By Joe Johnson
They might have been called the Railroad Track Crowd or known as the Trestle Gang, but however folks knew them these particular Georgia fans knew that the best way to watch Bulldogs football was from outside of Sanford Stadium, on a hill along East Campus Road that overlooked the eastside endzone.
On each Saturday afternoon when the Dawgs were playing in Athens those fans trekked to the railroad tracks at the crest of that hill, bringing with them homemade sandwiches, folding chairs and blankets, coolers filled with cokes and beer, and radios that would be tuned to Larry Munson calling the play-by-play for the action on the gridiron across the street.
Members of this group of fans will remember having to get out of the way when trains would come through, and seeing students sliding down the grassy banks around the stadium on flattened cardboard boxes.
Gathering on the tracks to watch games was a tradition that endured for decades, until 19,000 seats were added to Sanford Stadium and the expansion blocked the view of the playing field from the tracks.
The stadium's expansion occurred after the 1980 season ended, so the track people at least got to witness the Bulldogs' first successful national championship run in four decades and watch Herschel Walker display Heisman-like form with his 1,616 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.
Prior to the start of the 1980 season, UGA legend and coach, Erk Russell wrote a letter to his defensive linemen that was meant to inspire them, and in it he made what is believed to be the first-ever mention of the Railroad Track Crowd.
The letter read as follows:
Gentlemen: (and Linemen)
The football season of 80' will be my seventeenth as a Georgia Bulldog. During this time there have been many thrilling Saturdays of competition, each with it's individual memories, because each game has it's own personality.
There are two Saturday traditions and experiences which have remained basically the same throughout the years for me and I would like to share them with you.
The first one concerns THE RAILROAD TRACK CROWD. These are my people because they love the Dogs almost as much as I do. Oh, I know they do some crazy things- like turn over our opponents's busses sometimes and now and then they throw one another down the bank and into the street below. But they stamp out Kudzu and they pull for us to win and that ain't bad.
If you can get off the bus to cheers of THE RAILROAD TRACK CROWD and walk down those steps to the dressing room and not be inspired to play football as best you possibly can, something important is missing beneath the Georgia jersey you wear. It is impossible not to be inspired. They choke me up!
The season of 1980 will be the last for THE RAILROAD TRACK CROWD A great Georgia tradition will have passed with the new addition to our stadium. The view from the tracks will be no more.
Your team will be the last Georgia Team to be greeted and cheered by THE RAILROAD TRACK CROWD. Wouldn't it be fitting if their last team was also the best Georgia Team ever. Think about it!
Another Saturday tradition which has meant so much to me over the years can be stated very simply."THERE AIN'T NOTHING LIKE BEING A BULLDOG ON SATURDAY NIGHT AFTER WINNING A FOOTBALL GAME."I mean like whipping Tennessee's ass to start with, then ten more and then another one.
This is the game plan. We have no alternate plan.
Sincerely, Coach Russell
Bulldogs fan Walt Miller indicated in a post on Facebook that he attended UGA from 1976 to 1981.
"No lights on the field," he wrote. "All game times 1:00pm. All students that wanted one got a ticket. Groups could sit in a block together. No bag checks at entry. Massive crowds sat on 'TheTracks'. Go Dawgs!"