Seaboard Engine #515 : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

I'm new to this forum and would like to start by saying hey. I have a question I hope someone can help me with about a certain locomotive. My great great grandfather was an engineer on the East West Railroad. As you should know this was a shortline narrow gauge railroad that went from Rockmart, Georgia to Pell City, Alabama. Seaboard Air Line purchased this sometime around 1900 and widened the tracks to standard gauge. I have read that in order to purchase this the S.A.L. created the Atlanta, Birmingham Air Line. It finaly absorbed the East West railroad in 1909. I have a picture of my great great grandfather standing in front of a steam engine with the number 515 on front of the boiler. I can barely see the builders plate but can tell that it is a baldwin engine. The picture was supposedly taken about 1904-05 in Howells Railroad yard in Atlanta. My great grandfather told my daddy that this was the first train to make the Atlanta to Birmingham run. Can anyone tell me more about this engine and if this was the first train from Atlanta to Birmingham and also was this engine listed under the Seaboard Air Line, The S.A.L. created Atlanta, Birmingham Air Line, or maybe even still sport the East West Railroad name? Any help would be very much appreciated.

-- Jamie Prater (, June 12, 2002


Bob Venditti, I forgot to say that the SAL depot that was in Rockmart has also been tore down. That's where my dad is from. He took me and showed me where it used to be. If you are going into Rockmart from Cedartwon take a right at the tracks that cross 278 in town and the depot was just 1/4 of a mile down the road.

-- Jamie Prater (, June 17, 2002.

Bob Venditti, the trackage still exist here in Cedartown too. It crosses main street. Although CSX dosn't use it much, they do use it to extract chemical cars from a chemical plant here called Geo. It dead ends just outside of town on its way to AL. This and the trackage that heads towards Rockmart used to be the main line from Atlanta to Birmingham but it is now just a branch line used just for the chemical plant here. When it gets to Rockmart it takes the route to Cartersville. There used to be a switch in Rockmart that it switched off of to go to Cartersville as a branch line but since the main line is slowly becoming a bike trail they took the switch out and turned it all in to a branch line from Cedartown to Cartersville. As far as the plans to renovate the Cedartown depot, it will be hard to do since it dosn't exist anymore. I'm not sure when they tore it down because I don't think I was even born yet and that was in 74' so it has been a long time ago. They were however talking about rebuilding it to serve as the visitors center but I don't know what has come of the final decision. I have also heard just recently that they will continue the bike trail to Cedartown but it won't follow the actual route because they still use the track all the way to Cartersville.

John Golden, if you are still getting these post I forgot to mention that in my picture you can see the side of the tender just barely. The top is tapered outward. This leaves me to beleive that this is a wood burning tender since all the coal tenders I've seen have been tapered inward. With that being said can you tell me when SAL started using coal to fire their engines? Was it before or after 1905?

-- Jamie Prater (, June 17, 2002.

WOW! I was just in Pell City this afternoon. Although I didn't dig too deeply in the area, I could find no trace of the SAL's presence in Pell. I overnighted in Cedartown and flew home from Birmingham this evening, after trying to retrace the SAL Atlanta-B'ham line. I visited most of the places mentioned above, but aside from the bike trails mentioned, not much can be found.

The ex-SAL is still in use and in top shape west from Wellington AL into B'ham. Aside from the trackage in place at Rockmart (feeding from Cartersville) nothing else is left. Depots can still be found in Rockmart and Ragland, possibly more... Cedartown was supposed to be renovating their depot per an earlier posting, but I never found it, nor anyone who knew about it, and the Tourist Info office was closed.

-- Bob Venditti (, June 16, 2002.

Hey John' I just talked to my dad just to make sure of my info. This is info that he was told by his grandfather >(son of man in picture with engine #515). 1. Picture was taken at Howells Yard in Atlanta but can't remeber if it was in 1904 or 1905 but was definitly one or the other. 2. Was the first train to go from Atlanta to Birmingham after the SAL purchased the E & W. 3. Was told that when the E & W was converted that all they did was pull the tracks up and moved the rails.

As far as the conversion goes my dad said the he was under the impression that they converted from narrow to standard but after we sat down and looked at the picture it is very possible that the track is 5'. But that can't be right because if the track was converted before 1900 then we know it can't be 5' because he is positive that the picture was taken in 1904 or 1905. Also if this will help, the cow catcher looks to be made of wood and is big kind of like the one on the "The General".

With all this being said, we went to the archives in Atlanta and this is what I found in a book but dumb me didn't right down the title or author.

1. The E & W could trace its origin back to 1866 as the Cartersville & Van Wert RR. 2. In 1870 the C&VW RR was purchased by the Cherokee Iron Company and built 22 miles of track from Taylorsville through Rocmart to Cedartown and operated as the Cherokee RR. 3. In 1881 the owners decided to convert the line to standard gauge (dosn't say what the original gauge was). The first stretch of track to be converted was from Cartersville to Taylorsville and at the same time built new track from Cedartown to Esom Hill near the Ala. line. 3. In 1882 the Cherokee RR was in financial trouble and a man named W.C Browning formed an Ala. company to lease the Cherokee RR and renamed it the East & West RR of Ala. and built 64 miles of track from Esom Hill to Coal City Ala. He then purchased the entire Cherokee RR and merged it into the E & W RR of Ala. 4. By 1887 the entire E & W line was converted to standard gauge in addition to another 7 miles of track that was built from Coal City Ala. to Pell City Ala. 5. In 1893 the E & W RR of Ala. was purchased by the Kelly Bros. and renamed as the E & W RR 6. In early 1903 the SAL purchased the E & W RR from the Kelly Bros. and built 43 miles of track from Atlanta to Rockmart and 37 miles from Pell City Ala. to Birmingham.

