One of the omnipresent sounds in Atlanta are railroad horns in the distance. Even as I write this, I can hear their echoes. Growing up in Brookhaven and Chamblee in the 1960s, the first train I knew was the old Southern Railway, which made its way from the northeast into the city by way of Duluth and Norcross, then heading past Lenox into Atlanta on rails more or less parallel to Peachtree.
By the early 1980s, the Norfolk Southern, a holding company of the Southern Railway, had formed. Its vast network of rail lines was headquartered in Norfolk, VA and extended to 22 states in the eastern U.S. Norfolk Southern has a Georgia division that blankets the state with Atlanta North and Atlanta South districts and a Nor-cross district as well.
Downtown Chamblee has an office building resembling a train station and a general freight classification train yard. In Inman Park there is an Intermodal classification yard as well, and both properties are visible on MARTA routes that run by these sites. Passenger trains, a real throwback, stop at Brookwood, Atlanta’s only working station nowadays. Norfolk Southern corporate offices are at Promenade I at 1200 Peachtree in the heart of Midtown.
As the Norfolk Southern rolls through many hometowns in the ATL, its distinctive black and white logo is frequently seen. Its pattern has stripes, which rail fans call “cat whiskers”, and a rearing horse. The air horn we hear is actually a warning device on diesels and electric locomotives. But from a distance it is soothing, as I hear the Norfolk Southern rolling from Norcross through Doraville every night before bed.
–Dr. Paul Hudson