Chattanooga Railroad Series: Chattanooga Traction Company (Section Along Manufacturers Road)

Monday, January 13, 2014 - by John Wilson

(Chattanooga in the 1890s had 10 railway outlets with 66 passenger trains arriving and departing daily. The town was criss-crossed with train tracks, including not only the main lines but the connecting Belt Line. It's not so often today that you get a glimpse of a train in Chattanooga, but many of the old tracks remain. Many Railroad Crossing signs and switches are still in place, but these days receive little or no use).

Some of the tracks put in place in 1913 by the energetic railroad man Charles E. James leading from his Signal Mountain Hotel down to Chattanooga are still in place and some of those are still in regular use.

James founded the Chattanooga Traction Company to provide rail service to Signal Mountain, but he also had plans for a branch line up through Red Bank and points north.

The line was initially on the Walnut Street Bridge. When the more sturdy Market Street Bridge was opened in 1917, the tracks were shifted there.

The line led from the bridge straight west crossing Manufacturers Road near the American Lava plant (current Business Development Center) and on behind the Signal Knitting Mill (current antique mall and Foodworks restaurant). 

It went near Peerless Street and Houser Street, where a large car barn (or engine house) was constructed. The track went by several manufacturing facilities, including the Tennessee Paper Mills (now Rock-Tenn).

Some spur lines were built to service several industries across Manufacturers Road.

The Chattanooga Traction line went along the slope of Stringer's Ridge as it crossed near where Riverside Road joins Whitehall Road. Then it veered north toward Signal as it approached Pineville Road.

There was a Riverside Station along the curve where Riverside Road meets Manufacturers Road. Most of the Chattanooga Traction stations were torn down long ago, though the Divine station still stands beside the track at Power Corporation Drive just after it goes under the U.S. 27 freeway. It was named for early streetcar and railroad man Sam Divine.

The brick engine house was visible for many years from the freeway near the Manufacturers Road exit, but it was finally torn down.

The track follows Pineville Road before it splits at West Elmwood Drive - with one line continuing toward Signal Mountain and the other heading for Red Bank. The Valley Junction station once stood at the split. 

Passenger service was long ago discontinued on the Chattanooga Traction line, but some trains can still be seen in the vicinity of Manufacturers Road hauling freight - as well as in the section leading to Signal Mountain Cement and up through Red Bank.

 


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