I know I may have given to much detail here but I would really like to know about this engine and if this could possibly be the first train to run this route. I appreciate your help and hope you continue to help me in my search. Thanks.

-- Jamie Prater (, June 15, 2002.

Hey Jamie,

You can purchase the Prince book through the Society Store. It's a great reference and definitely should be a part of your library.

Bob Hanson's comments are well-taken, but you still raise some interesting questions. It sounds to me that your photo was made sometime after 1905 or so. I don't know when SAL renumbered it's locomotive fleet, but it would seem reasonable that it was after 1900 (the SAL consolidation), perhaps as late as sometime after 1905 or 1910. If the photo was taken after, say 1905, that would explain the engine's number, but not the builder's plate.

Prince does mention that the E&W Rwy was five-foot gauge, not narrow, but does not mention when the line and the locomotves/rolling stock were re-gauged. However, if the photo appears to be of a standard- gauge #515, I'd assume it had to have been made sometime after 1900 when the engine was re-gauged and re-numbered. Your thoughts?

John Golden

-- John Golden (, June 13, 2002.

The East & West RR of Alabama (later simply the East & West RR) was converted to standard gauge in 1890, four years prior to its reorganization as the East & West Railroad.

The locomotive in question was likely delivered as a standard-gauge machine.

Alco Historic Photos (The Rhode Island Locomotive Works became part of Alco) does not list any photos of any East & West RR of Alabama locomotives.

Bob Hanson

-- Robert H. Hanson (, June 13, 2002.

Dear Ron, All I can tell you about the roadbed is starting somewhere in Piedmont, Ala. or somewhere near by I beleive it has all been covered by a walk trail named after an indian and goes all the wat to Birmingham (not completely sure of this). And the roadbed to Atlanta starting in Rocmart, Ga. is also a walk trail. It is named the Silver Comet Trail. The part of the line that comes through Cedartown, Ga. is still being used by CSX for a local chemical plant and it dead ends just as it goes out of town going towards Alabama. When gets to Rockmart it hits the branch line that goes to Cartersville. Hope some of this info helps? I'm still looking for more info. on this for myself too so I'll be sure to let you know what I find.

-- Jamie Prater (, June 13, 2002.

Dear John, Thanks for responding. The only thing I can tell is that I can see the builders plate and it does say Baldwin not Rhode Island. And it is engine #515. I can also tell that it is wide gauge(4'-8"). I can't tell how many wheels (pilot/drivers) the engine has because of the angle the picture was taken (straight ahead). I do know that the East West Railroad was a narrow gauge line until the S.A.L. purchased it and then widened the tracks. Is it possible that the S.A.L. could have widened purchased engines from narrow gauge to wide gauge? Where can I get the publication you mentioned that has this info? Finding the answer about this engine would mean alot to me so any more help on this subject will be greatly appreciated. Also I can tell you that my great great grandfather was an engineer for the East West Railroad but I was told when the S.A.L. purchased it he became a fireman. If his name will help you help me find more info. it is Josiah E. Simpson.

-- Jamie Prater (, June 13, 2002.

This question reminds me that I have never seen a detailed description of the "lay of the land" regarding this branchline.

Is any trace of the roadbed from Pell City to the former SAL mainline still visible today? What existing Alabama towns did the line pass through and is there any evidence still? Is there a town where the junction was or is the location way back in the piney woods? Is the SAL line still in place at the junction point or is it gone?

As far as Pell City itself, how did the branch line come into town, relative to exisiting landmarks and the NS line there now? Did the lines parallel through town to a union station, for example, or were there seperate facilities? Did the line interchange with the Southern or whatever it was at the time?

If I ever pass that way again I would like to see the artifacts, if possible.

Thanks, Ron. Wright

-- Ron Wright (, June 13, 2002.

Hey Jamie,

Welcome to the Forum. According to Prince (SAL Rwy Steam Locomotives, Boats & History, p. 260), the 515 was an E-8 class 4-6-0 type, built by Rhode Island Locomotive Works in 1890 under construction number 18902438. It was originally E&W Rwy #9, and following the SAL takeover was numbered SAL 450 before being renumbered 515. There is no mention of it's disposition.

Prince also includes a considerable history on the E&W Rwy on p.87, and after reading it I'm not convinced that #9 was ever a wide-gauge engine. CAn anyone else offer any further thoughts? Incidentally, Rhode Island is the same builder that built ACL 210.

Findig a builder's photo of this engine might be tough. Mainline Modeler routinely advertises builders photos from some of the vintage locomotive manufacturers. You can start there--look through the latest MM at your nearest hobby shop. Good luck!

John Golden

-- John Golden (, June 12, 2002.

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