Central Of Georgia
This tour will stretch from Birmingham, AL thru Macon, GA, and on to Savannah, as contributors generously donate segments to it. The tour is complete from Leeds (just east of Birmingham) to Columbus, Georgia, a timetable distance of about 138 miles. There's plenty to see in that stretch. Today's Norfolk Southern calls this ex-Central of Georgia secondary main line the P Line. However, very, very few railroaders and railfans call this route anything but "the CG" or "the Central".
Contents And Navigation
WHAT YOU WILL FIND HERE: From a particular starting point, each segment of this coverage will allow you to follow the instructions given, drive to a railfan site, then to the next, etc. etc. Traffic levels and patterns will be given, and the photographic/ lighting considerations for each site will usually be mentioned. You'll be told about area attractions, such as tourist and historic sites, as well as hotels and restaurants which are trackside or otherwise worthy of note. In short, you'll be able to plan an entire family or railfan-only outing or even a vacation from this guide, as it is completed in the months to come.
WHAT YOU WILL NOT FIND HERE: This is a railfan guide, not a photo collection. There are already many excellent and enjoyable railroad photo sites available, and one more really wouldn't add much value to the general railfan. Besides, photos take up a lot of memory, and your humble Webmaster has to pay for memory.
You will not find fancy graphics, as this is a tour guide, not an exhibition of HTML or graphics expertise. You'll be able to load these pages quickly and print them without waiting a week for each page to print. Also, you'll conserve toner in the process.
Major contributors to this effort include:
Casey Thomason -- Leeds -- Childersburg, Alabama
Dale Burns -- Childersburg to Columbus, Georgia. You can visit Dale's Alabama Rail Pic's, which is here. Several of the pictures on Dale's site were taken at sites detailed in this tour. Indeed, I suggest you study his photos and determine ahead of time where you want to visit, especially if you're pressed for time.
Tony Hill, Webmaster
If you'd like to contribute to this, or any other tour, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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. Norfolk Southern's ex-Central of Georgia main line traverses a very beautiful part of Alabama. The overall direction is from the northwest (starting east of Birmingham) to the southeast. As you read and follow the tour, you'll encounter mountains, rivers, trestles and other clues that you're in the Appalachian foothills for much of the first part of the tour. Gradually, as you approach Phenix City and Columbus, Georgia, the terrain becomes less hilly. The entire area is heavily forested, with a good mix of pine and hardwood.
During the 1990's and early 2000's, traffic levels have gradually increased, and the line has been undergoing substantial upgrading to allow for even more potential traffic. The big bridge at Childersburg has been substantially rebuilt, allowing trains to zip over at track speed, and a lot of track work has gone on in various areas, and there are rumors for even more work to be done.
Mapwork: Much of the tour is not easy if you have no detailed map for back country roads. I definitely recommend you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work. You can find information here about Railfan Maps that are available.
Security. As you can imagine, this tour is mostly very rural. Unlike the typical tour which encompasses fairly large urban areas, there is relatively little concern throughout the tour's length with personal security. You've kind of got to work hard to get bopped over the head. However, there is a major concern with personal security once "away from civilization." You do not want to scurry up to the Hatchet Creek Trestle by yourself. If you fall and break an ankle, you will probably die out there. In all railfan outings, you are encouraged to have at least one male buddy with you.
WEBMASTER'S NOTE: I do not recommend, or even 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.
Traffic Levels. As of Spring, 2001, there are probably 7-9 trains daily, including both an eastbound and westbound local. Because of clearance limitations in tunnels and the Coosa River bridge, there are no stacks or automobile racks over the line. Also, because there are no coal-fired power plants on the route, you shouldn't expect to see a coal train. Infrequent visitors include a westbound empty spine train and the occasional "rock train".
Leeds, Alabama, to Columbus, Georgia -- Railfan sites:
This text is courtesy of Casey Thomason:
Leeds. The starting point for this segment is the intersection of US-78 and AL-25, in the town of Leeds, which is less than 15 miles east of Birmingham. Here at this intersection, there is a large wooden trestle which crosses US-78 and the Atlanta - Birmingham Crescent Route mainline. As of February 2003, there were substantial reports that this bridge will be razed and replaced by a heavier, modern steel bridge. After turning south onto AL-25, you'll follow the tracks all the way to Vincent, which is about 15 miles by rail. You will soon cross the railroad tracks, and start up the first mountain on the tour, so far. This is Oak Mountain.
