On the banks of the muddy Chattahoochee River in West Point, Georgia sits an old abandoned train shed and a nondescript red-brick building. One would never know that the nondescript brick building once was the hub for any and all railway activity throughout the South during the Civil War.
Now the West Point Visitors Center, the old train depot used to house the junction between the two railway lines coming from Montgomery and Atlanta. When the different lines were built, there were no standard rail sizes, and the tracks coming from Atlanta were several inches narrower than the ones from Montgomery. Therefore, soldiers and supplies coming down either line had to be unloaded at West Point and reloaded onto the opposite tracks. Instead of viewing this as an inconvenience, the town capitalized on the Confederate Army's problem. West Point grew into a major river hub.
Not only did it serve as a major commercial center, but the Confederate Army decided to erect a fort in the northern part of town. Named after Brigadier General Robert Tyler, who was injured at the Battle of Missionary Ridge and put in charge of the new outpost, Fort Tyler was established. One week after Robert E. Lee signed the surrender at Appomattox, on Easter Sunday in 1865, Union troops attacked and took Fort Tyler. The Battle of West Point carries the distinction of being the last fort to fall in the Civil War, even if it occurred after the war technically ended.
The Atlanta and West Point Rail Road was a railroad in the U.S. state of Georgia, forming the east portion of the Atlanta-Selma West Point Route. The company was chartered in 1847 as the Atlanta and LaGrange Rail Road and renamed in 1857; construction was begun in 1849-50 and completed in May 1854. A large minority interest owned by the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company eventually passed under the control of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL), which later acquired a majority of the stock. Through the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad (SCL), successor to the ACL, the A&WP came under the Family Lines System banner in 1972, and in June 1986 it was merged into the Seaboard System Railroad, successor to the SCL. The former A&WP property is now owned by CSX Transportation.
In 1967 A&WP reported 232 million revenue ton-miles of freight and 3 million passenger-miles on 93 miles of road operated. The AWP and the Western Railway of Alabama had financial backing from the parent company of the Georgia Railroad, and from 1886 onward the AWP and the Western operated essentially as one railroad under the name "West Point Route". In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the three were controlled through joint lease by the Central of Georgia Railroad and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (through assignment by its majority owner, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad). The CofG sold its interest in 1944. Through the control of the Georgia Railroad, the lines eventually fell under the control of the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, which was the result of a merger between the ACL and the Seaboard Air Line. All of these lines plus the Clinchfield Railroad became the Family Lines System in the 1970s, though all the lines maintained separate corporate identities. Those identities became "fallen flags" when the group was renamed Seaboard System Railroad (SBD), and in 1986 SBD merged with Chessie System to form CSX Transportation.
The former AWP line remains in full service today, though passenger service ended in the 1970s when Amtrak took over most of the nation's remaining passenger trains. The AWP name came to an end in June 1986 when it was absorbed into the SBD.
One of AWP's most notable steam locomotives, heavy Pacific AWP 290, survived and was restored to operational status in 1989. 290 pulled steam excursions around Atlanta from 1989 to 1992 for the New Georgia Railroad including a special excursion from Atlanta to Montgomery along the original West Point Route.
The West Point Route was a fondly remembered southern system. Although it was not very large, spanning only a few hundred miles between Alabama and Georgia, it was a trademark of the south for well over 100 years. The West Point Route itself was actually not even a railroad but a marketing name used by the Atlanta & West Point Railroad and Western Railway of Alabama who's east-west main lines met at West Point, Georgia. Almost throughout their entire existence the companies were under the control of the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company, itself under the control of the Atlantic Coast Line. Because of this the railroads became part of the marketing name of the Family Lines System and later CSX Transportation in the 1980s. Today, both railroads' main lines continue to be an important part of the CSX system.
The first component of the West Point Route was the Atlanta & West Point Railroad. The A&WP began life in 1847 as the Atlanta & LaGrange Rail Road which was chartered to connect Atlanta (its actual eastern terminus was a little community known as East Point) with West Point, 80 miles to the west. This it did in 1854 and three years later in 1857 appropriately changed its name to the Atlanta & West Point Railroad. Because the A&WP was one of the south's first railroads it became an integral part of the a route serving the Potomac River in the Northeast and the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile, Alabama.
The A&WP would come under the control of the Georgia Railroad & Banking Company due to its financing of the A&WP's construction. The Georgia Railroad, aside from controlling the A&WP and its sister also owned its own principal lines. Its route connected with the A&WP at Atlanta running eastward to Augusta as well as a branch south from Camak to Macon. The Georgia Railroad itself was actually controlled by the Central of Georgia and Louisville & Nashville railroads. In 1944 in the CoG sold its interest to the L&N, which itself would come under the control of the Atlantic Coast Line. The second component of the West Point Route was the Western Railway of Alabama. The WRoA dates back to January, 1832 when it was chartered as the Montgomery Railroad to connect its namesake city with Columbus, Georgia. Its eastern terminus was later changed to West Point. After financial woes forced the system into bankruptcy it emerged in 1842 as the Montgomery & West Point Railroad, eventually completing its main line nine years later in 1851. Five years later it opened a branch to Columbus from Newnan although this line was eventually purchased by the Central of Georgia in 1882.
With its new line now open the railroad began building west and in doing so created the Western Rail Road Company of Alabama in which the M&WP system became part of. It reached Selma in 1870 and five years later jointly came under the ownership of the Georgia Railroad and CoG.
After the Georgia Railroad had control of both railroads they became marketed as the West Point Route in 1886, a name which would come to define the two systems for the rest of their days. Although both had separate identities under the West Point Route banner they were essentially operated as one railroad, in conjunction with their parent's routes to the west.
As small as both railroads were, operating a total of 225 miles they surprisingly saw very fine passenger trains traversing their territory! The most famous trains were owned by other larger railroads like the Southern and Louisville & Nashville connecting such cities as New Orleans, New York and other points north and south. Still, even though the West Point Route served as a through route for these trains it saw some of the finest to operate in the south that included all-Pullman service, parlors, observations, diners, you name it!
After the West Point Route came under total control of the Atlantic Coast Line in 1944 it operated mostly independently until the formation of Family Lines System in 1972. At this point the railroad was still on the books but had mostly lost its identity. The Family Lines System was merely a marketing tactic which brought together the allying railroads of the Louisville & Nashville, Clinchfield, Seaboard Coast Line, and included a number of other smaller lines (such as the Georgia Railroad, Atlanta & West Point Railroad, and Western Railway of Alabama). With this came a new livery applied to all of the railroads (with sub-lettering stenciled under locomotive cabs identifying company). This marketing scheme also was short-lived, lasting only from 1972 until 1982 when these railroads merged together formally to create the Seaboard System (itself a very short-lived railroad). After this point the West Point Route remained on the books until 1986 when it formally dissolved into the Seaboard System and soon after becoming part of CSX.
In a room off the lobby of the Visitors Center sits a full model of the entire town, organized and built by the East Alabama Railway Company. Including model trains, buildings, and even tiny people, the layout shows the old depot, train shed, and Fort Tyler on the north side of town.