto Chevis Road.
Chevis, after several miles, will cross the ex-SAL coming south from Savannah Yard, and within perhaps 50 yards, you cross the A-Line. Both of these lines are single track here. The junction itself is visible to the southwest, but is inaccessible without trespassing. Chevis Road is busy, so keep that in mind as I describe the two crossings. The S-Line crossing is NE4, SE4, SW1, NW1. The A-Line is NE1, SE1 (from the driveway), SW3, NW3. The best parking in the area is at the northwest quadrant of the S-Line crossing.
To the south of the A-Line crossing is a switch at MP 502.9. Technically, the Savannah Subdivision ends at Ogeechee, about three miles to the southwest, but unless you're a fish or have access to a helicopter, you can't get there. Therefore, we will end our tour of the Savannah Terminal at this point. To continue south towards Florida, go here to join the Savannah - Jacksonville segment of the Frograil CSX East Coast Tour.