There is a tunnel here, referred to as the "short tunnel," but access is very difficult, and would require hiking thru the woods. This would not only be hard work, it would also be blatant trespassing, so you're urged to forego this location.
Long Tunnel. At the bottom of this hill there are a few road crossings that turn off AL-25 and make for good photo ops. Staying southeast on AL-25, you'll cross the tracks again, and AL-25 will make a sharp right, still following the tracks for a short distance. When the road is about to start uphill, there will be a small dirt road turning to the right, called "Tunnel Road." Turn right onto this to see the west portal of Long Tunnel. This road leads to two houses, and it appears to be a public road, at least to the crossing.
Vandiver. Back on AL-25, follow the road more eastward, and it will cross Coosa Mountain. At the bottom of the hill is the small community of Vandiver. There are several good photo ops here. A right turn off AL-25 is required to get to the tracks. Continuing on AL-25, and you'll cross the tracks again, and shortly thereafter, it will cross Bear Creek. The railroad also crosses the creek here, over a small, but photogenic trestle. The road will wind along for a few miles, and the communities of Sterrett and Beulah are to the left of the road, where there is a short siding.
As soon as AL-25 meets back with the tracks, there will be a sharp turn to the right, and a small private lake. From this site was taken the June, 2000, Norfolk Southern Corporation's 2000 Calendar. Casey is too modest to tout his achievement, but the photo is very lovely, and this is obviously an excellent place to get that perfect railroad photograph.
Continue southeast on AL-25, and you'll once again cross the tracks, at "Calcis." After 3 miles, you'll come to the intersection with US-231. Go southwest (right) on US-231 towards Harpersville. You'll shortly duck under the C of G tracks at Vincent [MP P407.8]. There is short siding here, and a few photo locations, but you want to be careful not to trespass on railroad property. After another 2 miles or so, you'll go under the CSX Birmingham - Manchester - Waycross main line. At the next traffic light, turn left (east) onto US-280. This will be in the town of Harpersville. [Be sure to observe the speed limit!!! The city fathers make their city's best income from speeding tickets.] From Harpersville back towards the tracks, you'll follow US-280 until you reach the outskirts of Childersburg.
Childersburg. As you come into town from the west, you'll come to the Coosa River. There is a long steel trestle here [MP P401.3 - P401.5], and the bridge has been reinforced and strengthened to allow normal track speed. A few miles on into town is a large overhead concrete viaduct to shoot as well. This latter crosses the highway and the NS 3-B line which arcs down from Ft McClellan - Anniston - Childersburg - Calera - Wilson. There is only one local per day on this line.
To reach the viaduct, you'll have to turn left off US-280 towards downtown Childersburg, and you'll see that the viaduct becomes obvious.
This text is courtesy of Dale Burns:
Bon Air. As you drive southeast from Childersburg, the rugged countryside keeps the roads and railroad separated, but there are plenty of opportunities to get trackside, and in the Bon Air community is one of them. From the concrete viaduct in Childersburg, continue southeast on US-280, but at the EAST side of the Central Alabama Community College, turn onto Lower Bon Air Road, which will take you straight to the tracks. There is an Avondale Mills plant in Bon Air, and a siding. [MP P398.5]
Zubers. Continuing southeast on US-280, you'll be approaching Sylacauga, but you want to be on the lookout for Old Sylacauga Highway, which branches off to the left (east). Take Old Sylacauga to Odena Road, and take Odena over the tracks. Immediately past the tracks, take a left onto Zubers Road. This is the community of Zubers according to MapQuest, but the natives apparently refer to the area as Lipsey/Hightower. Zubers Road is actually the original railroad bed, and parallels the 7060' siding for its full length. Trains have been known to tie up overnight here.
Sylacauga. The next accessible place to view the railroad is Sylacauga. Get back to US-280, and continue southeast, until you get to the traffic light at Sylacauga-Fayetteville Road. There is a Food World in strip mall here for life support. Turn east and go into the town to Broadway, which is AL-21. The post office is at this intersection. Take a left towards Talladega, and Broadway will take you right to the crossing of the NS (CofG) main and the Eastern Alabama Railway (EARY). There are plenty of photo locations here, so spend some time and find a good one.
