Chattanooga Railroad Series: Chattanooga Traction Company (Signal Mountain Line)

Thursday, January 16, 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).

It was once possible to ride on a train from downtown Chattanooga to the top of Signal Mountain at the beautiful Signal Mountain Hotel.

Much of the route is still there - at least to the foot of the mountain.

The old Chattanooga Traction Company began hauling passengers in 1913 to the vast property that owner Charles E. James had acquired on Signal. It hauled as many as 575,000 passengers a year, but the advent of the auto sent those numbers spiraling downward. The passenger service was discontinued in 1934, though freight service continued.

The Chattanooga Traction Company operation from North Chattanooga split off at Valley Junction with one line heading left for Signal Mountain and the other going right up through Red Bank.

The Valley Junction Depot was at Pineville Road and West Elmwood Drive.

From there the passenger on to Signal Mountain was in for a treat - a train ride through some of the most splendid scenery in the beautiful Chattanooga area.

The track followed along Pineville Road before crossing it and going closer to the Tennessee River. One spur went down to a valley by the river across from Williams Island. There are mountains in all directions - including Lookout to the south, Raccoon to the west and Waldens Ridge to the north.

The track went through the old Samuel Williams farm before reaching the foot of the mountain and beginning the steep ascent. Today there is a roadway in place up the mountain instead of a train track. The track veers west before ending at the Signal Mountain Cement Plant.

Along the way it goes past the Baylor School campus, where it is directly adjacent to the football stadium and in front of the guard shack.

It passes in front of Walmart. Across Signal Mountain Road is Komatsu.

The track goes past the Signal Hills residential section before reaching the turn for the cement plant.

The owner of Shuford's Barbeque nearby said these days he hears the train rumble by sometimes, but not nearly so often as when he took over the business in the mid-1980s.


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