Chattanooga Railroad Series: The Broad Gauge Railroad

Thursday, February 06, 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).

It was once possible to step on a train in downtown Chattanooga and arrive at the top of scenic, historic Lookout Mountain beneath the majestic Lookout Inn. But it only lasted for a few short years.

The Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain Railway Company was organized in February of 1887. In June, the company advertised for 500 laborers to begin building the line.

The new railroad was more commonly known as the Broad Gauge to distinguish it from the Narrow Gauge that was built from the Point Hotel at the north end of the mountain beneath the future Point Park. The Narrow Gauge went in the direction of Sunset Rock to a station at Sunset Park. It was later extended to the Natural Bridge.

An elaborate hotel at the end of the Broad Gauge was begun in July 1889. This was on a peak above the site where Incline #2 built its upper station. The Lookout Inn was 365 feet long. It was four stories high with a 96-foot octagon-shaped tower and a smaller tower. The Lookout Inn opened in June 1890.

The Broad Gauge initially used depots on Newby Street and then Georgia Avenue. It followed the Belt Line on a route that ran under 11th Street and then near the National Cemetery before heading for Alton Park. At the site of the Acheson Foundry, it dropped off the Belt Line onto new track that went along the north side of the Forest Hills Cemetery.

After a short time, the Broad Gauge switched to use of the Union Station across from the Read House. From there it followed a section of the Belt Line near the river that curved east across South Broad Street to a connection with the new Broad Gauge line.

The Broad Gauge curved just in front of the Forest Hills gate and then headed south through St. Elmo along a line between what became Tennessee Avenue and St. Elmo Avenue. Part of the line at the south end was later put into use as Virgina Avenue. The line curved up toward the mountain at 55th Street at the section known as Mountain Junction.

It went above Alabama Avenue before crossing the Johnson Turnpike. The Broad Gauge then went past the first road up the mountain, the Whiteside Turnpike. A short distance past that, it went under Incline #2 (today's Incline). Just beyond that, it crossed on a high trestle above the first Incline that was built to the Point Hotel. Then it went across a smaller trestle above the old Federal Road that dated to 1803. Just above the trestle, the Federal Road veered to the right and continued just above the rail line. The road to the home of Robert Cravens (Lower Cravens Terrace) went straight up from the small trestle.

The line then headed past the future Ruby Falls before coming to a switchback deep in the woods. Not far from the switchback a Civilian Conservation Corps camp was set up for workers who built numerous trails and rock walls on the side of Lookout Mountain. It was called Camp Demaray. A section of the old Broad Gauge was put to use as a road leading to the historic Cravens House. Just past Cravens House, the road goes to the left and the original railbed resumes just below the historic Hardy house. Richard Hardy, a Chattanooga mayor and industrialist and his wife, Ethel Soper Hardy, lived there for many years. Ethel Soper Hardy helped found the Humane Educational Association. A ceramic cat was atop the house for many years. The charming home with its interesting outbuildings became the property of the National Park Service and was falling into ruins.

The Broad Gauge passed by several trickling streams from mountainside springs in its gradual ascent to the top of Lookout. It once again passed under the Incline Railway. It came out at the top of the later Lookout  Mountain Boulevard (Scenic Highway). A section of the highway at the top follows the old Broad Gauge route.

The Broad Gauge went by the Lookout Mountain House, whose original stone wall still stands at the top of the highway at the current Stonedge Condominiums. At Stonedge, the line entered through a narrow gap of rock. It then went on a trestle across a deep ravine. Some of the trestle piers can still be seen.

The Broad Gauge made a wide arc on its gradual ascent to the Lookout Inn. It went along the current East and West Road and behind the Cafe on the Corner and other current Lookout Mountain businesses. It went above the current Commons playground and then headed for the current Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church. At the current Lookout Mountain Elementary School it veered onto the section that today is known as the Cow Path trail. It came out just below the Incline station.

The Broad Gauge sometimes hauled as many as 650 passengers a day up the mountain. Some of the famous guests included the financier Jay Gould and the explorer Henry Stanley. However, both the Broad Gauge and the Lookout Inn soon ran into financial difficulty and were sold for far less than their original value.

The Lookout Inn was destroyed in a spectacular fire on Nov. 17, 1908. Several years earlier, the rails had been taken up on the Broad Gauge.

The line was later electrified and for many years there was streetcar service on Lookout Mountain. The "Surface Car Line" ran until Aug. 28, 1928, when it was supplanted by bus service. This trolley line followed much of the old Broad Gauge route except a short cut was put in between 45th and 46th streets in St. Elmo so the line no longer went down to Mountain Junction.

Much of the old Broad Gauge is now in use as a popular hiking and mountain biking trail up Lookout Mountain from St. Elmo. It is now known as the Guild Trail and the Hardy Trail. The trail was donated by Jack Steiner of Ruby Falls to the Lookout Mountain Land Trust.

 

 


 


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report - And Mug Shots

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: AKHTAB, MALACHI SHAHADA     102 WAYSIDE DR FORT OGLETHORPE, 30741     22     Hamilton County          FUGITIVE (ARREST FOR CRIME IN ANOTHER STATE) ASHLEY, SHAWN CHARLES     10 CRABTREE CIRCLE ROSSVILLE, 30741    ... (click for more)

Woman Described As Large-Scale Ice Meth Dealer Facing Charges In Chattanooga

A woman described as a large-scale ice methamphetamine dealer is facing federal charges. Hilda Trujillo-Rojas has been ordered to be detained pending the outcome of her case. Two men who were with her at the time of her arrest were also taken into custody. Authorities said during the week of March 24, law enforcement identified a cooperating source in the Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Use The Current Rail System Already In Place - And Response

Why spend $20 million or more on an unproven system to run from the Southside of Chattanooga when we already have the beginnings of a system?  The question apparently has surfaced of why the Choo Choo City doesn't have a rail line. We do have a rail line with the Tennessee Valley RR Museum and their hardware. And they already make runs from the Southside to close to Enterprise ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: UAW Voices In Detroit

Today we are going to eavesdrop on somewhat of an open conversation that was held far to the north after the United Auto Workers surprisingly dropped a legal challenge with the National Labor Relations Board in Chattanooga the first thing on Monday morning. The NLRB judge certified the VW workers’ February vote to turn away the UAW at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen manufacturing plant ... (click for more)

East Hamilton Beats McMinn, 10-4, For 5-AAA Tourney's Top Seed

East Hamilton put the finishing touches on the seedings for next week’s District 5-AAA baseball tournament at Ooltewah High with a 10-4 victory over McMinn County on Wednesday at Chattanooga State. The win gives the Hurricanes (19-13, 9-3) the No. 1 seed for the tournament, meaning Bradley Central (17-11, 9-3) will be the second seed. With East Hamilton’s win, Walker Valley got ... (click for more)

Taylor Hall's Late Night Basketball Call

It was the midnight call that could change her life. It was the Seattle Storm of the WNBA calling to invite soon-to-graduate UTC senior basketball player Taylor Hall to the Emerald City for a tryout and a possible spot with the pro team. “I have never been one to show a lot of emotion, so I was pretty calm when the call did come in, “said Hall. “But my roommate ... (click for more)