Confederate railroads could never measure up to their Union counterparts. The Civil War showed the necessity of a very good railroad system.
At the beginning of the war, both sides had decent railroads in which to transport goods, services, troops, men, and much needed food supplies to the major cities.
In the North, the railroads were in full force with cities such as Philadelphia, New York, and Washington all having a viable and very productive and efficient railroad system in which to ferry goods and services to and from.
The reverse was the norm in the South, as the Southerners had very few railroads in which to transport goods and services and once the war started, these dwindling tracks became less and less a tool for victory and more of a means for a Northern attack.
The start of the Civil War showed a glaring weakness in the Southern track for the Confederate Railroad system. First of all, it took labor and supplies to repair and keep-up the railroads of the South. As the war started, most of the labor went to the front lines to engage the enemy, the Union troops, what was left was a skeleton crew of Southern men and sometimes women that were hired on to keep up the railroad tracks.
The maintenance of the track and the ditches, that the railroad cars occupied, meant that it took about one Confederate laborer for every 100 miles of track; full time duty. Continual local maintenance of the railroads in the Confederacy was done by what they called a ‘section master’ who normally had five to seven laborers underneath him.
As the war started, the Confederate laborer shortages became a particular issue and as this happened, the track maintenance started to wear down.
It got so bad during the beginning of the first battles of the Civil War that only one laborer was allowed for one mile of track.
Now this may seem like a lot of man power per one mile of track, but also consider the maintenance of these tracks without any mechanized machinery or certified oils to help lube up the tracks, put down spikes, readjust ties and even dig ditches, one man was not enough. The state of disrepair that the railroad tracks fell into almost made it impossible to transfer any of the railroad cars to the Southern cities.
The Southern Empire was in trouble and as Union troops moved into such cities as Atlanta, Savannah, and parts of Tennessee, the railroad situation became almost a nightmare.
Towards the end of the Civil War, the only tracks that were remained operable were the ones where General Sherman did not pull up and tie around trees, as in Sherman’s famous ‘neck ties’, or the ones that the Union did not bother with as they meant nothing to the war effort. The Confederate railroads were very important to the war effort and with the war growing to a close; many of the tracks were left as they were, destroyed for decades.