Georgia Southwestern, which began operations in 1989, is a short line common carrier railroad operating primarily in the lower Chattahoochee and lower Flint River area of Georgia.
It currently (2012) operates 234 miles of track including a line from Columbus to Americus, a line from Smithville to White Oak, AL; and a line from Cuthbert to Lynn, on the north side of Bainbridge.
In 1989 it was the Georgia Southwestern Division of South Carolina Central Railroad, which itself was owned by RailTex, then a San Antonio-based owner/operator of shortline railroads in several states. At the time, GSWR operated tracks from Columbus to Bainbridge and from Rhine (near McRae) to Mahrt, AL. These two former Seaboard Coast Line routes, which crossed at Richland, totalled 288 miles.
In 1994 the east end of the Rhine-to-Mahrt line was shortened with the abandonment of the section between Rhine and Rochelle. This included a bridge over the Ocmulgee River east of Abbeville.
RailTex had two other Georgia subsidiaries, Georgia & Alabama Railroad and Georgia Great Southern Railroad. In 1995, it consolidated these into Georgia Southwestern. As a result, the GSWR added a 73-mile line from Smithville to White Oak, AL, once a branch of the Central of Georgia, along with a 22-mile line from Dawson to Albany that was once part of SCL's Columbus-Albany line.
The latter addition, however, had been severely damaged in 1994 by Tropical Storm Alberto; it was abandoned in 1996.
Also abandoned, in 1995, was most of the segment of line between Cusseta and Cuthbert. This was the north-south line through Richland, which left that town with only its east-west railroad. The next year it lost that too as the route between Preston and Mahrt was abandoned due to a loss of shipments from the Mahrt paper mill.
To replace the abandoned north-south trackage, GSWR leased from Norfolk Southern most of its route between Columbus and Americus and acquired trackage rights on the remainder. Trackage rights from Smithville to Albany and from Smithville to Americus were gained in separate arrangements.
In 1998, Georgia Southwestern leased from Georgia DOT
67 miles of rail line between Vidalia and Rochelle. Part of this trackage (Rhine to Vidalia) had been previously owned and operated by the Georgia Central Railway.
RailAmerica purchased RailTex in February 2000.