SAM Shortline Receives 1.6 Million Dollar State Grant

Published 2:04 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2024

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Staff Reports

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has awarded $1,625,425 from the Georgia Locomotive Fuel Tax Program to the SW Georgia Railroad Excursion Authority (SWGREA) to build a storage/maintenance track in Georgia Veterans State Park near Cordele.

The funds will be used to construct a much-needed railroad spur track siding to provide a storage and maintenance facility for the SAM excursion train’s coach and specialty cars. The additional track at Georgia Veterans State Park near Cordele will allow cars now stored at a remote location to be conveniently added to the train. This will reduce costs, and the additional seats will increase revenue, creating a positive ripple effect in the local economies.

The spur track siding will also allow maintenance to be performed without moving the cars to an offsite facility, thus saving money and providing employment for local contractors.

The Georgia Freight Railroad Program, which received funds through the locomotive Fuel tax, is designed to enhance the state’s investment in freight rail projects for public benefit.

The Authority operates the SAM tourist train over Georgia Department of Transportation-owned track from the Park through Leslie, Americus, and Plains to Archery. The train, Georgia’s only rolling park and historic site, falls under the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Authority Chair Lee Kinnamon notes that the SAM and the towns it serves are uniquely linked. “When the train does not operate efficiently with the type of cars needed for each excursion, it does not bring passengers to trackside communities that desperately need the tourist dollars,” he points out.

Congressional District 2, GDOT Board Representative Cathy Williams was instrumental in securing the grant. “This is an investment in the communities along the route. To help these towns grow from tourism, train capacity must be increased by adding cars to carry more passengers,” she explains.

Initial work is scheduled to begin in late June and be completed in early 2025.

A presentation of the grant was held at SAM Shortline at Georgia Veterans State Park on May 14, 2024. Many significant people were in attendance, all of which are a part of the shortline in some way. They did a ceremonial hammering of a railroad spike to signify the start of this year long project that is much needed.