The railroad is the product of nearly 150 predecessor lines that were combined, reorganized and recombined beginning in the 1830s, formally becoming the Southern Railway in 1894.
Southern lived up to its name quite well as the South’s largest railroad serving virtually every state below the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi River.
From an early period, excellent management defined Southern Railway.
The railroad joined forces with the Norfolk and Western Railway (N&W) in 1982 to form the Norfolk Southern Corporation.
Southern and its predecessors were responsible for many firsts in the industry. Starting in 1833, its predecessor, the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road, was the first to carry passengers, U.S. troops and mail on steam-powered train.
The company owned two-thirds of the 4,400 miles of line it operated, and the rest was held through leases, operating agreements and stock ownership.
At the end of 1971, the Southern operated 6,026 miles of railroad.
The Southern Railway was active in mechanization, used bank engines, is widely credited with inventing unit trains for coal and new freight cars, and understood the power of marketing using the promotional phrase "Southern Gives a Green Light to Innovation."