Georgians Newsletter

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Did you know?

The Georgia Railroad in 1832, was the first railroad to be chartered. It was a venture undertaken by Athens citizens and others in that area.

The oldest portable steam engine in the United States is on display at the Historic Railroad Shops in Savannah, Georgia.

All Aboard! This month it's all about Trains in Georgia. Spring is almost here and its time to get out and enjoy all that Georgia has to offer. So make sure to visit our Georgia Events Calendar at Together, we can accomplish amazing things! Please feel free to forward our newsletter to your family and friends and share the fun.

Atlanta Metro

Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History

Take a trip back in time to the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia!

Come relive the excitement of the Great Locomotive chase, uncover the daily experiences of a Civil War soldier and learn how to build a steam locomotive in our 1910 machine shop. Find out for yourself how much fun history can be in their modern 40,000 square ft. facility.

The museum has become a focal point for education. As a member of the Smithsonian Affiliations Program, the Museum offers a wide range of exhibits, including a glimpse into the daily lives of soldiers during the Civil War; a reproduction of a turn-of-the-century locomotive factory, an exciting depiction of the Civil War’s Great Locomotive Chase and of course the General!

With the Museum’s close proximity to nationally and regionally significant historic sites, including Chickamauga National Military Park and the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park the Museum is located at the center of a history corridor extending from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Atlanta, Georgia.

Upcoming special events and exhibits:

• Cobb Energy Special Exhibit Gallery: "A World Apart: 150 Years of Railroaders at Work". This exhibit which is on display through May 21, 2006 captures the lives of railroaders through photographs provided by the Center for Railroad Photography & Art. The earliest image is actually a daguerreotype depicting the crew of the locomotive Tioga, built in 1848.

• The 2006 Historical Society Lecture series will kick off March 11th with “More than Petticoats; Remarkable Georgia”. Learn more about the unique women of Georgia with author Sara Martin.

• April 8th Historical Society Lecture Series- “History of the Civil War Locomotive General”. Chase the history of this stolen locomotive with local historian Robert Jones.

• "The Battle of Kennesaw" April 22, 23, 2006: Experience Confederate and Union soldiers battling for Big Shanty on April 22 & 23 at the Swift Cantrell Farm in Kennesaw, part of the original site of the 1864 Battle of Kennesaw.

• Home School Days: March 6th & April 3rd

• All Aboard Days; May 20th & 21st

For information on these and other exciting Museum events, you may call the Museum directly or click calendar on the museums web site

Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History, 2829 Cherokee Street, Kennesaw GA 30144, 770-427-2117 ex. 105.

Article by Cindy Dadyala of the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History.

Georgia Coast

Train Watching At Its Best

Folkston, Georgia is a small town that hugs the Georgia / Florida border about 40 miles north of Jacksonville. Most days in the small town of Folkston (population 2500), you will find a few dedicated rail fans sitting on the platform called the “Folkston Funnel” listening to the crackle of a dispatchers voice coming from the scanner hung near by. The “Folkston Funnel” is a double track which serves as the main artery for railroad traffic into and out of Florida.

All of CSXT’s trains moving to Florida (except the few trains that go west) must pass through the Funnel. You may see intermodal trains, coal trains, sulfur trains, the Tropicana Orange Juice Train, Amtrak, occasionally you may see loads of military equipment going by and once in awhile if you are in the right spot at the right time, you may see the Barnum and Bailey Circus Train. All in all, there is a large variety of different cars passing through Folkston in a day’s time.

There is no schedule available for these tracks, but that is part of the excitement. They patiently wait, trying to figure out what kind of train is coming and what are they going to see. “What color? How many engines? Who do they belong to? What are they carrying?” And we certainly can’t forget the horns. Sometimes they are long and loud and sometimes they are short and sweet. The dedicated rail-watchers have their note books and their cameras all ready to capture the next train coming through. I’m not sure what all is put in those notebooks, but usually they are all jotting down some kind of information. The photographers may have just a little camera or some set up their video cameras and take lots of footage of the great trains passing by. There is a visitor’s log book on the platform and we have kept these records since the conception of the platform. We have recorded visitors from 37 states and from 9 countries. Totals have been over 20,000 a year.

These aren’t just any tracks; two major CSX lines converge just north of Folkston, funneling 60 to 75 trains through town each day. Hence the name “Folkston Funnel”. The platform is modeled after a toy train platform and was built with a $30,000 state grant. It is covered with a ceiling fan and lots of chairs to sit in. There are also – picnic tables, a grill, restrooms and floodlights for train gazing at night.

