Why cut ex-SAL Atlanta-Birmingham line?

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Why was the ex-SAL Atlanta-Birmingham line severed when it was the most direct line between those cities, as opposed to the current ex-ACL route?

-- Chris (cbalducc@yahoo.com), September 04, 2002


Bob has stated it well. In my opinion, CSX in the mid 80's just got too dang slap happy with abandonments, and failed to have any foresight on the potential uses for this line. Intercity traffic may have been down at the moment on this particular segment, but this region was growing and continues to grow today. It was a really questionable move on their part. And how much did windfall they get for ripping up the rails and selling the ROW? I read myself in files at the Georgia DOT rail offices that CSX stated something on the order of $6 or 7 million, if I recall correctly. Never mind the opportunity cost of now-lost future business. I am sure it dwarfs whatever sindafll they got. Plus, who knows how much it would have "cost" them to rail bank it, or heaven forbid, enter an agreement with another operator for traffic rights or a lease of the line!

-- Tom Randall (tkrandall@mindspring.com), February 03, 2005.

IIRC, traffic on the line dropped a lot after SLSF merged into BN. LIke many abandoned lines, it might have survived if railroad marriages had been different.

-- Chuck Till (ctill@nc.rr.com), September 07, 2002.

The line was signalled and had 132 lb welded rail installed in 1973- 77, according to a track chart from the early 1980's.

Bob Hanson

-- Robert H. Hanson (RHanson669@aol.com), September 06, 2002.

Did the abandoned line have signals and welded rail?

-- Chris (cbalducc@yahoo.com), September 06, 2002.

I had heard at the time that when the Seaboard System (the name they were going by that week)had posted abandonment notices on this piece of railroad (ATL-BHM), the law stated that any line posted for abandonment must be offered for sale to any responsible party (i e, a party with sufficient financial backing to purchase and operate the line.) The Burlington Northern stepped forward and indicated an iterest in buying the line and the SBD promptly withdrew it from abandonment. A few months later, they abandoned an 11-mile (or so) stretch. Of course, no one wanted this line. With this accomplished, they then abandoned the balance of the route.

This is what I heard at the time, from reliable sources (some within the organziation). I have not verified this information.

You don't want to know my opinion of this type of manipulation.

Bob Hanson

-- Robert H. Hanson (RHanson669@aol.com), September 05, 2002.

This is sort of a follow-up question, but I've heard that CSX wanted to sever this line as opposed to selling it to a shortline, railbanking, government authority, etc. because they feared Burlington Northern (now BNSF)would acquire line to extend their reach to Atlanta. Is their validity to that?

For whatever consolation it's worth, in the not far-off future when high speed passenger lines are constructed between adjacent cities in the same region, one can be fairly assured that steel rails and trains will return to the old SAL Atlanta-B'ham route. As a civil- transportation engineer, I know both the Georgia and Alabama DOT's have pondered this, with the Georgia DOT even acquiring the Atlanta- Rockmart right of way, currently the Silver Comet Trail.

-- Eric Rickert (au_tiger777@hotmail.com), September 05, 2002.

In my opinion, that was one of the absolute dumbest moves CSXT has ever made. The not only increased the mileage between Atlanta and Birmingham by over 50% (230 vs 166), ans spent over a million dollars realigning the track layout in LaGrange, but they effectively eliminated themselves from the intermodal market between Birmingham and the northeast, and subjected the ATL-BHM traffic to some of the toughest grades on the former SCL.

Real bright.

Bob Hanson

-- Robert H. Hanson (RHanson669@aol.com), September 04, 2002.

From what I remember hearing, it was a combination of factors. Not much traffic moved from Atlanta directly to Birmingham at the time the line was severed; after the cut, only one pair of trains, 678/679, was added to the ex-A&WP (Atlanta-LaGrange)/ex-ACL (LaGrange- Birmingham) substitute route. In addition there supposedly was almost no on-line freight generated on the route, and there were a number of bridges and tunnels to maintain. Others may have more details.

-- Larry Goolsby (LGoolsby@aphsa.org), September 04, 2002.

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