By Russell Tedder
Images from the collection of Don Hensley
All true Southerners understand that the following will be tempting fare. In the process of coming to grips with all the affiliated companies that should be included in the GS&F RR Historical Society, an obscure road that should at least be mentioned in passing is the Gainesville and Gulf Railway Company, often humorously called “Grits and Gravy.”
The earliest predecessor of the Gainesville and Gulf was the Gainesville, Rocky Point and Micanopy Railway which was chartered in 1884. However, it was not until ten years later that the first construction was completed. The 16-mile segment between Gainesville, Fla., and Micanopy, Fla., was opened for service in 1894. The company was authorized to issue $300,000 of capital stock, but only $54,500 had been subscribed at the time of this construction. There were also $38,000 of eight per cent, three-year, gold bonds outstanding and about $10,000 in bills payable. The total cost of the road was estimated at $100,000.
In reorganization on July 24, 1895, the name of the company was changed to Gainesville and Gulf Railway Company which was chartered on June 22, 1895. The new company was authorized to increase capital stock to $1,000,000. It also received a land grant of alternate sections along the right-of-way, plus an extra ten thousand acres per mile from the state. The projected route was from Gainesville to Tampa Bay or the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1899 the line was extended to Fairfield, Fla., 12 miles south of Micanopy, and to Sampson City, Fla., 20 miles north of Gainesville, for a total distance of 48 miles. At Sampson City the G&G connected with the GS&F which had been acquired by Southern Railway in 1895. The G&G was a standard gauge road laid with 35 and 60-pound rail. Rolling stock consisted of three Baldwin 4-6-0s, Nos. 60, 70 and 71, and 17 cars.
The Gainesville and Gulf ran a deficit every fiscal year between 1895 and 1900, with the exception of 1897 when it had a surplus of $9,194. The company lost no money during the year ending in 1896 in which there was a deficit of $1,632 after $3,500 was paid out in dividends.
Notwithstanding its nickname of “Grits and Gravy,” the G&G was formally advertised as “The Fruit and Vegetable Route of Florida.”
In 1898 the Georgia Southern & Florida made an investment in certain stock and the total $150,000 principal amount of outstanding bonds of the Gainesville and Gulf. The road was sold in 1907 to the F. J. Lisman Company which had organized the Tampa and Jacksonville Railway on June 6, 1906. On February 25, 1907 the G&G and T&J were consolidated by joint agreement with the new organization taking the name of the Tampa and Jacksonville Railway. The new company issued bonds, certain of which were reserved to redeem the Gainesville and Gulf bonds owned by the GS&F.
Although the T&J was proposed to extend between its two namesake cities, the road’s only extension was an additional eight miles from Fairfield to Emathla, Fla., resulting in a total length of 56 miles. It continued to bill itself as “The Fruit and Vegetable Route of Florida.” Produce from the area south of Gainesville and phosphate rock and fuller’s earth from the Emathla area were the chief products hauled by the road which served primarily as a feeder line for the GS&F at Sampson City. Besides one daily except Sunday round trip over the entire line both the G&G and the T&J operated double daily trains between Gainesville and Sampson City. Schedules were coordinated with GS&F trains between Sampson City, Valdosta and Macon with connections to and from Atlanta via the Central of Georgia.
Tampa & Jacksonville #58 photographed at the Southern Iron & Equipment Company’s shops in Atlanta.
The public convenience of the G&G and T&J was demonstrated as the road helped to facilitate intercollegiate romance between female students at the Florida State College for Women (now Florida State University) at Tallahassee, Fla., and the all male University of Florida at Gainesville. The enthusiastic students rode the T&J from Gainesville to Sampson City, the GS&F from Sampson City to Lake City and the Seaboard Air Line from Lake City to Tallahassee or vice versa.