Trammells. Backtrack south via AL-21/Broadway, but don't head back towards US-280. Rather, continue south on AL-21 on out of town, and then take a left at the Conoco station onto Goodwater Highway, County Road (CR) 511. Continue on CR-511 for a couple of miles, and be looking on your left for Old Goodwater Road. Take the left onto Old Goodwater, and then take your first left onto Huckleberry Hill Road, which will take you up to the tracks. Here you may catch eastbounds slowly pulling up the hill out of Sylacauga on their way to the crest at Trammells. A word of warning: Trains can (and do!) stall on the hill, so park before you cross the tracks, or you might have a long wait to get back to the tour.
Go back to CR-511 and continue the tour another mile and a half or so, and look for a paved road that angles off at a 45° angle. This road may or may not be marked. According to mapQuest, this will be Trammells Road, which will take you to the tracks. However, the crest of the hill is further up, so we advise you to continue to Rocky Towers Road (which may be unmarked, and is a dirt/gravel road). This road will take you directly to the crest of Trammells Hill, where there is a 4352' siding. The dirt road will parallel the tracks on the original railroad bed, but pretty much dead ends at the far end of the siding. [MP P384.9]
Goodwater -- Hatchet Creek Trestle. Backtrack, once again, to CR-511, and continue east until you come into the community of Hollins. Take a left at the "Hollins Wildlife Management Area" sign, and you'll soon be in the small town. The CofG tracks run thru the town, and will allow you to catch something you know is close, but there really isn't any particular attraction there.
After you leave Hollins, you will shortly be on a three lane road, and you will see Coosa County Road 44 bear off to the left. This is a loop road that will come back into CR-511 just before you reach the Hatchet Creek bridge on CR-511. Continue over the bridge, and look for a dirt/gravel road between a yellow doublewide and the Dixie Color building. Be sure to take this dirt/gravel road, as it will lead you to the very high Hatchet Creek Trestle at the end of the road. This trestle is around 175 feet high, and good railroad photography can be had here. Hatchet Creek is the only sizeable stream between Sylacauga and Goodwater, so if you go over it on CR-511 as you enter Goodwater, you've missed the turn to the trestle.
Goodwater -- AL-9 Overpass Area. Continue on CR-511 on in to the town of Goodwater. In town, the Goodwater Highway will become Sylacauga Street, and will parallel the tracks on an almost perfect NW-SE diagonal thru the northwest part of town. In the center of town is AL-9, which rises up to go over the tracks. The siding here is 7675' and there are abundant photo locations in the area.
For those fans who cannot pass a station without taking a least a couple of photos of the structure, Goodwater's depot has been moved about a mile north of the overpass. It's in use as a community center.
Kellyton. There's not much to see between Goodwater and Kellyton, so the best thing to do is just forget the railroad and minimize the time needed to get to Kellyton. Go south out of Goodwater on AL-9 for 6 miles, and then go east on US-280. As you come in to Kellyton, you'll see the tracks come in from the left (northwest), and you'll be parallel with them until you reach CR-87. Actually, CR-87 is a loop road, and you'll pass the first crossing of it (at the top of a hill), but you'll soon see CR-87 again at the PURE service station, which will be on your left. Take a left and go over the tracks. There is a defect detector here [MP P367.0], and adequate room for photos.
Alexander City -- West. From the point on US-280 where you turned onto CR-87 to get to the detector, you can look downhill about 4/10's of a mile, and see the new Exxon gas station on the left. The station is right on the Coosa/Tallapoosa county line. Washington Street merges into US-280 on the left side (westbound side) of US-280. You'll cross the tracks on an overpass, and the NS tracks will then be on your right, and just a few feet off from the road all the way into town. Along here, there are several photo locations, block signals at MP P365.3 and P362.3 and a few industries. There are lots of pix on Dale's photo site which were taken in Alexander City.
At the second block signal mentioned in the preceding paragraph, there is a Piggly Wiggly supermarket. This marks the beginning of a 5872' siding that runs to the east end of town.
