Chartered in 1884 and headquartered in Americus, the narrow-gauge AP&L reached Richland in 1885 and Lumpkin in 1886. Shortly after getting a charter amendment in December 1886, it was extended on the west side to Louvale, opening to that small community in the spring of 1887. A much longer extension of 60 miles soon took the railroad to Abbeville, on the Ocmulgee River. This extension opened in November 1887.
In 1887 the railroad had four locomotives and 69 cars of various types, according to Poors 1888 Manual.
The company also acquired four or five steamboats upon reaching Abbeville. This provided a company-owned connection to the coast by way of the Ocmulgee and Altamaha rivers.
In December 1888, the AP&L changed its name to the Savannah, Americus & Montgomery Railway. An all-rail connection to Savannah was made in 1890.