The City of Folkston and the surrounding community welcomes the train fans with open arms. This is a great way to promote the area. They realize the growth and tax dollars that train watching is bringing to their community. The Downtown merchants are participating by serving train related items on their menus and some have even decorated their businesses with a train theme.

There is a “Railwatch Day”, the second weekend in April where train watchers come from all over to share their videos and take in the company of fellow train watchers. The Okefenokee Chamber of Commerce and Better Hometown Org. sell lunch to the visitors and a great weekend is enjoyed by all. The 5th Annual “Railwatch Day” will be April 8th, 2006. For more information visit their website at

Article by Claudia Burkhart of the Okefenokee Chamber of Commerce.

Historic South

29th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival

Each spring, Vidalia anticipates the harvest of Georgia’s official State Vegetable, the internationally known, Vidalia Sweet Onion. Since 1978, this special occasion has been celebrated with and array of fun-filled events. You and your family are invited to enjoy the natural beauty and color of spring in Vidalia during the 29th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival.

Vidalia, the “Sweet Onion City,” will hold its 29th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival April 27-30, which now attracts approximately 50,000 visitors each year.

Festivities will begin with the Vidalia Onion Recipe Contest and the 5th annual Vidalia Chef’s Competition on April 27th at the community center. On April 28, follow the children’s Parade southeastern Technical College for the Opening Ceremonies and street dance featuring the Swinging Medallions and a fireworks display.

Start your Saturday downtown at the Vidalia Onion Run with a 1-mile walk, 5K or 10K race. The Arts and Crafts Festival on Saturday and Sunday, including past favorites and many new exhibitors, will feature and poetry, stained glass, and collectibles of all types.

The Vidalia Onion Festival Air Show has become the biggest event. This year’s Vidalia Onion Festival Air show on April 29-30th, will once again feature the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, in their first performance of the season. Other nationally recognized performers will also be performing on Saturday and Sunday beginning at 1:00 p.m. Military aircraft from surrounding areas will be featured on static display. The Snowbirds are the only jet team in North America to perform with nine jets flying in close formation. Requiring the highest degree of piloting skill, the show pilots average 15 years of military experience and thousands of hours flying various aircraft in the Canadian Forces.

During the show, the pilots fly at speeds ranging from 200 to 320 knots and in formation with distances as close as 4-feet of wind overlap. Comprised of exciting loops, rolls and solo passes as well as graceful 9-jet formations, the Snowbirds’ show is both thrilling and beautiful. With more than 50 different formations and maneuvers in their 35-minute show, the Snowbirds’ performance is evocative and inspiring. With fireworks-like bursts, solo passes with closing speeds of 10,000 km/hr and graceful 9-plane formations, the show is inspiring for all.

The Lyons Better Hometown/Arts Council will present “Tales from the Altamaha” A Georgia Folk Life Play at the Blue Marquee Theatre in downtown Lyons. For more information about the play contact Joy Lewis at 912-526-6445 or by email at

Other events include tours of a Vidalia Onion Processing facility, sports tournaments, rodeo, carnival and pageants. For more information about the Vidalia Onion Festival call 912-538-8687 or visit the web at

Article by Elizabeth Harvill of the Vidalia Convention Visitors Bureau.

Georgia Mountains

A Valuable Gift: The Summerville Railroad Turntable

Since the creation of Chattooga County in 1838, its citizens have received several gifts. But certainly, one of the most valuable gifts was the gift of the Historic Railroad Turntable from the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum to the city of Summerville in 1999.

The historic Summerville Railroad Turntable which was restored to its current site in 2003 was made during an era when railroads served as the primary means of long distance commerce and travel. The turntable was used to rotate locomotives and place them in the desired direction while using a lesser amount of land than otherwise needed to maneuver such a turn. This massive 90 ton steel structure was built in 1916 in Ambridge, Pennsylvania by the American Bridge and Iron Company, which is now part of U.S. Steel

As a donation from the CSX Railroad, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum acquired the historic turntable and saved it from being turned into scrap metal. The massive load was moved from Birmingham, Alabama to Lafayette, Georgia by a large truck then transported by railroad car over the rails to J. R. “Dick” Dowdy Park in downtown Summerville. The railroad artifact has been appraised at $1,250,000; the turntable was used by Summerville as the matching funds for two grants from the Georgia Department of Transportation. The installation of this railroad antique restored one of very few operational turntables in the United States.

Extensive engineering and support were required for the foundation of the completed structure which holds the turntable, including a large circular concrete pit, drainage system, peripheral track and electric motors. Steel piles were driven many feet into the earth to uphold the weight of this massive structure as well as the weight of the diesel or steam locomotives it must turn, which weigh approximately 150 tons.

