Georgia & Florida Railway
The Georgia and Florida Railway was organized in 1906 for the purpose of purchasing, building, and operating railroads in Georgia and Florida. Most of the G&F was assembled by John Skelton Williams, former president of the Seaboard Air Line Railway, between 1906 and 1911.
Williams acquired six lines: the 53-mile Millen & Southwestern Railroad (Millen-Pendleton-Vidalia); the 30-mile Augusta and Florida Railway (Keysville-Midville); the 20-mile Atlantic and Gulf Short Line Railroad (Midville-Swainsboro); the 87-mile Douglas, Augusta and Gulf Railway (Hazlehurst-Nashville and Barrows Bluff-Broxton); the 12-mile Nashville and Sparks Railroad (Nashville-Sparks); and the 28-mile Valdosta Southern Railway (Valdosta-Madison, Florida).
In 1906 he obtained trackage rights on the Augusta Southern Railroad between Keysville and Augusta. Between 1906 and 1910, he connected his various acquisitions with three new lines: from Swainsboro to Pendleton, from Hazlehurst to Vidalia, and from Nashville to Valdosta. The result was a north-south line across Georgia from Augusta to Madison, Florida.
To straighten a jog in the line in Coffee County, he built a shortcut from Douglas to Garrant (near West Green), abandoning the older tracks between Broxton and Garrant. This left Broxton off the main line, but the town remained on a branch that connected to the new main line at Douglas.
Through the purchase of the Sparks Western Railway, trackage rights agreements, and construction of short connectors, the G&F established a branch to Moultrie in 1911. The G&F also built a 2.2-mile branch from Sparks to Adel in 1911.
The railroad entered receivership in 1915 but remained intact.
In 1916 the G&F reported owning 318 miles of railroad consisting of a 224-mile main line from Keysville, Ga., to Madison, Fla.; a 44-mile branch from Pendleton to Millen; a 17-mile branch from Douglas Junction to Barrows Bluff; a 32-mile branch from Nashville to Kingwood; and a 2.2-mile line between Sparks and Adel. The company also had trackage rights of 2.2 miles from Kingwood to Moultrie on the AB&A and 26 miles from Keysville to Augusta on the Augusta Southern.
Equipment for 1916 was reported as 30 locomotives, 24 passenger cars, 2 sleeping cars, 1 baggage and express car, 225 box cars, 292 flat cars, 6 stock cars, 11 cabooses, and 43 service cars.
In 1919 the G&F acquired the Augusta Southern (Augusta-Sandersville), over which it had obtained trackage rights between Keysville and Augusta.
By leasing the Midland Railway in 1924, the G&F was able to add a branch line to Statesboro. It connected with the main line at Stevens Crossing.
After a reorganization in 1926, the G&F was renamed the Georgia and Florida Railroad.
Most of the branch line from Millen to Pendleton (on the former Millen & Southwestern) was abandoned in 1930. (The section from Garfield to Summit-Graymont remained open.) The former Augusta Southern between Sandersville and Keysville was abandoned in 1934, in the midst of the Depression. In 1950 the branch line between Stevens Crossing and Statesboro was abandoned. In 1954 the Valdosta-Madison line was sold to new owners, who renamed it the Valdosta Southern Railroad. In 1958 the last remaining section of the Broxton branch was abandoned.
Southern Railway acquired the G&F in 1963 but did not stop the slow dismemberment. It abandoned the section of line between Hephzibah and Midville in 1966 (except for a short section near Gough) and the Nashville-Sparks section of the Moultrie branch in 1967-68. In 1971, Southern merged the remnants of the G&F into its subsidiary Central of Georgia.
• Broxton-to-Garrant abandoned around 1909.
• Barrows Bluff-to-Relee (1.5 miles) abandoned in 1920.
• Millen-to-Pendleton abandoned in 1930. The 7-mile Garfield-to-Summit-Graymont section remained open.
• Sandersville-Keysville abandoned in 1934.
• Stevens Crossing-to-Statesboro abandoned in 1950.
• Garfield-to-Summit-Graymont (Twin City) abandoned in 1950 or earlier.
• Relee-to-Sapps Still (3 miles) abandoned in 1950.
• Sapp’s Still-to-Douglas (14 miles) abandoned in 1958. (Grade is shown on Douglas North 1971 USGS topo map.)
• Blythe-to-Midville abandoned in 1966 (except for a short section between Torbit and Gough).
• Nashville to Sparks abandoned in 1967-68.
• Douglas-to-Hazlehurst abandoned in 1983.
• Midville-to-Swainsboro abandoned in 1983.
• Torbit-to-Gough abandoned in 1986.
• Kirby to north side of Vidalia has long been inactive.
• Vidalia to Hester (on US 221 north of Hazlehurst) has long been inactive.
Maps and Timetables:
1910 map Augusta to Vidalia (144K)
1910 map Hazlehurst to Nashville (88K)
1910 map Nashville to Madison, Florida (40K)
1918 map (147K)
1918 timetable (232K)
1918 officers (82K)
1936 map (62K)
1966 map (101K)
H. Roger Grant, Rails through the Wiregrass; A History of the Georgia & Florida Railroad (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2006).
Albert M. Langley, Jr., Georgia & Florida Railroad Album (North Augusta, SC: Union Station Publishing, 2004).
Vintage photos and specs of G&F locomotives at hawkinsrails.net.
RailGa.com. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey