The GF&A ran from Richland, GA to Carrabelle, FL, some 180 miles. Chartered in 1895 as the Georgia Pine Railway, it was renamed the Georgia, Florida & Alabama Railway in 1901.
The first section of tracks opened between Bainbridge and Damascus in 1898, and most of the line between Cuthbert and Tallahassee was put into service in 1901 and 1902. The acquisition of the Carrabelle, Tallahassee & Georgia Railroad in 1906 extended the rails from Florida's capital to the Gulf coast at Carrabelle. A northern extension to Richland in 1910 was part of a plan to build to Columbus, but the latter city was never reached and Richland remained the end of the line.
About 25 miles west of the GF&A, the Chattahoochee River ran parallel to the railroad along its entire Georgia route. Navigable up to Columbus, it had long served as a major transportation route in the area, but competition from the rails, along with improved roads, made steamboat travel increasingly unprofitable. In her book Flowing Through Time; A History of the Lower Chattahoochee River, Lynn Willoughby noted that between 1901 and 1914 commerce on the river declined by over 25 percent. The paddle-wheelers were gone by the early 1920s.
Like many railroads the GF&A had a nickname, the Sumatra Leaf Route, for a variety of tobacco grown in the area.
In June 1927, Seaboard Air Line Railway announced a lease of the GF&A. This secured for the Seaboard a second north-south connection between two of its east-west lines, one extending from Savannah and the other from Jacksonville. (The older north-south link was along the Georgia coast.)
More information on the GF&A, along with photographs of some of its locomotives, is online at Taplines.net.