People sometimes ask us what we’ve learned from the time we started building the Atlanta BeltLine, and often the answer is: “Expect the unexpected.” Because we are working with and remediating a 100+ year old railroad corridor, it isn’t uncommon that the documents and records have been lost over the years, leaving our team to do their best research and educated guesswork. Some of the surprises have included buried utilities, old rails buried over even older rails, and structures that have been out of service since before most of our lifetimes.
Most recently, our work at the Eastside Trail/Historic Fourth Ward Park Gateway has uncovered some interesting finds, and our team has done some research to explain them.
The Gateway is a trail that will connect the Eastside Trail to Historic Fourth Ward Park, starting near the Angier Springs access point and winding down the hill next to the present Georgia Power site.
You may remember the rail trestle that stood near the Eastside Trail at the entrance to the Gateway prior to construction. That trestle, described on the below Sanborn map as “Wood Trestle,” split from the Southern Railway line that is now the Eastside Trail.
The Sanborn, which is from 1931-1932, depicts the area near the Eastside Trail above Historic Fourth Ward Park as it was when the Atlanta Aggregate Company was located there. Digging under the trestle, our construction crew uncovered a huge pipe and a hopper that may have been a conveyance method for the freight cars above to drop materials into the storage facility below.
The screenshots below are from a project of the library at Georgia State University that overlays aerial photos from 1949 on to an (almost) present-day Google satellite image. Toggling the opacity of the map reveals the location of Historic Fourth Ward Park, once bisected by Dallas Street. The Eastside Trail runs just right of center, and the 1949 images show where a spur line – which appears to have railroad cars on it – would have pulled up to the Atlanta Aggregate Company to release materials into the hopper for transfer to the facility. The spur runs just a few feet in front of where Georgia Power’s facility is located today.
Rails that are removed from the corridor are often preserved and used for purposes such as Art on the Atlanta BeltLine. Other artifacts have also been repurposed, such as railroad spikes and ties.
Atlanta is a city that is rich with history, and the Atlanta BeltLine’s 22-miles encircle that history and are helping to reshape how we connect with our past, our present, and each other. With the Westside Trail going under construction this fall through some of Atlanta’s most historic neighborhoods, what other stories will we dig up?
Stay tuned and remember to expect the unexpected.