The AB&A was organized in 1905 to purchase the Atlantic and Birmingham Railway and construct a 260-mile extension from its terminus at Montezuma to Birmingham, as well as a 77-mile branch from Warm Springs to Atlanta. (The Atlanta branch was built from Manchester instead of Warm Springs.)
In April, 1906, the AB&A consolidated itself with the A&B and began operating under the Atlanta, Birmingham and Atlantic Railroad name. Construction of the extension began quickly. Montezuma to Talbotton was built in 1906 and Talbotton to LaGrange was completed in January of 1907. The railroad reached Birmingham in the summer of 1908.
Much of the Alabama portion of the line was built on the roadbed of the unfinished Macon and Birmingham Railway. The M&B had managed to complete a rail connection between Macon and LaGrange, by way of Thomaston, but could not obtain the funds to continue on to Birmingham. As it turned out, the AB&A was only slightly more successful; it reached the Magic City, but the revenues from doing so were not enough to keep the line operating in the black. A year later the company entered receivership. Continuing financial problems resulted in a reorganization in 1915 (with a new name, the Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic Railway) and foreclosure in 1922. In 1926, it was reorganized as the Atlanta, Birmingham, and Coast Railroad.
After 1909 the AB&A was nicknamed the Bee Line, emphasizing its direct route between Birmingham and the Atlantic coast. (The Atlanta-Brunswick route was somewhat less direct.) Also, the prominent “B” in the company logo may have inspired the name.
Despite its perpetual shortage of funds, the railroad maintained most of its operations. The only abandonment was on the short branch from Ocilla to the Alapaha River at Crystal Lake (in 1916-1917). Poors 1923 Manual reported that the AB&A had 81 locomotives, 60 passenger cars, and 2700 freight cars.