Waycross Train Watching
Waycross Train Watching
Get addicted to this fascinating pastime.
Back in the mid-1800s, Waycross was a hub for stagecoach traffic, and then a home for the Plant System Railroad when it laid its tracks. As the railroad grew, so did the town surrounding it.
Streets were laid in the pattern of the Maltese Cross which was part of the Plant System Railroad’s logo, and a new city was born. It is said that someone traveling with the Railroad gave Waycross its name because this was “where the ways crossed;” others will claim that Waycross was so named because it was “the way of the cross,” due to numerous churches that were built here in those days.
The railroad still plays an important role in the economy of this city, as one of the top employers for Ware County. Waycross is also home of the largest CSX computerized rail yard on the East Coast, which means that Waycross is still the hub for all rail traffic coming through the Southeast.
The Historic Passenger Rail Depot was built in the early 1900s to replace the original depot that was destroyed by fire after a train derailment.
This building, restored in 1998, now houses the Waycross-Ware County Chamber of Commerce, and other local offices.
Railfans enjoy all aspects of railroading including its history, rail cars, rail yards and especially locomotives. Railfans often take pictures of locomotives and passing trains and compile exhaustive lists (by identification number) of the locomotives they have seen. The Historic Passenger Rail Depot is an ideal place in Waycross to see trains lumbering through town, but railfans will also want to get a glimpse of Rice Yard, named for former Atlantic Coast Line Chairman Thomas Rice in 1978, which is the largest of nine classification yards on the CSX Transportation Railroad network.
The original 36-acre parcel was purchased in 1887 and now covers about 850 acres of Ware County (4.5 miles long by 2,000 yards wide!). In the early 1900s, the first buildings were built for the rail yard and are still in service today as the main office, locomotive shop, reclamation shop, and paint shop. Rice Yard can receive, classify, repair, refuel, inspect and service around 50 to 70 trains a day. The repair shops here are some of CSX’s largest railroad repair facilities in the country, which also include painting and cosmetic repair of the cars and locomotives. Between 1,700 and 2,900 cars roll through this yard daily to be inspected and classified before they are sent out to the next destination.
Waycross has become one of the busiest rail crossroads of southeast Georgia and the CSX Rice Yard still remains one of the largest employers for Waycross and the surrounding counties, with more than 1,200 employees and a payroll of more than $48 million.