It was the early 1900s, and U.S. ports were booming. A newly developed port in Panama City, Florida, was expected to join the ranks of other popular U.S. southern ports such as New Orleans.
A.B. Steele was a renowned lumberman who owned one of Atlanta’s most successful lumber companies. Driven by his
entrepreneurial spirit, Steele devised a plan to link the Panama City port to Atlanta, one of the South’s most influential cities, via rail. A railroad, he believed, could also meet the demand for exported timber and forest products from the area. Hence, on February 4, 1906, he established The Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay Railroad (ASAB). Steele was even able to convince other area business owners of the railroad’s potential and succeeded in securing funding to finish the line from Asa Candler, founder of Coca-Cola.
However, the port never became as instrumental as many hoped, so the railroad generated a mediocre business almost solely from carrying timber-based freight. Passenger service commenced in June 1908, and within a few years, the railroad dispatched four passenger trains per day.
In 1930, ASAB was acquired by International Paper Company. During World War II, the railroad experienced an uptick in traffic and commodities when some military bases were formed nearby. Given the level of traffic handled during that time – roughly 68,000 annual carloads of oil – the railroad earned Class 1 status by January 1947. Passenger service on the line ceased in 1956, and in 1979, International Paper sold the road to Southwest Forest Industries.
Throughout the next few decades, ownership of ASAB passed from company to company, and its commodity base grew significantly. Southwest Forest Industries sold it to Stone Container Corporation in 1987. The Rail Management Corporation took over in 1994 and officially renamed it The Bay Line Railroad (BAYL). On June 1, 2005, G&W assumed ownership of the operation.
Today, BAYL is one of G&W’s Southern Region railroads. It is 108 miles long and handles nearly 30,000 carloads of freight per year. Commodities transported include aggregates, brick and cement, chemicals, coal, food and feed products, forest products and metallic ores, and minerals as well as steel and scrap.