DC Past Tense

The circa 1880 Railroad Section House at 5518 Chamblee Dunwoody Road is one of the last reminders of the Roswell Railroad. 

If it wasn’t for the Roswell Railroad, which ran from 1881 until 1921, Dunwoody may not have become the city it is today. With the construction of the railroad, there was a need for a depot and railroad section houses in Dunwoody. Businesses sprang up along the railroad, including a livery, millinery, pharmacy, feed store, community well, blacksmith and doctor’s office — all in the same area that today we know as Dunwoody Village. 

The Dunwoody depot sat in between today’s Chevron and CVS on Chamblee Dunwoody Road.  There were three railroad section houses on the other side of the road, built to house men who worked on the railroad. In 1994, two were bulldozed to make way for a Boston Market Restaurant. This event inspired Joyce Amacher and Lynne Byrd to start identifying historic properties in the area.

Construction of the railroad bed began before the Civil War, with the idea that the railroad would help get goods produced at the mills of Roswell to Atlanta. Construction had to stop when the Civil War began, but it started back up in the 1870s, and the Roswell Railroad was operational in 1881.  

The first track was narrow gauge, and the engine was called Dinkey. This wasn’t an unusual name, as other small engines across the country had the same name. Later, the track was switched out for double gauge, and the engine that traveled the Roswell Railroad was known as Buck or Old Buck.  

The train made the 10-mile trip three times a day, traveling forward to Roswell and backward to Chamblee. The engineer of the Roswell Railroad was Isaac (Ike) Roberts for the entire 40 years that it existed.    

A spur of the Roswell Railroad to Bull Sluice was built in 1903, which took the train to where the Morgan Falls Dam was being constructed. The materials needed to build the dam were delivered on the train. Morgan Falls Dam was built to help bring electricity to the area. 

On Oct. 21, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt and First Lady Edith Roosevelt traveled to Roswell to visit his mother’s childhood home, Bulloch Hall. They rode the train from Atlanta to Chamblee and then the Roswell Railroad to the Roswell Station. The station was just south of the Chattachoochee River, so they rode by carriage across the bridge and into the town of Roswell. The story tells us that engineer Ike Roberts drove slowly through Dunwoody that day, ringing the train bell and blowing the whistle to cheers from the people of the town.

After the railroad was no longer operational, some local families lived in the railroad section houses. More recently, the remaining railroad section house has been home to a few businesses, including a florist and the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce. Today, it is the location of Community Music Centers of Atlanta in Dunwoody. Several years ago, when the Railroad Section House was for sale, there was a lot of interest for a railroad museum. I still think that would be a great addition to our community.

Following my recent article on Lawson General Hospital, a family contacted me to let me know that an army doctor

who worked there in 1945 is turning

100 years old soon.  They are looking

for former patients of Lawson General Hospital.  Please contact Valerie at

pasttensedunwoody@gmail.com if

you can help with this request. 


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