Chattanooga Railroad Series: Belt Line (Fort Cheatham)

Friday, March 21, 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).

Once the Belt Line Railroad reached Dixie Mercerizing at the top of Anderson Street, it veered straight south in the direction of the old Civil War Fort Cheatham.

The sturdy earthworks not far from the foot of Missionary Ridge was named in honor of a Tennessean, Major General Frank Cheatham.

The Belt Line was put through in the direction of East Lake just over three decades after the fierce Civil War fighting in that vicinity.

The line, which was initially designed for freight, went by a number of manufacturing facilities - or they were later constructed nearby to take advantage of the opportunity for shipping and receiving.

It went near the route of Buckley Street, which continued to Missionary Avenue (today's 23rd Street). It then went along Avenue J (8th Avenue).

The freeway that went across Missionary Ridge was built in the 1960s just north of the old fort. It  swallowed up a swath of the Belt Line.

There are signs of the Belt Line along an old right of way looking south from the Cotten Patch at Main Street.

At 17th Street, the Belt Line begins to come into view with now and then a glimpse of track. The old Southern Skein and Foundry Company (now Mitchell Industrial Tire) is a block away from the Belt Line, but vestiges of a spur that served it are still visible.

The line went by the old Thatcher Spinning Company that grew to become Standard Coosa Thatcher. Hulking remnants of the once stately brick plant now rise at several points just west of the Belt Line.

Just south of I-24 you can see one remaining section of Fort Cheatham in a small park at the rear of the East Lake Courts. The Belt Line went nearby, but it has been obscured until 28th Street, where there is the first of a series of Railroad Crossings. The only track at 28th Street is a length of curving spur into a nearby business.

But not far away the Belt Line track is intact and looks ready to accommodate a locomotive and several rail cars. The track is firmly in place at several intersections on the way to East Lake.

A manual track switch, long unused, still stands by the track. But it has been many a year since the switch was "thrown."

 


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