Chattanooga Railroad Series: The TAG

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

(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).

A railroad that went from Gadsden, Ala., to Chattanooga was first known as the Chattanooga Southern Railway, but it is best known today as the TAG. Later owners changed the name from Chattanooga Southern to Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia Railway since it goes through all three states.

This was another of the creations of the restless Chattanoogan Charles E. James, who also was the creator of the Belt Line as well as the Chattanooga Traction Company.

A major challenge in building the 93-mile line was encountered at Pigeon Mountain, which branches off from Lookout Mountain at McLemore's Cove and heads toward LaFayette, Ga. A tunnel was constructed through Pigeon, giving the line the nickname of the Pigeon Mountain Route.

The line went through a beautiful, but sparsely settled, area. However, there were high hopes for the settlement at Kensington in Chattanooga Valley. James was the vice president of the Kensington Land Company. A spacious hotel was built on a hill at Kensington, but most of the development did not materialize.

Further south there were mining operations at Broncho, Ga., near the Pigeon Mountain tunnel.

The first train arrived in Chattanooga from Gadsden on May 23, 1891. Passenger service was at first provided by steam locomotives and wooden coaches. Later steel motors cars were placed into service. 

Trains left the Georgia Avenue station daily at 6:45 a.m., 9:15 a.m. and 6:03 p.m. for Kensington, with the price being 25 cents for a round-trip.  

When prominent businessman Z.C. Patten held a housewarming for his new columned mansion at Ashland Farm in Chattanooga Valley, he made use of the track that passed through the farm. Few people had automobiles at this time and it was four hours round trip by horse-drawn carriage. So he arranged for two special runs of the Chattanooga Southern. Three hundred guests came via train for the elaborate event on the night of May 7, 1906.    

The tracks entered St. Elmo just east of Tennessee Avenue, and a small depot was erected just north of the state line.

The tracks swerved straight east in the direction of Alton Park, which was showing great promise as an industrial center. The Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad and the Central of Georgia had built Alton Park extensions.

The line passed along Chattanooga Creek where it turns and goes under a bridge at the start of Burnt Mill Road. Here the track was just inches from passing cars.

It disappeared from view as it made the approach to Alton Park, re-emerging at a crossing of Central Avenue at the main industrial section of Alton Park.

James established his railroad shops at Alton Park, and most of the line's machinists, car workmen, firemen, conductors, engineers and brakemen lived there.

The line then headed straight north, while crossing Main Street just west of Central Avenue. It at first went near the current Central Avenue Viaduct and dipped down along the Belt Line tracks that went under 11th Street and on to a Chattanooga Southern depot that was built on Georgia Avenue. This was where the Federal Courthouse is now located.

The line soon abandoned the Georgia Avenue depot in favor of the Union Station. To reach this depot across from the Read House, just past Alton Park the line switched to the Belt Line tracks that went across Central Avenue and then across South Broad Street before joining the old tracks from Nashville.

The line used the Belt Line freight depot, which was on Newby Street near where City Hall was built.

Freight service continued for many years on the TAG after passenger service was halted. However, the tunnel through Pigeon Mountain was put out of service in 1984 and the tracks south from there were taken up.

When the Reichhold plant closed at Kensington several years ago, all operations ceased on the scenic TAG line except for some use of the rails in the industrial section of Alton Park.


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ADAMS, ALEXIS 7751 NAUTICAL WAY CHATTANOOGA, 37416 28 Hamilton County DRIVING ON REVOKED, SUSPENDED OR CANCELLED LICENSE BAILEY NELSON, NAKOMA JOY 6393 TELETHA LN RED BANK, 37415 18 Red Bank POSSESSION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA BROWN, ATTILAH DENISE 2402 LEANN CIRCLE CHATTANOOGA, 37406 ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ADAMS, JEROME DEAN 859 GLADES ROAD EATONTON, 31024 48 Chattanooga DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE DRIVERS TO EXERCISE DUE CARE OPEN CONTAINER LAW ALEXANDER, JOHNNY L 817 EAST 49TH ST CHATTANOOGA, 37410 46 Chattanooga DRIVING ON REVOKED, SUSPENDED OR CANCELLED LICENSE REGISTRATION, EXPIRED ... (click for more)

Please Don't Close The Piccadilly Cafeteria At Hamilton Place - And Response

Oh, no. The Piccadilly Cafeteria at Hamilton Place is closing.  Its last day is Christmas Eve.  I will miss the great food they have there but most of all I will miss their servers, cashiers and waitresses.  They are all so friendly and accommodating.  They make it like it’s a home-style restaurant. I sure wish there was some way that Hamilton Place and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: 10 Tasks For This Week

In 1993 a 95-year-old man named William Snell created a list called “Life’s Little Instructions.” His list has swirled around in the Internet ever since and it is, indeed, a delightful checklist to keep us focused in the right direction. Curiously, when I read over it this past weekend, it dawned on me that if each of us would try to accomplish just 10 items on Mr. Snell’s list ... (click for more)

Vol Seniors Have Final Practice At Neyland Stadium

KNOXVILLE, Tenn .  – Tennessee football coach Butch Jones had a holiday version of "Sudden Change" for the bowl-bound Vols on Sunday afternoon. The Vols practiced in Neyland Stadium, providing a big-time atmosphere for the final full day of on-campus preparation for the TaxSlayer Bowl before breaking for Christmas. "Obviously it's very special any time you can come ... (click for more)

Hawks Defeat Riverdale, 55-43, For Rhea Title

EVENSVILLE, Tenn. – Hamilton Heights had a chance to win the boys and girls title in the Rhea County Holiday Hoops tournament Saturday night. The Hawks delivered. The Lady Hawks came up short. Once-beaten Hamilton Heights, getting pivotal back-to-back 3-pointers by Silas Adheke and Joan Duran in the final two minutes and sterling efforts by Ezekiel Balogun and Abdulhakim ... (click for more)