HOPE CALLS UP MEMORIES
Passenger service to return in four years?
By Ed Corson
The Macon Telegraph
The news from Atlanta this week that Atlanta-Macon rail passenger service may be only four years off came as a welcome surprise for many Middle Georgians.
America's unabated love affair with the automobile and lack of willing public or private investors always frustrated their hopes but now the tide may have turned.
Macon's railroading history began in 1838, when the town was still in its teens. An inaugural gala passenger run to Forsyth took more than an hour.
The Central of Georgia, founded in 1843, was one of eight or nine antebellum rail lines that made Macon the railroad hub of the state for both passengers and freight. Atlanta soon claimed that title, but Macon continued to be a rail crossroads. At its peak 72 years ago, more than four dozen trains arrived at Terminal Station daily and the same number departed.
For a few months in 1893 a luxury Central of Georgia steam train, the Nancy Hanks, made daily round trips between Atlanta and Savannah through Macon. The 294-mile run each way took six hours and 45 minutes. The train was named after a trotting horse. The bay mare, probably named after Abe Lincoln's mother, held the world's record of 2.04 for the mile at the time.
The train was discontinued the same year because it didn't make money, but was revived as a diesel-powered operation in 1947. This version lasted 24 years; for some, it was an institution. But the coming of interstate highway travel and the burgeoning of air travel sapped its passenger base. Even the addition of a domed car in 1968 couldn't stem the flow of red ink, and the Nancy made its final run April 30, 1971.
On this page we present a look back at some of the words and images with which the Macon Telegraph chronicled the last journey of the Nancy Hanks. Maybe the regrets and diagnoses expressed a generation ago will offer us clues for the future.
Ed Corson is associate editor of The Macon Telegraph. His e-mail address is email@example.com, or call 744-4423.