Chattanooga Railroad Series: The Belt Line (Tannery Flats)

Monday, February 10, 2014 - by John Wilson

With Chattanooga getting service from five railroad lines by the early 1880s, several investors began studying the idea of an inter-urban railroad line that would carry freight between the main railroads and perhaps haul some passengers as well.

As was usually the case, the enterprising Charles E. James was ahead of the pack. He launched plans for the Chattanooga Union Railway Company in 1883 and had workmen starting to build it by April of the following year.

By early 1885, the city was almost circled by the new venture that was better known as the Belt Line. The only obstacle stopping James from making a complete loop on the 17-mile route was the steep Bluff View section rising up near the Ross's Landing wharf. James then carried out several extensions to areas that were under development or to areas that he speculated were about to be developed and were fertile ground.

Initially, the Belt Line was in use for hauling freight. But just before the Boom days of the late 1880s, passenger service was added to the Belt Line. Special excursions hauled potential land buyers to new suburbs like Highland Park.

The Belt Line at first flourished, but it could not keep up with new competition from the electric streetcar, which had more direct routes and more frequent service. The Belt Line was sold at auction in 1894 and it became the property of the Southern Railway.

Quite a bit of the Belt Line is still intact today. And there is a limited amount of freight service on some of its track. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum also sometimes makes use of Belt Line track for its excursions.

One of the earliest sections of the Belt Line focused on the manufacturing district known as "Tannery Flats" on the back side of Cameron Hill.

The line at that time went as far as the Loomis and Hart furniture plant, which is not far from today's Tennessee Aquarium.

That branch of the Belt Line stayed close to the river before veering straight east toward the Nashville main line near Chestnut Street. This line was just south of Main Street.

Another branch ran closer to the foot of Cameron Hill through the heart of the Tannery Flats industries. It headed in the direction of St. Elmo toward the U.S. Pipe plant.

There is no longer any Belt Line track in the vicinity of Ross's Landing. It can first be picked up at a crossing on Riverfront Parkway just south of Main Street. There are still large crossing arms in place, but the track has been taken up on either side.

However, just a short distance away, the track remains in place that headed to the Ross-Mehan plant (now Eureka Foundry). It goes under the freeway and then curves into the old foundry. But the track was taken up at the site of the parking lot for Finley Stadium.

Another section of the Belt Line curves from under the freeway near Eureka Foundry and goes by the state vehicle inspection station. It then crosses Riverfront Parkway before heading for an industrial area. It goes through the property of Siskin Steel and PSC Metals.

A former Union Pacific rail car rests along the track in this section.

The freeway from Nashville was built over the Belt Line track that heads for U.S. Pipe and on to the Wheland Foundry site.

At the entrance to Siskin Steel and PSC Metals by Riverfront Parkway, the section of the Belt Line that went closer to the river juts off into the Alstom (formerly Combustion Engineering) property.


 


TBI Charges Morgan County Woman With Shooting Her Husband

Special Agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have arrested a Morgan County woman accused of shooting her husband on Friday . At the request of 9 th District Attorney General Russell Johnson, TBI Special Agents began investigating the incident, which occurred shortly after 5 p.m. at the family’s home on Morgan County Highway in Sunbright. There, authorities ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ADKINS, ERIC WADE  8331 MIDDLE VALLEY ROAD HIXSON, 37343  Age at Arrest: 34 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County Booked for Previous Charges or Other Reason(s) ALFORD, JEFFERY LABRON  1549 MTN VIEW COURT CHATTANOOGA, 37409  Age at Arrest: 35 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Could The Marriage Decision Spark A New Independence Day?

I confess that this year I am having a hard time with the idea of celebrating the 4th of July Independence Day. It is not because I am not thankful to God for what was done on that day, what it represents, and the blessings I’ve experienced that flow from it. On the other hand, I want to think that maybe this year’s celebration will mark a period in our history in which a new movement ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Fourth Of July, 2015

As one who is about good and fed up with being “socially correct” so less than 10 percent of us can dictate how the other 90 percent of us ought to think, I am going to pause today in order to share a wonderfully fun email that has been around for a while. It is aptly called, “You Could Have Heard A Pin Drop.” Before I do, I got a sweet note the other day from my dear friend ... (click for more)

Weather Clears. Lookouts Drop Double-Header To Barons Friday

The Chattanooga Lookouts (44-31) dropped both game one, 3-1, and game two, 6-1, of tonight's doubleheader against the Birmingham Barons (38-38) in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,371.  This was the largest crowd of the year for Chattanooga and their first sell out of 2015. The Barons improved to 6-11 overall and 4-2 on the road against the Lookouts. Birmingham pulled even ... (click for more)

TSWA Announces All-State Softball Teams

 The Tennessee Sports Writers Association has announced its all-state high school softball teams for 2015. Local selections include: AAA - Kayla Boseman (Fr), Ooltewah and Hallie Davis (Sr), Walker Valley; AA - Kaili Crawley (Fr) of Central; A - McKenna Morgan (Jr), Sale Creek; and, Division II-AA - Lauren Lewis (Sr), Kayla Hughes (Sr) and Cheyenne Lindsey (Fr) of Baylor.  ... (click for more)