Chattanooga Railroad Series: Southern Railway Line Through The Lookout Mountain Tunnel

Monday, May 19, 2014 - by John Wilson

Southern Railway in 1905 announced it was carrying out a $4 million Chattanooga building program that included a new train station as well as a new line into town from Lookout Mountain.

The new Terminal Station was to be built on South Market Street near Main at the site of the old Stanton House hotel.

The line from Lookout was necessary because, due to increasing train traffic, the old line on a narrow strip around the base of the mountain was no longer adequate. Its single track was overcrowded with trains coming along the original route from Nashville as well as up from New Orleans and Birmingham.

Because there was no space for a parallel line at the base of the steep Lookout bluffs, it was necessary to build a long tunnel through the end of the mountain. Mexican laborers were brought in for the dangerous tunnel work on the project that stretched 3,537 feet in the mountainside.

Workers on the tunnel tapped into a spacious cave that had been inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years. The train tunnel had the effect of sealing off the original entrance to the cave.  Later, there was an attempt to drill down to the old cave from above, and it was then that Ruby Falls was discovered above the level of the sealed cave.

The new line branched off from the Nashville route near Wauhatchie Pike in Lookout Valley. It then proceeded to the Terminal Station using a string of concrete overpasses that extended from the valley to St. Elmo and then Alton Park.

The new line trestled over the old one near Cummings Highway, then it went across the highway on the first of the overpasses near where Wauhatchie Pike meets Cummings Highway..

It then went across the old Cummings family farm known as Cummings Bottom. A second concrete overpass was built across a dirt section of the old Federal Road that was built into the Indian Country in 1805. There are several more overpasses spanning dirt roads at Cummings Bottom.

The line trestles over Lookout Creek and then the old Nashville track before entering the tunnel below Cummings Highway behind the old Lockmiller's Motel.

It comes out near St. Elmo - still below Cummings Highway. There is a concrete overpass that spans Cummings Highway not far from the Mount Vernon Restaurant. In just a short distance, there is another overpass across St. Elmo Avenue. Then another one tops Tennessee Avenue.

There is an overpass above 37th Street, which follows the old Federal Road from Rossville. Another overpass is built above Alton Park Boulevard. The train then goes over the old TAG Railroad line and then over the extension that the Nashville line built to Alton Park.

It then follows an old Belt Line route into town on what has become a part of the Main Line at Chattanooga. It crosses Rossville Avenue and Main Street before reaching the rear of the Terminal Station.

The route now continues on along the Main Line by the National Cemetery and Warner Park along the route of the first train into Chattanooga - the Western and Atlantic.

The date 1907 is stamped into several of the concrete overpasses.

The tunnel's entrance and exit are in such remote locations on the mountainside that most residents  never see them. 

 

 


Family Makes Treasure Trove Of Early Chattanooga Photographs Available For Book; Stokes Collection Has Been Passed Down To Descendants

A treasure trove of Chattanooga photographs that have been passed down in the Stokes family for generations has now been assembled in an upcoming book. Chattanooga Around The Turn Of The Century: The Remarkable Stokes Collection will be published by Chattanoogan.com. Pre-orders are now being taken for the book, which includes over 700 photos on large-size pages. Publisher ... (click for more)

Audio Of City Council Meeting 10/1/14

How To Reform The City Industrial Development Board - And Response (3)

My aims is to bring to the public’s attention the need for procedural changes that, if implemented, would significantly improve the information available the public, to the City Council and to the City Industrial Development Board about the verifiable benefits and costs of tax incentive financing structures and to make the entire process transparent. The public, the City ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My October Garden

Hark! It is the first day of October and, as I make my monthly stroll through the garden, I find a growing numbers of leaves and acorns. Autumn leaves are beautiful while acorns are nuts, thus you will get the idea as we make our monthly awards: A PRETTY LEAF to Phil Hughes after the Minnesota Twins pitcher came within one inning of earning a $500,000 bonus this season. The deal ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Earns Senior-Night Soccer Victory

Honoring the team’s nine seniors was a focus of Tuesday night’s girls’ soccer match at Notre Dame, but it wasn’t the top priority for the Lady Irish. They knew that a win over visiting Signal Mountain would secure a first-place finish in District 7-AA, and their mission was to earn it. Notre Dame did just that, making Emma Higgins’ early goal stand for a ... (click for more)

Baylor and GPS Battle to 0-0 Tie

The Few. The Proud. The Baylor Girls Soccer Team. Playing with only one sub, an all-state basketball player turned goalkeeper and a disciplined defense, the Baylor girls soccer team battled host GPS to a scoreless tie Tuesday in a TSSAA D-II East/Middle Region match. GPS was the heavy favorite coming into the match with eight wins (now 8-1-2, 3-0-1), while Baylor (now ... (click for more)