Discover Central Georgia: SAM Shortline – 41NBC News

CORDELE, Ga. (41NBC/WMGT) — About an hour south of Macon, in the town of Cordele, sits a small, unremarkable brick building. The outside of this building says SAM Shortline Excursion Train Depot, and while it sounds too good to be true, the excursion train is very real. SAM Shortline runs from Cordele to Archery, where President Jimmy Carter’s childhood home is located.

“The railway is historic. Established in 1884, it was an important line of trade that stretched from Americus, where it was headquartered, east and west of Americus, eventually connecting Savannah, Georgia to Montgomery, Alabama, and hence our name: Savannah , Americus and Montgomery,” said Lee Kinnamon, chairman of the Southwest Georgia Railroad Excursion Authority.

Because of this history, all of SAM’s cars have the old Savannah, Americus, and Montgomery Railway painted on their sides. SAM, as it is known today, conducted its first run in 2002 after two years of raising funds and receiving support from President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. At the time, some members of the Georgia General Assembly said the train was not viable, but over time the line has brought in a lot of tourism.

“The economic impact of the SAM Shortline has been enormous. We carry an average of 200 passengers per trip and this generates over $2 million in direct economic impact in a year for both Crisp County and Sumter County.” exclaimed Kinnamon.

Throughout the year, SAM organizes different types of excursions and events that offer more than just “train rides”. Most of these events coincide with various holidays, such as the annual Halloween Express, where families travel to President Carter’s hometown of Plains to enjoy Trunk or Treat, or the Holiday Train, where passengers can enjoy hot chocolate and cookies on the train , where they have the opportunity to meet Santa Claus. In early summer, SAM is visited by none other than everyone’s favorite little blue engine, Thomas the Tank Engine.

“This is a three weekend event and our largest fundraiser in support of SAM. Without the Thomas event we would be in pretty bad financial shape and obviously during COVID we couldn’t have it so we struggled through that period but we’ve had a great one over the past year,” explained Ellen Harris, the manager of the Plains Historic Inn, Community Center and Antique Mall.

The line attracts railroad fans both new and old — though it doesn’t appear as scenic as other well-known lines like the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway — but passengers on the SAM Shortline say they’re looking for something different while riding SAM.

“Families would say it was our first trip, we were on the train for two hours and actually spoke to each other. We sat there like there were four of them, we sat there in the little booth and they just sat there and looked at things out the window and they talked about things and it was memories they made, they made would never forget.” Harris remarked.

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