Chattanooga Railroad Series: The Belt Line (Tannery Flats)

Monday, February 10, 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).

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.

 

 


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report - And Mug Shots

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ANGLE, NIKIA MARIE 3125 BENNETT RD EAST RIDGE, 37421 23 Hamilton County THEFT OF PROPERTY ASHLEY, LAURA ANN 480 CEDAR STREET APT 11 DUNLAP, 37327 36 Red Bank POSSESSION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA BROGDON, KEVIN LEON 1504 JOHN ROSS ROAD EAST RIDGE, 37412 24 East Ridge FILING FALSE ... (click for more)

Fort Oglethorpe Arrest Report For Oct. 17-23

Here is the Fort Oglethorpe arrest report for Oct. 17-23: Jorge Zambrano Gonzalez, 37, of 1216 Helena Drive #8, Hixson was arrested October 16 on charges of driving while unlicensed and crossing median. Pedro Sepulveda, 42, of 854 Davis Street, Apt. E3, Gainsville, GA was arrested October 16 on charges of driving while license suspended and crossing median. Jonathan ... (click for more)

Not Everything Has Been Done To Save Hutcheson

I am a resident of Walker County and I have a personal belief that a hospital ranks equal to other basic services a community should offer (like police, fire, emergency services, school systems, government, etc.). I am not privy to all the management and financial conundrums concerning the feasibility of maintaining and growing Hutcheson, and as a private citizen I don’t believe ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Veterinarian’s Horse Sense

I suspect you’ve heard by now that a doctor in New York City, who volunteers with “Doctors Without Borders,” just got back from the African nation of Guinea on October 17 – last Friday – and on Thursday tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus. Luckily, he came in actual contact with only a few people but he reportedly rode a subway, took a taxi, went on a three-mile run and ... (click for more)

Freeman-Led Owls Whip Cleveland, 30-14, To Win 5-AAA Title

Junior Rashun Freeman's stunning versatility stole the show Friday night. Freeman caught a touchdown pass, returned a punt for a second score and had one of three Ooltewah interceptions as the fourth-ranked Owls whipped Cleveland, 30-14, to win the District 5-AAA championship in front of a near-capacity crowd at James N. Monroe Stadium. “I practice hard and that shows ... (click for more)

Baylor Beats Father Ryan For D-II State Volleyball Title

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Friday was a magical day for the Baylor Lady Red Raider volleyball team. Facing arch-rival Father Ryan for the fourth time this season, Baylor evened the score at 2-2, but the last time at Siegel High School was the sweetest as it came in the championship match of the D-II Class AA state tournament. Father Ryan had a huge group of students in its ... (click for more)