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

Friday, March 14, 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).

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.

 


New Programs During Holidays Under The Peaks At The Tennessee Aquarium

Just in time for the holidays when extended families are looking for meaningful ways to connect with each other, the Tennessee Aquarium’s animal experts have a cornucopia of new programs to share with guests. This extra helping of immersive programs helps visitors get closer to tons of turtles, meet macaws, feed birds and discover other fascinating facts about many more creatures. ... (click for more)

Ruby Falls Introduces New Holiday Event, Christmas Underground

Ruby Falls introduces its new holiday event, Christmas Underground, opening Dec. 1.  Adventurers can take this special passageway to a normally unseen part of the cave through Dec. 23, every  Monday  through  Friday, from 3-8 p.m.  and Saturdays and Sundays,  noon to 8 p.m.    Experience this magical place where miners and elves play ... (click for more)

Randall Lockhart Remains In Critical Condition After Fire That Took The Life Of His Wife, Candy

The man rescued by firefighters from Wednesday’s fatal fire at 220 Houser St. remains in critical condition today in the burn unit at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center . He has been identified as Randall Lockhart, 41. His wife, Candy, succumbed to her severe injuries a few hours after she was pulled out of the burning house. The couple’s three children escaped ... (click for more)

Woman Assaulted, Man Shot In Chamberlain Avenue Home Invasion

A woman was assaulted and a man shot in a home invasion on Chamberlain Avenue early Friday morning. At approximately 4:43 a.m., the Chattanooga Police Department responded to 2708 North Chamberlain Ave. for a home invasion/shooting.   Officers discovered that a black male forced entry into the residence and assaulted the first victim,Tequla Nicole Watkins, 28. ... (click for more)

Policeman: Modern Day "Boogie Man"

As a child I was under the impression that a ghastly, grotesque creature had taken up residence in my bedroom closet, the proverbial “Boogie Man” I suppose.  This is not an uncommon thing among children and most likely to some fault of my own as I subjected myself to some pretty iconic 1980’s horror flicks. There were other kids in the neighborhood that not only claimed to ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A ‘Black Friday’ Poem

On this, “Black Friday,” when frantic shopping and crowded aisles cause some nerves to wear thin, please allow me to share a poem a friend sent me not long ago called “Shoes in Church.” Perhaps it will be fitting: SHOES IN CHURCH I showered and shaved. I adjusted my tie. I got there and sat In a pew just in time. Bowing my head in prayer, as I closed my eyes. I saw ... (click for more)