The Rome and Decatur Railroad Company was organized in 1886 and quickly began building a line from Rome towards Decatur, Alabama, some 135 miles to the west. By early 1887, contractor Daniel Callahan's crews had completed the section between Rome and Cedar Bluff.
Financial troubles caused the railroad to enter receivership in mid-1887, slowing construction progress on the Alabama side and finally causing Callahan to stop work a few months later. It would not be until July 1888 that the segment from Cedar Bluff to Attalla, on the west side of Gadsden, was finished.
Trains continued rolling between Rome and Attalla (the Attalla-Decatur link would remain unbuilt) as the R&D struggled to pay its bills. In 1889 the company reported 62 miles operated, with 5 locomotives, 5 passenger cars, and 45 freight and miscellaneous cars.
Billed as the Coosa River Valley Route, the R&D followed a course on the north side of the river that was much straighter than the Coosa itself, giving the railroad a significant advantage over steamboats as a freight shipping option. River navigational improvements, such as the construction of Mayo's Bar Lock and Dam near Rome in 1913, ultimately had little effect, and steamboats gradually disappeared from the river.
In 1890, the Rome & Decatur was purchased by the East Tennessee, Virginia, & Georgia Railway, which in
turn was consolidated into Southern Railway in 1894.
In 1948 the railroad was abandoned from Fairbanks, on the northwest side of Rome, to a point in Alabama. In 1953 it was reopened between Fairbanks and Coosa to serve Georgia Power Company’s Plant Hammond, which was being constructed at the time.