The LOP&G Shortline Railroad

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Slide1:

The Loping Gopher The Live Oak Perry & Gulf Railway – A Short History Copyrighted by Donald R. Hensley Jr. Unless Otherwise Specified Photos downloaded and used by permission of Florida State Archives Created by Hugh Rountree

LOP&G Ten-Wheeler (4-6-0) is drifting along at yard speed by the Live Oak shops while a diesel-electric locomotive sits on an adjacent yard track. The mixed train had left Live Oak’s Union Station a few minutes earlier, after loading all Railway Express shipments, U. S. Mail & passengers. This was the afternoon mixed train No. 3 which was enroute to Perry, 44 miles to the west. This same equipment would later return to Live Oak as train No. 4. Photo by Red Kerce, Circa 1948.:

LOP&G Ten-Wheeler (4-6-0) is drifting along at yard speed by the Live Oak shops while a diesel-electric locomotive sits on an adjacent yard track. The mixed train had left Live Oak’s Union Station a few minutes earlier, after loading all Railway Express shipments, U. S. Mail & passengers. This was the afternoon mixed train No. 3 which was enroute to Perry, 44 miles to the west. This same equipment would later return to Live Oak as train No. 4. Photo by Red Kerce, Circa 1948.

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Nicknamed "The Loping Gopher" by people who lived along its route, The Live Oak, Perry and Gulf during its history probably enjoyed more lumber related traffic than any other shortline in Florida. The railroad began its life as a log road of the R.L. Dowling & Sons Lumber Co. out of Live Oak , Fl. in the mid 1890's. The sawmill was located in the Northwest part of town and connected with both the Plant System (ACL) & the Florida Central & Peninsular (SAL) Railroads. This railroad as it slowly built westward toward the Suwannee River was known as the R.L. Dowling Shortline. By the turn of the century it had reached the Suwannee River at Hudson on the Suwannee, building over the old right of way of the defunct Suwannee River Railway. The town's name was quickly changed to Dowling Park and a sawmill was quickly built. As the timber in the area became depleted the line was extended over the Suwannee River into Lafayette Co. to Day, Fl. By 1903 the company was approached by Skelton Williams of the Seaboard Air Line (SAL) in hopes of using the railroad as a pawn in it's battles with the nearby Suwannee & San Pedro RR and encouraged the logging railroad to incorporate as the Live Oak and Perry Railroad (LO&P) on September 23, 1903. Before Williams could provide financing he was removed as SAL's president and went on to form the Georgia & Florida RR. The LO&P at that time was in operation to milepost 31, only 13 miles from Perry but due to the lack of capital could not reach that thriving little town.

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LOP&G Ten-Wheeler (4-6-0) No. 100 at Perry in 1933. William Monypeny Photo.

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The Atlantic Coast Line however was itching to get into this thriving region but was restricted by an old agreement between the Plant System and the Florida Central & Peninsular  on territorial rights. The ACL skirted this by agreeing to finance the LOP&G for preferred traffic agreement between the ACL and all the Dowling's lumber and railroad interests in 1905. The original charter of the LO&P was found to be faulty however and a new charter was hammered out in 1905. On June 21, 1905 the Live Oak, Perry & Gulf RR was incorporated and on September 11 it purchased the property of the LO&G. With ACL funding (purchased 51 percent of the capital stock and a large amount of their bonds) the LOP&G quickly built on to Perry (February of 1906), and branches from Mayo Jct. to Mayo and Alton and from Perry to Hampton Springs (April of 1906). In 1907 the main line was extended from Hampton Springs to Still Number 3 and a branch was built from Murat Jct. to Murat. At this time the railroad had 90 curves totaling 9.7 miles and 49.15 miles of straight track. 2 wooden bridges (30 and 100 feet, over the Spring Creek and Fenholloway Rivers) and 80 trestles totaling 5862 feet, by far the longest was over the Suwannee River that was 1800 feet long. The railroad slowly built west into the very flat and low pine and cypress lands finally reaching its most westerly terminus at Flintrock in 1921, 74 miles from Live Oak. Actually the railroads end of line was at mp 72.5. The Standard Lumber Company owned the final 1.5 miles into Flint Rock. After the line from Scanlon to Flintrock had been abandoned in 1927, the Brooks- Scanlon Corporation Acquired the track and used it for a logging railroad.

