Tiny Terminus: For nearly 70 years, model trains have quietly circled tracks in Old Fourth Ward

The Great Southern Lines is the largest model train layout in Atlanta
Great Southern Lines
Railroad Model Club of Atlanta president Pete Silcox

Photograph by Andrea Fremiotti

Beyond an antique wood-frame glass door opening onto Edgewood Avenue and up a creaking stairway lies the territory of the Great Southern Lines—otherwise known as the largest model train layout in Atlanta. You could also call it one of the best-kept secrets in the city, since few passersby likely are aware that just above the Old 4th Distillery is a 1,400-square-foot, man-made landscape of hills, bridges, depots, and towns, with more than 93 working track switches. It’s also almost certainly the oldest layout in metro Atlanta, having occupied the cramped, low-ceilinged space since the mid-1940s. The building itself has long been owned by the Railroad Model Club of Atlanta, which claims to have met nearly every Monday night since its founding in February 1937. The past few decades, however, have seen a gradual decline in club membership—which now sits at just 15 mostly older men—that parallels the shrinking interest in model trains. “When kids are very little, they’re fascinated by trains, until they discover video games,” laments club president Pete Silcox of Kennesaw.

See it yourself
Starting October 15, in celebration of National Model Railroad Month, the Great Southern Lines and dozens of other private layouts will be open for public tours on weekends through November. For information, visit piedmont­pilgrimage.com.