Organized in December, 1886 to build a rail line from Monroe, N.C., near Charlotte, to Atlanta, the GC&N began construction in North Carolina in 1887. The line was completed via Elberton, Athens, and Lawrenceville to a connection with the Georgia Railroad at Inman Park on the east side of Atlanta in 1892.
Because an injunction stopped the new line from entering the city
of Atlanta from the east, the GC&N was forced to construct the
Seaboard Air Line Belt Railroad in 1892. This eight-mile line
branched off the GC&N at Belt Jct. (near Emory University) and
ran west to a connection with the Nashville, Chattanooga & St.
Louis Railway at Howells. By use of trackage rights over the NC&StL,
GC&N trains were able to enter Atlanta despite the injunction.
In the 1894 edition of The Official Railway List, the GC&N reported operating 277 miles of railroad with 116 locomotives, 91 passenger cars, and 2,191 freight cars.
In 1898 the railroad added a branch line in Gwinnett County, the Loganville & Lawrenceville Railroad.
In 1889, well before completion, the line had been leased to the Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad and the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad companies which were operating, along with other related railroads, under the name Seaboard Air Line. The GC&N was merged into the Seaboard Air Line Railway in 1901.