Alexander City -- East. To get to the east end of the siding: From the Piggly Wiggly with the tracks on your right, drive up to the traffic light at Five Points where five roads join. Take the right here onto Hillabee Street. You'll notice the road and tracks take the same bend. Follow the road to the next intersection where there is a stop sign. BE CAREFUL HERE -- THIS IS A VERY BUSY INTERSECTION. After it's all clear, go straight across onto 8th Avenue, and the tracks are still just off the roadway to your right.
The street will cross the tracks in front of Avondale Mills' Beville Plant onto Comer Street. There are good photo ops in the area, and there are several convenience stores in the area. This is about it for Alexander City, so it's on to Jacksons Gap. Follow Comer Street on out to Dadeville Road and take a right. Drive up to the traffic light and turn left onto Cherokee Road, and follow it straight out to US-280.
Jacksons Gap. Continue east on US-280, and you'll cross the Tallapoosa River and its Lake Martin. Incidentally, if you go south of Alexander City on GA-63, you'll come to Wind Creek State Park. Lake Martin is huge, and if you've got a camper, you could stay here as a base of operations. The park is only 6 miles south of US-280. Now, back to the river: As you cross the river on US-280, you'll see the railroad's low trestle to the north. Access is by water only, unfortunately. After a few more miles, you'll enter Jacksons Gap. Once again, go slow thru here, as the police do seem to enjoy writing tickets. You'll see a tall radio tower on your left just before a lumber yard. Slow down when you see the towe4r, and take a left onto a dirt drive just before the lumber yard's driveway. This will carry you down to where the depot used to be, and where a lot of the track gangs' vehicles are left. You may be able t catch on of the locals working the lumber mill here, also. There is a small siding here.
Dadeville. Leaving Jackson Gap via US-280, head east towards Dadeville. The railroad does not run thru Dadeville, but rather reaches the town via a spur into a pulpwood operation. The spur is used primarily for pulpwood car storage. As you approach Dadeville, take a left on AL-49 and drive north to the overpass at Buck Creek. There is some limited photo potential here. Retrace your drive back to US-280, and go further east to the second traffic light in Dadeville. Take a left onto Dudleyville Road, and drive out to the bridge over the main line. There is a 5195' siding here called North Dadeville. [MP P347.4]
Camp Hill. East of Dadeville, via US-280, you'll roll into Camp Hill. From US-280, turn left onto AL-50, and follow it until you see the bridge over the tracks. Main Street will turn just before the bridge to the right. The turn left at the far end of the buildings to get to the tracks. The tracks are just behind the row of buildings. You can access the main and a 5384' siding at MP P340.1. A defect detector is at MP P341.4. There are a few good photo locations. To get back out to US-280, cross back over the tracks and follow Main Street on out to US-280.
Waverly. Continue southeast on US-280 for awhile, as there isn't much to see for several miles. You'll have to be alert thru here, however, as the road is being expanded to a 4-lane highway. This process goes all the way to Opelika. Watch your speed, too, as this is a construction zone, and the highway patrol is fairly zealous. One section of the new road is open in the Waverly area, and as soon as you get on the new bypass, take your first left to get into the town. Take a right onto Old Highway 280, and then a left onto CR-11. This will take you to a small one lane bridge over the tracks where you can get a good shot of trains if you know one is coming. On the other hand, this is a very narrow bridge, so it isn't recommended as a railfan location unless you know a train is imminent.
Gold Hill. As you leave Waverly via US-280, look for a State Highway Department facility on the left. Just past that facility is AL-147, also to the left. Take this road a short ways to the town of Gold Hill. For some reason, the railroad knows this place as "Gold Ridge." There is a 6980' siding here, and it is very scenic. Trains meet here on a somewhat regular basis, so you might get lucky. Just to the east, at MP P327.4, there's a defect detector which will warn you of approaching westbounds. The detector is in a place the railroad calls "Stonewall".
As you get into Opelika, the first traffic light (not a blinker or caution light) will be the intersection of US-280 and Pepperell Parkway (US-29/AL-15 -- For those of you familiar with other Frograil tours, you'll probably recognize US-29 as an old railfan friend. Indeed, virtually all of the NS Crescent Route tour from Atlanta to Washington closely follows US-29). From this intersection, you have two options relative to getting to the depot area.