The Summerville Railroad Turntable was dedicated in May 2003. Several times each year, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum has transported excursion trains of tourists to the Summerville area using steam as well as diesel locomotives bringing travelers from across the United States and all over the world. Local residents have enjoyed viewing the arrival of the train and the turning of the puffing engine. Twice each year, the turntable has been used to turn diesel engines used on local Summerville to Lafayette excursions guided by the Chattooga and Chickamauga Railway and sponsored by the city of Summerville.

Further information on the steam locomotive excursions from Chattanooga to Summerville is located on the website

Information on local diesel excursions may be found at and information on railcar excursions at

Article by Nell W. Farrar, Manager, Summerville Better Hometown Program.

Georgia Southern Rivers

All Aboard the SAM Shortline Excursion Train!

Take the family on an excursion they’ll never forget. Travel on a vintage passenger train and visit historic South Georgia towns including Cordele, Georgia Veterans State Park, Americus, Leslie, and Archery.

The vintage train runs on the line used by the early Savannah, Americus and & Montgomery Railroad during the 1880s, headed by Colonel Samuel Hugh Hawkins of Americus. The excursion train is named in honor of the original railroad and its leader. The train has several schedules and stops in several towns along the way to allow ample time to explore each local community. Many folks begin the day with breakfast in Cordele at the official beginning of the excursion - however you may board the train at any of its stops. Next on the route is Georgia Veterans State Park featuring sparkling Lake Blackshear, championship golf, and fascinating military exhibits. There is a beautiful lodge there with great dining and each room has a private patio and view of Lake Blackshear.

According to the schedule you select, your next stop could be the town of Leslie which is home of the Rural Telephone Museum located in a beautifully restored cotton warehouse. The museum showcases switchboards, classic cars, colorful murals and antique telephones. Americus is your next stop. This Victorian town offers many quaint shops. Be sure to tour the world headquarters of Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village and see the different homes they build around the world. In fact, you may want to make Americus a relaxing weekend excursion and stay at the award winning 1892 Windsor Hotel & Spa and catch a show at the vintage 1921 Rylander Theater.

Plains is your next stop made famous by President Jimmy Carter. While there, browse President Carter’s campaign museum and an antique mall. Visit the Plains Peanuts or Plains Trading Post and buy a bag of peanuts. Consider spending Saturday night at the Plains Inn at a future date and attend Sunday school taught by President Carter at the local Baptist Church. Plan early as the Inn and Sunday school fill up quickly. See for the Sunday School schedule.

Archery is just a bit further down the tracks and features President Carter’s boyhood home. The train stops on Saturdays just steps from his old front porch and you’ll have plenty of time to explore the farm before the SAM Shortline returns to Cordele.

For more SAM Shortline Excursion information, please visit or contact 1-877-GA-RAILS or 229.276.0755. Reservation office is open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Coach tickets are $22.99 for adults, $19.99 for Seniors (62+), and $17.99 for children. Premium passengers have the luxury of tables and chairs for $29.99 and $17.99 for children. Please add 7% tax to all ticket prices.

Article by Jay D. Clark.

Georgia Charity Profile

Hope Has Never Been Higher

She has the precocious smile of a typical six-year-old girl. She plays, looks, and acts like most six -year olds should, but she is not your ordinary six year old. Her name is Katie and she has a terminal disease that affects her respiratory and digestive system called Cystic Fibrosis.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was started in 1955 by a dedicated group of parents whose children were born with cystic fibrosis (CF). CF affects about 30,000 children and adults in the United States In its efforts to improve the length and quality of patients’ lives, the CF Foundation has earned the reputation as a leader among voluntary health organizations in the United States. The CF Foundation is in a unique situation right now because we have the technology and knowledge to create drugs that have the potential to control or cure CF. There are over 23 drugs in clinical trials, any one of which could be the road to a cure or a control for the disease.

When the CF Foundation began its work, CF was considered exclusively a childhood disease, as children who were born with CF rarely lived long enough even to attend elementary school. Today, thanks in large part to the CF Foundation’s funding of patient care and medical research programs, the median age of survival for those with CF has increased to the early 30s. These are vast improvements, but—as any family member or friend of a person with CF will attest—still not nearly good enough.

Every year the Georgia Chapter of the CF Foundation organizes 20-30 fundraising events. Ninety-cents of every dollar raised at these events goes to buy life saving research. These gallant fundraising efforts are repeated across the nation in over 70 chapters. Visit them at

The Georgia Chapter of the CF Foundation is always looking for new volunteers and event participants. Visit our website for more information on how you can be a part of the cure for CF!

Hope for individuals with CF, and their families, has never been higher- thanks to the many dedicated volunteers, families, and corporate sponsors.

Article by Katja Morgenstern of the Georgia Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.