The Columbus & Western was organized by the Central of Georgia in 1880 with the goal of creating a rail line from Columbus to
Birmingham. The Central planned to buy existing track where possible
and lay new rail where necessary.
In 1880 the C&W bought the middle link in the chain, the Savannah & Memphis Railroad, a 55-mile line between Opelika and Goodwater, Alabama. The next
step was the 1882 purchase of the Columbus-Opelika branch of the Western Railroad of Alabama. This established the eastern link. The last segment of the route,
completed in 1888, was 68 miles of new construction from Goodwater
The C&W was consolidated into another Central subsidiary, the Savannah & Western Railroad, in July 1888.