Opelika -- CSX Siding. Continue on straight towards the intersection of US-280 and I-85 (where life support abounds). You'll cross, via an overpass, the CSX (ex-Western Railway of Alabama) before you get to I-85. Just east of the overpass, take a hard left onto Thomason Drive which will then take you across a grade crossing at the CSX tracks. This line is the Atlanta - LaGrange - Montgomery route, and is fairly busy -- probably twice the traffic as the CofG sees. At this crossing is the west end of a siding, where you'll likely find a westbound CSX train heading for Montgomery sitting and waiting for an eastbound.
From the Thomason Drive crossing, take a right at a T intersection onto 1st Avenue. Follow this road, which parallels the tracks, until you cross over the NS (ex-CofG) tracks as they bend toward the diamond with the CSX tracks at the Opelika depot. Continue on for few hundred yards to the major intersection. Go straight across and turn right onto South 7th Street. Go back across the CSX tracks and then take a right onto South Railroad Avenue. This will carry you directly into the parking lot at the Opelika depot and the diamond.
Opelika -- NS Siding. From back at the US-280 and Pepperell Parkway intersection, here is your second option: Take a left on Pepperell, and head into the town. You'll immediately pass the East Alabama Medical Center on your left, and convenience stores on your right. Continue on to North 14th Street and take a left. This will take you to the CofG tracks, and a 7980' siding at MP P319.6. This is the longest siding on the line between Birmingham and Columbus. Trains meet here often, and some of them even tie down overnight. Backtrack to Pepperell, go over the tracks on a new overpass, and on to the intersection of North and South 7th Street.
Take a right onto South 7th Street, which will cross the CSX tracks, and then you'll take a right onto South Railroad Avenue, which will take you directly to the depot area.
Opelika -- Depot Area. In Opelika, this is the place to see the action. The crossing is just a few feet from the depot, and indeed, there is even an old "diamond" on display at a very small city monument where you turned onto South Railroad Avenue. The monument commemorates the history of the railroads in Opelika and the surrounding area.There is a concrete coaling tower on the CSX (WofA) main just 200 feet from the crossing, and a small interchange yard which CSX and NS use to interchange with the Pine Belt Southern Railroad.
The PBS is a shortline operating remnants of the ex-Southern line which ran from Opelika to Lafayette and on to Roanoke and the CSX (ex-WofA) tracks. The line is active now between Lafayette and Opelika, as large lumber and chip mills are served in those two towns.
Opelika is an old, historic city and crossroads, and you're advised to slow down and spend some time here to enjoy the area. There is plenty to see and do. If you'd like to take a side trip to nearby Auburn, the home of the Auburn University War Eagles (and some mighty good eats!), go here for information.
Opelika -- Chewacla. No, this isn't the name of a Star Wars furry creature. Rather, this is the eastern edge of the Opelika area, and the site of an at-grade crossing. From the depot, turn south onto North 9th Street, which is a 4-lane road, and it will take you over the tracks. Where this road makes a hard left, you'll want to take a right onto AL-51. The NS tracks are just out of sight on your right. Follow AL-51 south towards I-85, and go under the interstate. There is life support in this area. Before you get to the interstate, you'll see the tracks crossing the AL-51 on an overhead bridge south of the interstate. Before you get to the underpass, take a left on Old Columbus Road. The tracks will be hard on your right for awhile, and you'll pass a few industries, also on your right.
Old Columbus Road will cross the tracks and turn into Lee Road 391, which will take you to South Uniroyal Road. Take a left and travel north towards the tracks. Where the tracks cross Uniroyal is called "Royal City" by the railroad, and is clearly identified as Chewacla by mapQuest. There is also a Chewacla Road and a Chewacla Creek nearby, so the place name is logically Chewacla. There is a short (4224') siding MP P315.7, and a defect detector at 315.8.
From the crossing, continue north on Uniroyal to US-280, and take a right to head southeast and continue the tour.
Bleecker. There is not a lot to see between Opelika and Columbus, but a couple of noteworthy items need to be covered. The tracks parallel US-280 all the way into Columbus from Opelika, and you'll soon see them just off the road on your right, funning through the woods and hills and people's front and back yards. There are several minor roads that cross the tracks where you might get some shots of a passing train, if you know one is in the area. Salem is the first small town you'll come to. At about MP P311.9 you can see a very old wooden caboose a local man has placed by the tracks. It is in a very sad state of disrepair. Continue on US-280 and the next town is Bleeker, where trains meet on a regular basis on the 6878' siding at MP P305.1. This is a beautiful part of the state.
