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

The first train entered the grand Terminal Station on Dec. 1, 1909. The 23-acre site had been cleared in early 1906.

 

 

 


Corker Condemns North Korean Missile Launch

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned North Korea’s illicit missile launch and called for a more proactive U.S. approach to deal with the growing North Korean nuclear threat. The Senate is expected to debate and pass the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (Gardner-Menendez) this week.     ... (click for more)

TBI Case Leads To Charges For Woman In Death Of Whitwell Boy

A joint investigation by special agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Whitwell Police Department has resulted in charges for a Whitwell woman in connection to the death of her boyfriend’s son. At the request of 12 th  District Attorney J. Michael Taylor, TBI apecial agents began investigating the death of six-year-old Lucas Michael Dillon on March 29, ... (click for more)

The City Failed To Watch The Chattanooga History Museum Dollars

The tell tale signs of the History Museum's folly have been evident for years. When I was a former member of City Council I interviewed Dr. Daryl Black, Ph.D. to determine if I should argue for or against the annual funding of his organization. His interview, the multi-year history of administrative non-performance (despite consistent repetitive funding), and a review of the organizational ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Vote ‘No’ On Vouchers

I fully believe that public education in Hamilton County is the single most important opportunity that challenges us today. Over the weekend the new website for the ‘Chattanooga 2.0’ initiative went up and every parent who has a child in our public system should make it “required reading.” You can find it at www.chatt2.org. Please sign up for updates because a lot of us need to ... (click for more)

Red Bank Beats Pigeon Forge For A-AA State Duals Title

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – The Red Bank Lions finally reached the mountain top as far as high school wrestling is concerned. The Lions had finished second to Bradley in the State Duals back in 1995 and it had been 16 years since the Lions had been involved, but they put an exclamation point on a strong dual-meet season by winning the Class A-AA title here at Williamson County Agricultural ... (click for more)

Bradley Whips Soddy Daisy For AAA State Duals Title

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – The Bradley Bears have won more state duals titles than anyone and they added another one after going four years without being in the championship round. It’s been a remarkable season for the Bears, who beat region-rival Soddy Daisy by a 52-21 margin for their latest state title. Saturday night’s   match was never really close as the Bears had a ... (click for more)