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.

 


TVRM’s Historic Steam Locomotive #4501 Is Ready For Tennessee Valley Railfest

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) on Wednesday announced the return of its iconic Steam Locomotive 4501 to operation. TVRM has been restoring Locomotive 4501 over the past three  years and she will make her public debut at Tennessee Valley Railfest on Sept. 6 and 7.  The locomotive last ran in 1998 and has patiently waited for a complete overhaul.  ... (click for more)

Rock Out Labor Day And Beyond In Tennessee

 If there’s one place travelers can get a music smorgasbord, it’s Tennessee. In each corner of the state and areas in between, music rooted in bluegrass, rock, soul, country, and gospel can be heard from porches in small towns to concert stadiums in burgeoning cities. From the nation’s biggest Labor Day celebration in Knoxville to celebrating local and national talent in Nashville ... (click for more)

16-Year-Old Shot Near Emma Wheeler Homes

A 16-year-old was shot near Emma Wheeler Homes on Sunday night. At approximately 7:40 p.m., Chattanooga Police received a call of a person shot from a local hospital. Officers spoke to the victim, a 16-year-old black male, who was transported to a local hospital in a personal vehicle. The victim’s injury is minor and non-life threatening. Investigators spoke to the victim ... (click for more)

Helen Burns Sharp Asks Recovery Of Legal Fees In Successful Black Creek TIF Lawsuit

Helen Burns Sharp, citizen activist who sued to try to stop a $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and won, is seeking to have her legal expenses paid by the city and the developers. Ms. Sharp said in a court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka are $74,427 thus far. Chancellor Frank Brown ruled in favor of Ms. Sharp, saying the Sunshine ... (click for more)

Decimating The Chattanooga Public Library

Corinne Hill claims that the library is just undergoing a normal weeding process for eliminating books.  She has bragged that she's responsible for the elimination of over 100,000 books - with more to go. "Normal" weeding is not rampant throwing away.  Yes, books go to the Friends for their sale - where they get $2 for a $75 book and thousands wind up being recycled ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)