601 West Harris Street
National Historic Register
The Roundhouse Railroad Museum is located in the Central of Georgia Railway Roundhouse complex, the oldest and most complete antebellum railroad manufacturing and repair facilities still in existence in the United States. Begun in 1845, thirteen of the original structures still survive including the roundhouse, the turntable, the 125’ smokestack, the railroad sheds, and work buildings. Built to facilitate the operations of the company from locomotive repair and building to transporting freight and passengers, most of the buildings date to the 1850s. Designed by architect Augustus Schwaab, the brick buildings, known for their exceptional architecture in the Classical and Romanesque styles, feature granite trim and include marble and metal cornices.
Railroads were primary targets for destruction during the Civil War. Union General William T. Sherman’s soldiers destroyed the Central’s rail connectors by heating rails and wrapping the links around trees or telegraph poles. Known as “Sherman’s neckties,” these links were irreparable in the field. Interestingly Sherman spared the roundhouse and other rail shops with the rest of the city. The connectors were repaired after the war, and the Central Railroad and Canal Company experienced a long period of success and prosperity. Reaching its peak in the 1920s, the railway went into receivership during the Depression, and the shops were eventually closed in 1963. After years of neglect, the site came under the management of the Coastal Heritage Society in 1989 with assistance from the City of Savannah.
Permanent exhibits in the Roundhouse Railroad Museum can be found in seven of the thirteen original buildings. An exhibit of the early years features antique machinery from 1833 on, including American’s oldest portable wheeled steam engine. A model railroad set, several locomotives and passenger cars are also on display. The Roundhouse Railroad Museum is a must-see for railroad buffs as it features one of the most extensive collections of rolling stock and machinery in Georgia.
Group and self-guided tours
For more information:
Roundhouse Railroad Museum