Connecticut firm purchases Georgia Southwestern Railroad

A Northeastern short line and regional freight railroad has gobbled up Georgia Southwestern Railroad in a deal worth nearly $22 million.

Greenwich, Conn.-based Genesee & Wyoming Inc. said it is paying $16.5 million in cash and assuming $5.4 million in debt owed by Dawson, Ga.-based Georgia Southwestern, which operates in and around Columbus.

The Georgia railroad dates to November 1988, when it was a division of South Carolina Central Railroad. Today, it operates more than 220 miles of track.

The line stretches from Greenville, Ga. to the north, through Columbus to Americus, circling around to Dawson and Cuthbert, ending at Eufaula, Ala. A spur ventures south to Bainbridge, Ga.

The company's primary customer base is agricultural — peanuts and animal feed — although it also transports ethanol to storage sites, including in Columbus. With 20 employees and 10 locomotives, Georgia Southwestern carries about 10,000 loads per year.

In comparison, Genesee & Wyoming, a publicly traded company (Ticker: GWR), is much larger. It operates 6,700 miles of owned or leased track and has rights to another 3,000 miles. The railroad operates in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Netherlands and Bolivia.

The Connecticut firm is on a growth tear. On Thursday, a day after the Georgia Southwestern deal was announced, Genesee & Wyoming said its $234 million purchase of Ohio Central Railroad has been completed. The Ohio line 64 locomotives, operating 445 miles of track.