The Airline Belle was a train which ran through Piedmont Heights, then known as Easton, from 1879 until 1931. The rail line was originally intended to connect Atlanta to Norcross but over time it was extended north to Toccoa, passing through dozens of small towns and communities along the way. Its tracks lay in today’s BeltLine corridor behind Ansley Mall until they were taken up only a few years ago.
The little two-car passenger train made as many as 39 stops along its daily 93 mile route, some at little towns and some merely at locations where locals knew they could catch it. It took only three hours to make the entire trip and the Airline Belle averaged fifty miles an hour between stops. In the mornings it delivered commuters to Atlanta by 7:50 a. m. and departed at 5:20 p. m to take them home again. Most of the passengers knew the engineer and crew by name and the conductor knew his regular passengers personally. Easton residents particularly loved it because they didn’t have to ford Clear Creek in bad weather to get to Atlanta.
The train became so popular that it needed a name. The wife of railroad superintendent Colonel Fouracre suggested calling it the Airline Belle and the name was soon known all over Georgia. The “Belle” was noted for its punctuality, had a sterling safety record and during its 52 years of service had only one accident. Engineer Ike Roberts drove the train many years until May 15, 1929 when he collapsed at Terminal Station in Atlanta and died of a heat attack.
After the Airline Belle’s demise Southern Railroad trains running between Atlanta and Washington took over its route, still delivering its passengers on the same schedule.