Smiths. After a few more southeasterly miles on US-280, you'll come to the village of Smiths. Take a right on Lee Road 298, and you'll soon be in the middle of the town. There, you'll be at a 7379' siding at MP P299.7. Just west of Smith's, at MP P301.9, is a defect detector. At the end of the siding in Smiths, take Lee Road 927 over the tracks to the right just before the block signal at the east end of the siding. Immediately take your left onto Lee Road 430, which will parallel the tracks on the south side. Follow LR-430 until you see the Chevron Station on the left side of the road called "The Corner Store". Take a left here onto Cutrate Road, which will parallel the tracks further thru Phenix City to Columbus.
Phenix City. Entering the city on Cutrate Road, you will soon intersect with Opelika Road, where you will turn left at the intersection. You'll soon come to a major intersection with US-280. Go straight thru this intersection, and then take your first left onto Stadium Drive. Drive a very short distance and you'll see the CofG tracks in front of you. Take a right here onto South Railroad Street. This street closely parallels the tracks, and you can get some good pix if a train is in the area. [Webmaster's Note: We have been enjoying a bucolic tour thru the countryside up to this point. You are now, however, in the city and you must be cognizant of your surroundings. Do not railfan either Phenix City or Columbus by yourself -- have at least one male friend with you, from the beginning of South Railroad Street onward.] This is primarily a residential area, but you should still be aware of your surroundings. If you stop for pix here, take them and then keep moving along.
Travel on further down South Railroad Street until you see a new arched concrete bridge going over the tracks. The road will curve itself around the bridge and come to an intersection. Take your right onto Summerville Road, which quickly turns into Broad Street heading into downtown Phenix City. A word of caution: If you use Mapquest.com, it shows 14th Street crossing the river. This bridge has been closed to only foot traffic. Continue on to 13th Street, where there is a shopping mall on the left with a Piggly Wiggly grocery store next to the road. Turn left here onto 13th, and drive over the Chattahoochee River into Columbus, Georgia.
Before continuing with the tour, Dale Burns, our text and knowledge provider for us has some comments about the city of Columbus:
Columbus, Georgia is a progressive and historic city. It has many beautiful and historic structures including many very old homes and several historic industrial structures, including the Eagle & Phoenix Textile Mills that you can see a few feet from the 13th Street Bridge over the Chattahoochee River. Please plan on spending some time in the area enjoying the sites. If you have enough time, visit the Riverwalk. This is a great wide walking and biking path along the banks of the river. Very relaxing!
As with most cities of any size, a map is your buddy here. While mapQuest will do the job for you, many features are out of date, especially with respect to older railroad lines. Note that the 14th Street Bridge, which shows on most maps, has been closed to all but foot traffic. Stay away from Rand-McNally maps, because that company does not show railroads on its maps.
Your Webmaster would agree with Dale, and would also suggest you visit nearby Fort Benning, the Home of the Infantry. The post is open, and you can drive around and see a very interesting place, filled with some of the finest young men and women our Country is blessed to have.
Columbus -- Chattahoochee River Bridge. After you cross the Chattahoochee River, look ahead for the tall, brick structure that is the Suntrust Bank on the left side of the road. Go to the intersection just past the bank and turn left onto 2nd Avenue. Drive across the big, arched concrete bridge over the CofG tracks on 2nd Avenue, and turn left onto 18th Street going back towards the river. There will be a T intersection where you will turn left onto 1st Avenue. You will see a slightly overgrown lot in front of you next to the tracks. Pull into this wide open area, which is lined with concrete, and you can pull all the way up to the tracks at the east end of the trestle over the Chattahoochee River. This is a great spot to get out of the car and take in the view -- and relax from the drive. It's a very quiet place, with a good view across the river into Alabama. You do, however, want to keep alert, as the area is fairly isolated, and the occasional weirdo may drift thru from time to time. Railfan with a buddy, folks.
