Chattanooga Railroad Series - Belt Line (10th Street to the National Cemetery)

Friday, March 14, 2014 - by John Wilson

Passenger trains once ran on a route from downtown Chattanooga from the vicinity of East 11th Street in several different directions, including East Chattanooga, Ridgedale, East Lake and St. Elmo.

The Belt Line started out in the mid-1880s as a freight service, servicing factories and warehouses away from the main lines.

Soon Charles E. James saw an opportunity for adding passenger service. For a few years, it turned out to be a more prosperous venture than the freight operation.

James wanted to build a connection to downtown from his Belt Line tracks near National Cemetery by a route near 11th Street. One obstacle was a hill where the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad had placed its tracks leading from across the current UTC campus to near King and Market streets and on to the Union Depot.

James set a group of workmen forging a tunnel under the East Tennessee line. When it was finished in 1887, he was ready to build a passenger station on property at Newby Street by 10th Street. This original station was soon improved so that several trains could be served. The last version of the Newby Street Depot still stands at 10th and Newby. The two-story brick building is the west end of the Senior Neighbors building. A section to the east was added later.

A few years later, James extended the Belt Line tracks a little closer to town to a new depot on Georgia Avenue. That site is now occupied by the Federal Building. The track crossed 10th Street just east of the Newby Street Depot and went behind the later Davenport Hosiery Mill that fronted on Ninth Street.

Some of the tracks are still in place on the route that once carried dozens of passengers each day.

The route went between 10th and 11th, going behind some old brick buildings that have long fronted on 11th across from the old Fleetwood Coffee Company. It ran across what was the Davenport Hosiery Mill and then a newspaper (first the Chattanooga News-Free Press, then the Chattanooga Times Free Press).

The right of way is still in place where the line headed for the opening under the East Tennessee line.

Tracks are still in place as well as a Railroad Crossing sign at the Baldwin Street crossing. There are more tracks and crossing signs at Palmetto, where the line begins the turn under the 11th Street Bridge.

There's an odd-shaped old building still standing just west of the bridge and the old Mills and Lupton Supply is on the other side. A dilapidated old loading dock is next to the tracks at the old supply business.

Near the bridge the secluded site has become a homeless cafeteria with styrofoam takeout boxes piled high.

The track next approached the Onion Bottom section where there was a city dump and later city public works yards. There are tracks and a crossing sign at a quaint old service station at Park Avenue. Another crossing sign is at Fairview Avenue where the street is now gated off, but the tracks have been taken up here.

The Belt Line then crossed where the Western and Atlantic tracks began curving toward the Union Depot.

They paralleled Central Avenue until curving to a crossing of Central at the current T.T. Wilson company.

The Belt Line then went along the south boundary of the National Cemetery behind 13th Street. The old right of way is still in view. The line curved near an old mattress factory and a casket factory to join another Belt Line route that goes by Holtzclaw Avenue.  

The Belt Line passenger service may have prospered for a few years, but competition from the new electric streetcars soon meant the end of the line.

However, freight continued to be hauled along this line as late as the late 1980s when the Chattanooga News Free Press got shipments of newsprint by rail.



Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ADKINS, WINCHEL LEBRON  4525 PICKENPAUGH STREET CHATTANOOGA, 37416  Age at Arrest: 37 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County DOMESTIC ASSAULT --- AINSCOUGH, TINA MARIE  1830 MILLARD ROAD SODDY DAISY, 37379  Age at Arrest: 49 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County AGGRAVATED ... (click for more)

Upcoming City Council Agenda For Tuesday

Here is the upcoming City Council agenda for Tuesday: I. Call to Order. II. Pledge of Allegiance/Invocation (Vice-Chairman Freeman). III. Minute Approval. IV. Special Presentation. V. Ordinances – Final Reading: ECONOMIC AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT a. An ordinance amending Chattanooga City Code, Part II, Chapter 11, by the addition of a new Article ... (click for more)

Black History Month Hero - Theodore McGraw (Kidd) AKA "Pongee"

I grew up in "Old St. Elmo" on 39th Street behind the Incline. As a child I remember my older brother "Pongee" as being my hero. This month of February being Black History Month, I cannot think of a better person to be honored than my late older brother, Theodore McGraw (Kidd) aka "Pongee" of St. Elmo (Gamble Town). Growing up without my father, Theodore was always available ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: About Lions & Elephants

A family of lions is called a ‘pride’ and rightfully so. The boss of the pride is indeed the ‘King of the Jungle’ and he makes all the big decisions, like when they go hunting, who is going to be ‘boyfriend-girlfriend’ and is quick to settle any family quarrels. But, as with all in nature, there comes a day when the King gets too old to rule. His teeth are loose, his gait hampered ... (click for more)

Near-Perfect Red Bank Leads Region 2-A/AA Wrestling

High school wrestling coaches are always looking for perfection and Red Bank's Shane Turner almost got it Friday night in the opening day of the Region 2-A/AA tournament at Hixson Middle School. The Lions advanced all 14 of their wrestlers to Saturday morning's championship semifinal round and lead the 14-team field with 52 points. Hixson advanced 10 to the semis and hold ... (click for more)

Baylor Has Six, No.1 Seeds For D-II Region Wrestling Meet

Led by three-time state champions Michael Murphy (145) and Ryan Parker (195), Baylor has six No.1 seeds for today’s TSSAA D-II East/Middle Region individual wrestling tournament at Baylor. McCallie has four top seeds, while MBA has three and BGA has one. Today’s Region: The tournament starts at 10 a.m. in Duke Arena with the top four in each weight class advancing to next ... (click for more)