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The LOP&G Engine # 101 is ready to leave Perry with No. 3, the afternoon mixed train to Live Oak. Note the Perry Station in the right background. Photographed In 1933 by William Monypeny.

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The LOP&G enjoyed prosperity during these early years as revenues were great, and traffic flooded the railroad. They however had two competitors in the region, the South Georgia (SG) Railroad from Adel, Ga & the Suwannee & San Pedro (S&SP). The SG however only competed in the Perry area and was a good connection to the Southern Ry at Adel but the S&SP paralleled their line. The S&SP became the Florida Ry (FRy) in 1905 but due to a feud with the SAL had only one friendly connection & that was at Perry with the SG. As all the traffic in Alton (site of the Standard Lumber Co., which was originally owned by the owners of the S&SP/FRy) due to the traffic agreements reached by the LOP&G and the ACL. The Fry was slowly strangled until it ceased operations in 1916. This was important to the LOP&G as the FRy's only traffic was the passenger business between Live Oak and Perry. The death of the Fry spelled a resurgence of passenger traffic on the LOP&G & new equipment was added. In 1918 the LOP&G was sold to the ACL and was operated as an affiliated shortline until 1928 when the railroad was sold to the Brooks-Scanlon Corporation (BSC). The BSC operated the railroad for the next 26 years. BSC operated a huge sawmill at Foley, Fl and ran trains over the LOP&G & over some of the FRy's old lines until the timber was cutout following World War Two. Many other lumber companies had trackage rights over the LOP&G. These companies included the Park Lumber Co.(which took over the old mill at Dowling Park), Standard Lumber Co. (Alton), Taylor County Lumber Company at Springdale and the Rock Creek Lumber Co. At Hampton Springs. The Burton-Swartz Cypress Company at Springdale also operated over the railroad.

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LOP&G Engine # 66 with passenger train, is photographed at the Live Oak Union Station. The train will soon leave for Perry and Flintrock. Note the building behind the train is the ACL & LOP&G Freight Station at Live Oak. Photographed At Live Oak In 1923.

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One of the reasons for ACL selling the railroad was the fact that it had just finished building it's own line through Perry on it's west coast cut-off in 1927 and the shortline was not needed. Also in 1928 the huge sawmill at Alton shut down and the LOP&G abandoned the line from Mayo to Alton. The closing of the mill freed the LOP&G from the ACL agreement of 1905 and the shortline was free from their control forever. The LOP&G served other shippers besides the lumber industry. Farmers in Suwannee County counted on the road for shipping their produce north which included corn, cotton, watermelons and tobacco. The watermelon rush tied the railroad up every June. Businesses in Perry, Live Oak and Mayo depended on carload and LCL freight. Beginning in 1940, a large lime-stone quarry at Peterson on the Mayo branch shipped many carloads of lime rock, many for use in building roads in the area. These roads of course cut into the LOP&G's  business, and declining passengers led to the use of a motor coach on the line between Mayo Jct. & Mayo from 1917 to 1927. In 1925, the LOP&G built another Doodlebug called the “Jitney” in its Live Oak Shops. This replaced the regular daily steam passenger train between Live Oak & Flintrock until the line was cut back to Scanlon in 1927. Another Doodlebug was purchased in 1937 but only operated until 1940 when service reverted to the mixed trains. Brooks-Scanlon then purchased the South Georgia in 1946.

Slide10:

Live Oak Perry & Gulf RR Co. Locomotive No. 300 a GE 70-ton Diesel Electric Locomotive. This locomotive along with sister 301 was purchased from GE in 1946. Photographed at Foley, Florida on Feb. 29, 1964 by Thomas lawson, Jr. From the collection of the State of Florida Photographic Archives.

