For more than 125 years, Sandersville Railroad has been committed to excellent service and strategic solutions for our customers.
Our business is more than just a shortline freight railroad. It’s been a community fixture dating back to the 19th century. Here’s how it went from startup to family enterprise and grew to become a modern, state-of-the-art rail transport company.
The Sandersville Railroad was organized by a group of prominent local citizens because the town needed another railroad to compete with the Augusta Southern. The new railroad was only three miles long and ran from Sandersville to Tennille.
The organizing group—who were getting older and wanted a young businessman to run the company—asked Ben Tarbutton to take over the operation of the Sandersville Railroad. They agreed to sell him the company at a favorable price if he agreed to operate it for five years.
Ben Tarbutton wrote the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and asked for an exchange of passenger rail travel passes, which allowed recipients to ride for free. The president wrote back that the Pennsylvania covered many thousands of miles while the Sandersville Railroad went only three miles. Tarbutton replied, "Yes, that is true, but my railroad is just as wide!"
The kaolin industry began in Sandersville. Clarke Marion, Executive Vice President of Paper and Fiber Co., requested that a study to determine the best location for their kaolin processing plant. After reading the report, Marion and said: “I do not care where the plant is built as long as it is on Ben Tarbutton's railroad."
In 1940, United Clay Mines, now Imerys Ceramics, built its plant in Sandersville. Burgess Washington Clay began operations in 1945, becoming Thiele Kaolin in 1947. They were followed by Burgess Pigment and Georgia Pigment (now Imerys Pigments and Additives and KaMin).
Georgia Kaolin—now Imerys Pigments & Additives—built its plant in Washington County. The year before, the railroad had built a six-mile rail extension to Kaolin, Georgia, where the Georgia Kaolin plant was built. This expansion of the railroad opened a whole new territory for industrial development and growth.
After a life of laying the groundwork for the industrial development of the railroad, Ben Tarbutton died in 1962. His sons, Ben Jr. and Hugh, assumed the responsibility for running the company. Since 2015, the Ben Tarbutton family has owned and operated the Sandersville Railroad.
The next 2 decades saw a great expansion of the kaolin industry on the Sandersville rail line.
Several new customers were added including what is today Southern Chips, Beasley Forest Products, and Dura-line.
A Weigh-in-motion scale was installed to provide a safer, more efficient method to weigh cars. The Sandersville Bulk Transfer Facility was developed.
SAN embarked on a two mile build out to serve the GRAD certified 576 acre Sandersville Industrial Park.
Today, the railroad is fortunate to serve other customers in addition to the kaolin industry, such as Bulk Chemical Services, Dura-Line, Southern Chips LLC, Beasley Forest Products, Veal Farms, along with rail-to-truck transportation solutions through its vibrant transload facility. These industries provide many jobs and significant diversity for the community and the railroad.
Years in business serving local industries with excellence
Railcars owned and operated
Acres of industrial development sites within our network
Single largest kaolin rail originator in the world
The leaders at Sandersville Railroad have extensive experience in the rail transport industry and are committed to maintaining an inclusive company culture while offering world-class services for our customers.
For us, customers are more than just customers. They’re part of our community. We provide rail transport services to a variety of companies with locations in the Sandersville-Washington County community across multiple industries. See our customers below.