Radio chatter from the yard, which is just to the east, is picked up well here. In this place is the west yard limit, MP P292.0. A block to the east is the junction at which the NS (ex-CofG) branch (correctly referred to as the Greenville District) to Allie splits from the main. This is MP P291.7, and is accessible for a shot of anything on the Greenville District line. The area described in the preceding paragraph is, however, a much nicer photo location. Yet another photo location is on Railroad Street, just north of the intersection of 16th Street and 2nd Avenue.
Columbus -- Central of Georgia Station. Backtrack the way you came in, and go over the 2nd Avenue Bridge. Go to the 2nd traffic light, and turn left onto 14th Street. Go thru several intersections including Veterans Parkway to the T intersection at 6th Avenue. Take a right and go south on 6th Avenue. Before we go on to the yard, you'll see the big, beautiful CofG depot, which will come in to view as you head south on 6th Avenue. There is plenty of parking along here on both sides of 6th.
It is important to understand the role of the CofG in this part of the country. While there were lines coming into the area from the southeast (SAL) and northeast (SOU), the Central had 5 lines coming into town. It was far and away the major transportation company for a pretty sizeable area. With that in mind, it's easy to understand why just any old station wouldn't do. The Central built a station that proudly demonstrated the company's preeminent position. It was built in 1901, on what was then the eastern perimeter of the city. It is very well preserved and is now used by a private company. The structure was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1980, and there are several other historic structures in the area as well.
Columbus -- Yard West End. Go back north on 6th Avenue, pass 14th Street, and 6th will merge into Linwood Boulevard as the latter ascends a small rise to go over the west (compass almost dead north) end of the yard via a very small bridge. Just after the bridge, take a right and go south on 7th Avenue, which will carry you down the hill to the entrance to the yard. This is an industrial area with very little vehicular traffic. Get out and check out the activity. Do not, under any circumstances go onto Norfolk Southern's property. With a decent zoom lens, good photos can be had from this area. This is another quiet area, but it is somewhat constricted, so good pix may be a feast or famine affair.
Columbus -- Yard Center. 7th Avenue actually ends at the previous location, so take it as it curves to the east to become 15th Street, and continue east to 10th Avenue. Go south (right) on 10th and the street changes to a 4-lane street. After passing 14th Street, look for a large one-story wooden structure with a sign "M. Snyder, Inc." on it to your left at a major intersection with 13th Street (aka GA-22Spur). Park in the area and walk west, up over the railroad via the 13th Street overpass. This is a very large 4-lane bridge with nice wide shoulders on both sides.
This is a good place to watch the goings on in almost the entire yard. However, you are on a bridge, so keep your wits about you, and don't attempt to run from side to side -- 13th is a major artery. For photographers, there is the obligatory, large, nasty chain link fence on both sides of the bridge, so you're in for a struggle, at best. Like many such facilities, this yard can be sleepy or hebephrenic, so good luck.
Columbus -- Muscogee Junction. Drive further south on 10th Avenue, until you see 10th Street Take a left on 10th Street and head west towards the tracks. This is the east end of the yard, and several sets of tracks cross the street. Good photos can be made here, and in the area, so don't be afraid to check out the area. Go back to 10th Avenue and continue south to 8th Street. From here, you cantake a side trip for a few minutes.
Take a right on 8th Street at the Tom's Factory sign, and go west to 9th Avenue. You'll immediately know what kind of business Tom's is in, because you'll smell the heavenly smell of roasted peanuts in the air. This factory produces the world-famous Tom's Peanuts and many other types of snacks. 9th Avenue is pretty much in the middle of the Tom's facility. Keep heading south toward the apparent dead end, and you'll see the small yard of the Georgia Southwestern Railroad on your right. You can frequently see the GSWR switching the yard.
Head back the way you came in, and go all the way back to 10th Street. Go back east over the tracks and at the intersection of 10th Street and 10th Avenue, cross 10th Avenue and continue southeast on what is now called Martin Luther King Boulevard. You'll come to a major, rather confusing intersection with Buena Vista Road. Take a right and cross the CofG tracks, and then take another (hard) right onto Andrews Road. The latter will take you to Muscogee Junction, where the Central's line split to go to Americus (now the GSWR) and Macon.
We'll follow the line to Macon, but only if and when a stalwart contributor for the text can be located. It's a big job putting together a tour like this, but they are used, and your knowledge could be a fine contribution to your fellow railfans.