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Around 1950 Brooks-Scanlon was winding down it's operations and was looking to find a buyer for the LOP&G and the SG. In 1954 the Southern Ry purchased both roads & operated them as Subsidiaries of the Georgia Southern and Florida.  Meanwhile the mixed trains were deleted from the timetable in 1956, at which time all trains were ran as extras. The Southern first operated the line using the railroads two GE 70 tonners, supplemented by Light Southern Switchers. In 1955, the Southern bought two GP9s from the LOP&G Funds. However instead of using them on the LOP&G, Southern used them on other parts of its system where it used the same type of Locomotives. Instead, starting in 1956, after Southern had upgraded the LOP&G track, It operated Southern Alco RS-2 & RS-3 Locomotives on both the LOP&G and the South Georgia. These were the same models of Locomotives operated on Southerns Other Georgia and Florida Lines. By this time the LOP&G & South Georgia traffic was made up from the large paper mill built by the Buckeye Cellulose Corporation at the former Brooks-Scanlon property at Foley. In 1972, the LOP&G was merged into the South Georgia with the resulting name change to the Live Oak Perry & South Georgia Ry., Also a susidiary of the GS&F. Also that year the Mayo branch was abandoned. The line between Foley Jct. and Slade in 1977. The track between Live Oak and Slade, two miles in length, was taken over by the Seaboard Coast Line RR. The track from Foley Jct. to Foley and from Foley Jct to Perry was retained to provide access to the Buckeye Mill At Foley.

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LOP&G Ten-Wheeler (4-6-0) No. 100 at Perry in 1938. From the State of Florida Photographic Archives.

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In 1982, Southern Merged with the Norfolk & Western To Form the Norfolk Southern Corporation. The GS&F became a subsidiary of the NS at that time and the LOP&SG remained a subsidiary of the GS&F until 1993 when NS merged it into the Georgia Southern & Florida. Afterward, the former LOP&SG (the former South Georgia track and remaining LOP&SG track between Perry and Foley) was operated as the Foley District of the NS Georgia Division. In 1995, NS sold the Foley District to the Live Oak, Perry and Georgia Railroad, a unit of the Gulf and Ohio Railways, which operated it as part of its Georgia & Florida Railroad. In 1999, Gulf & Ohio sold the line to Georgia & Florida RailNet, Incorporated. In another change of ownership, Omnitrax, Incorporated Bought Georgia and Florida RailNet, Incorporated in 2005. FOOTNOTE: Additional Information & corrections for this LOP&G History was graciously provided by Russell Tedder.

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The LOP&G Ten-Wheeler (4-6-0) No. 102 at the Live Oak shop in 1939. From John B. Allen and in the collection of Donald R. Hensley, Jr.

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LOP&G 103 at Georgia Car & Locomotive works in Atlanta, Ga. From John B. Allen in the collection of Donald R. Hensley, Jr.

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In this 1948 Scene, a mixed train is picking up cars at Mayo Jct. to carry to Mayo at the end of the Mayo Branch. Photo by Red Kerce, From the collection of The State of Florida Photographic Archives.

Slide17:

Union Station In Live Oak, Circa 1974. From the Collection of The State of Florida Photographic Archives.

Slide18:

Day Railroad Depot, Circa 1913 – From Russell Tedder Collection. Note: The Day Depot Burned shortly after this photo and was replaced with new building that was used until the LOP&G was shut down.

Slide19:

Day Railroad Depot, Circa 1917 – From Russell Tedder Collection. Note: This Building replaced the old Day Depot that burned about 1915 and was used until the LOP&G was shut down in the 1970’s.

Slide20:

Mayo Railroad Depot, Circa 1969 – From Russell Tedder Collection. Note: Depot was probably out of use at the time this photo was made.

Slide21:

LOP&G Foley Station Circa 1933 by William Monypeny from the collection of Ray Burhmaster, Unlike the Perry station, this one was a wooden building.

Slide22:

LOP&G's brick freight and passenger station at Perry, FL. Photo made in 1933 by William Monypeny, from the Ray Burhmaster Collection. Note the station is built on a curve, the tracks in the background curve to the right. The straight track goes to the Perry Grocery Company Warehouse.

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The Old Perry LOP&G Railroad Station As It Looks Now!

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This Powerpoint was created using material from Donald R. Hensleys Taplines Web Site, strictly for public viewing and not for Monetary gain in any fashion. This material found herein was obtained from the following URL: http://www.taplines.net/

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