Chattanooga Railroad Series: The Belt Line (South Chattanooga)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - by John Wilson

Residents were startled recently to see an engine pulling several rail cars crossing South Broad Street.

It once was a common sight, but it doesn't happen very often now.

That train was traveling on a section of the Belt Line that was built well over a century ago. Much of its track is still intact and some of it is in use.

In South Chattanooga, the Belt Line went past the Wheland Foundry site near the river and then veered away from the river to a crossing of the main line coming in from Nashville.

It then entered a marshy section near Chattanooga Creek known on old maps as "No Man's Land." 

The Belt Line then went across Chattanooga Creek on a wooden trestle.

It crossed St. Elmo Avenue and South Broad Street at grade. This was at a time when there was little traffic on these streets and an occasional train was not felt to be too much of an intrusion.

Then it intersected with the streetcar line that went to St. Elmo at what is now Williams Street.

There was then a long isolated stretch before it crossed Alton Park Boulevard - also at grade. When it was built, there was no Alton Park Boulevard.

The Belt Line went straight a short distance in the direction of Missionary Ridge, then it veered north toward the National Cemetery. It went by the Lookout Place home of Capt. J.F. Shipp and then trestled Chattanooga Creek once again.

When a tunnel was built at the north end of Lookout Mountain in the early 1900s, this new Southern Railway route followed part of the old Belt Line section starting just above Alton Park Boulevard. The TAG line also followed this old route into town, veering off the Belt Line route just east of Alton Park Boulevard. This would become the main line through town.

There is a line still intact that veered off the main Belt Line track at St. Elmo Avenue toward the J.H. Allison packing plant. The rails split in the middle of the road. This spur went along Chattanooga Creek. The rails still remain, but the line is grown up in briers. 





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