Adams Warnock

Kimball “Kim” Warnock had built his career in engineering but was ready to leave the city life behind. “I grew up in rural Montgomery County, but I was living and working in Atlanta,” says Kim. “In my effort to get away from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta, I moved to Savannah.”

In 1974 Kim accepted a job as a corporate engineer, which introduced him to Effingham County. At the time, the county had approximately 15,000 residents and Old Augusta Road was a dirt road. Kim had fulfilled his desire to live the rural life again.

In 1980, Kim procured his first contract to maintain industrial railroad tracks in the Savannah area. Armed with borrowed tools and equipment, he founded Adams Warnock, derived from his middle and last name. It wasn’t long before he was able to hire his first employee and then several more after a few weeks. Within five years, Kim and his team were maintaining most of the industrial tracks in the area. Companies like Georgia-Pacific, Colonial Oil and International Paper all called upon Adams Warnock to work on their rail lines.

“I never dreamed of getting into the railroad operation,” Kim says. “We've developed a pretty good group of industrial folks that depend on us.”

Kim opened his first railyard location in Port Wentworth, a small but strategic location convenient to Jimmy Deloach Parkway, Highway 21 and the Georgia Ports Authority. In the early 1990s he expanded to a second location, becoming the first tenant in the newly-developed Effingham County Industrial Park in Rincon. By 1995, Kim began purchasing locomotives and offering services switching rail cars.

“I chose a location in the center of the park because railyards don’t need a road frontage,” says Kim. “The first track we built here was to transport reinforced concrete pipes.”

As neighbors moved into the industrial park, Adams Warnock was uniquely suited to support them and the complexities of moving specialty products. Today, Adams Warnock locomotives move every transformer produced by the nearby Georgia Transformer, a testament to their skill.

With more than 70 miles of railroad tracks in Effingham County, railroad maintenance is in high demand. However, it’s not an easy industry to navigate.

“It’s very regulated, so not many people want to be involved with it. We have to comply with both Federal Railroad Administration regulations and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations,” Kim says. “There’s a lot to keep up with and the regulations change frequently.”

On the Leadership Track

As his business grew, Kim built a name for himself in the railroad field but also in the greater Effingham community. In 1987, he was elected as chairman of the Effingham County Board of Commissioners, a position he held for two terms. During this time, the county partnered with the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority to acquire land and develop the industrial park where Adams Warnock currently sits.

“I never considered myself a politician,” says Kim. “A group of local people asked me to run and thought I would be good for the commission.”

While Kim has been off the county commission for nearly 30 years, he left behind a legacy that influences Effingham County’s growth to this day. He helped develop a master plan that addressed roads, schools, recreation and the management of industrial growth, guided by the philosophy, “you develop a community like you would like to see.”

Today, he retains a leadership role as the Effingham County representative of the Coastal Area District Development Authority (CADDA), a regional group that encourages industrial development and job creation for large and small entities. They process Small Business Administration loans and connect businesses with other loan programs to support their growth.

“It’s a volunteer position many people don’t want to do,” Kim says. “Most people won’t take part because you had to give of your time, but I always managed to squeeze in time for it.”

Onboarding the Next Generation

Kim’s family has been a support system for the business. Kim’s daughter Melinda helps with office operations, his son Wade handles health and safety regulations and human resources and another son leads a rail crew. Grandson Cody grew up around the railroad tracks of Effingham County and has followed in his family’s footsteps.  

“I started out shoveling and driving spikes. Later I decided that some office work would be better than working in the heat,” Cody says. “There was a need for an engineer and I figured I could fill it.”

After graduating from Effingham County High School, Cody learned everything he could by working at the family business for a few years and then attended Georgia Southern University to study civil engineering. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 2020 and his master’s degree in 2023. At the same time, he gained experience in Civil 3D, the drafting software used to design rail lines and used those skills to take on his current role of design and business development.

“Because of Cody’s skill sets, we’ve evolved into designing, building, operating and maintaining industrial rail yards. He has added to our capabilities,” Kim says.

Including family members, Adams Warnock currently has 40-50 employees at any given time. Several employees have tenures of 20, 30 and even nearly 40 years.

“I don’t depend on just family to run the business,” says Kim. “We have other key employees that are very much needed and very dedicated to what we do. Family or not, we’ve got a job to do.”

Qualities for Success

Much of Adams Warnock’s growth has been through word-of-mouth, which has contributed to their longevity.

“The people we work closely with support us quite well,” says Kim. “We’ve always been really responsive to industry needs and that makes people want to call us back.”

While Adams Warnock has maintained a loyal client base over the years, they are seeing increased demand for their services. Career opportunities are available for people willing to invest in their work. Kim isn’t shy about acknowledging the labor-intensive nature of railroad maintenance, and he has a few qualities he looks for in prospective employees.

“The job requires a sense of focus. They also have to be capable of learning and practice safety in their daily tasks,” Kim says. “Most of our employees also need to be qualified for Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) cards because we work in environments regulated by the Department of Homeland Security.”

Full Steam Ahead

Even with more than 40 years of work under his belt, Kim isn’t ready to retire anytime soon. “I’ve truly enjoyed everything I’ve done workwise,” Kim says. “I’m not going to be here forever, but I don’t have any plans to leave.”

Adams Warnock has been enlisted to work on projects beyond the Coastal Empire, guided by the same principles that have contributed to their success locally, “If you do it and take care of it and do it satisfactorily, they’ll call you.”


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