Samuel Spencer (Southern Railway)

Samuel Spencer (Southern Railway)

Samuel Spencer (1847 – November 26, 1906) was an American civil engineer, businessman, and railroad executive. Spencer eventually became president of six railroads, and was a director of at least ten railroads and several banks and other companies. Although his career was cut short when he was killed in a train wreck in 1906, Samuel Spencer is best remembered as the Father of the Southern Railway System.

Youth, education

Samuel Spencer was born in Columbus, Georgia, and grew up on the cotton plantation of his father, Lambert Spencer. His mother died when he was 10 years old. He was educated at Georgia Military Academy. During the American Civil War, he served in the Confederate Army under Generals Nathan B. Forrest and John Bell Hood. After the War, he attended the University of Georgia and the University of Virginia.


In 1869, he began working with railroads as a surveyor, and rose through the ranks, learning many aspects of railroad management. He became superintendent of the Long Island Rail Road in 1878 [cite web| url=| format=PDF| accessdate=2007-01-25| title=PRR Chronology: 1878] [cite web| url=| title=The History of the railroad and Spencer| publisher=North Carolina Transportation Museum| accessdate=2007-01-25] and headed the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (1887-1888).

Spencer was working for financier J.P. Morgan of Drexel, Morgan and Company as a railroad expert when the bankrupt Richmond and Danville Railroad (R&D) was acquired in 1894. The Southern Railway was formed from a consolidation of the R&D and the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad.

Tapped to lead the new railroad for Morgan, Spencer became its first president. Under his leadership, the mileage of the Southern Railway doubled, the number of passengers served annually increased to nearly 12 million, and annual earnings increased from $17 million to $54 million.

Samuel Spencer was killed in a train collision in Virginia on November 26, 1906. According to "Southern Railway: Green Light to Innovation", Spencer and some companions were sleeping in car parked on a siding while on a hunting trip in Virginia south of Lynchburg. The parked car was struck by a train which was on the wrong track.


Spencer is credited with leading the Southern Railway and the South during a period of unprecedented growth. After his untimely death, 30,000 Southern Railway employees contributed to pay for a bronze statue of him by sculptor Daniel Chester French, which was dedicated in 1910 and stood for many years at Atlanta's Terminal Station. The statue is currently located in Hardy Ivy Park near downtown Atlanta.

The Southern Railway's Spencer Shops and the town of Spencer, North Carolina were named in his honor. In 1977, the closed Spencer Shops formed the basis of the new North Carolina Transportation Museum.

Additional reading

*"Southern Railway's Spencer Shops 1896-1996" by Duane Galloway and Jim Wrinn, TLC Publishing Inc


External links

* [ North Carolina Transportation Museum]
* [ Southern Railway Historical Society]
* [ Norfolk Southern company website]
* [ Southern Railway Historical Association] covers Southern Railway history
* [ Virginia Museum of Transportation] located in Roanoke, VA
* [ Southern Railway Yahoo Group] a Yahoo group for former employees, railfans and modelers of the Southern Railway
* [ Norfolk Southern Yahoo Group] a Yahoo group for current happenings of Norfolk Southern Railway

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