The Story of the Silver Comet

The Silver Comet Trail has been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of cyclists and joggers each year since its completion in the late 1990s. Most people know the trail was built on an abandoned railroad track, but not everyone knows the interesting history of the rail road track or how it got its name “The Silver Comet Trail”.

Long before the Silver Comet came to be, Seaboard Airline built a network of railroads from New York to Florida, helping people escape cold northern winters to resorts in Florida.

 

The Atlanta to Birmingham extension was built in 1904 to connect Birmingham into the Seaboard’s network.

Surveying for the new extension began in 1902:

The surveying force for the new extension of the Seaboard Air Line road are encamped on the road leading from Concord Mills to Nickajack station, having surveyed a line from Rockmart to the farm of John A Glore. We presume that the first line is merely tentative and that several will be run especially over the more expensive portions of the projected line and the most available one finally chosen. In any case however, it is almost inevitable that it will run near Concord woolen and grist mills (Marietta Journal, 1902-09-04).

Marietta fought hard to have the railroad route come through their city before turning west to Birmingham, but the Nickajack route was ultimately chosen, likely because it was a more direct route, and the proximity to the Concord Factory didn’t hurt.

The new RR survey runs within half a mile (more or less) of Jas Carmichael’s and of Gilmore PO, proceeding westward crosses the Concord and Smyrna road at the Truman Hamby place, thence crossing Nickajack creek at, or near the lower part of P. M. Rice’s farm and out by Hugh Harris’ place on towards Dallas. Many hope this route may be chosen.(Marietta Journal, 1903-01-29)

Rice and Love granted 26 acres of right of way to the Chattahoochee Terminal Company (the shell corporation for Seaboard) through the grounds of the Concord Factory.

 

The final track between Birmingham and Atlanta was completed in 1904, connecting Eastern cities to Birmingham, Alabama, the largest center of iron and steel production in the South. The railroad station at Floyd was built as a watering hole for steam engines on this route in 1905.

Seaboard launched its Luxury New York-Birmingham Streamliner on May 18, 1947. Under the Silver Comet name, passengers could travel from Atlanta to Birmingham in under three hours.

Silver Comet Advertisement (source: http://www.streamlinerschedules.com/concourse/track1/silvercomet194706.html)

 

 

The train included baggage cars, coaches, Pullman sleepers, and a dining car. Most interesting was the 48-seat observation car at the end of the train.

 

 

The passenger service continued over 20 years until declining revenues prompted the closing of the route in 1969. The last train from Atlanta to Birmingham was made on January 18th, 1969.

The railway was used by CSX for the next couple of decades, until 1989 when it abandoned over 37 miles of rail in Cobb, Paulding, and Polk counties.

Georgia Department of Transportation purchased the abandoned line in 1992, and leased it to Cobb County for non-motorized trail use.

In 1998, trail construction began in Smyrna. By 2003, you could bicycle all the way from Smyrna to the Alabama State Line.

A 2013 study by the NWGRC estimates that around 350,000 people pass through the historic district area via the Silver Comet Trail each year. See the full report here at http://www.bwnwga.org/news/silver-comet-trail-study/.

 

The Future of the Silver Comet Trail?

The Silver Comet Trail currently ends in Smyrna, near the intersection of the East-West Connector and South Cobb Drive, but the complete story of the Silver Comet Trail is not entirely written yet.

Plans have been brewing for sometime to extend the trail another 6.5 miles and connect it with the Atlanta Beltline.  Here is the map of the proposed extension being discussed:

Vision Map from connectthecomet.org

 

For more information, visit these resources:

RailGA.com Railroad History

Connect The Comet

Streamliner Schedules

 

1961, Photography by J. Parker Lamb.

 

1962 Photography by J. Parker Lamb of the Silver Meteor, sister to the Silver Comet

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