Chattanooga Railroad Series: Tunnel Hill Depot And Tunnel

Thursday, July 10, 2014

One of the major obstacles to constructing a railroad from Atlanta to Chattanooga was the mountainous section north of Dalton, Ga.

The route finally selected involved building a tunnel 1,477 feet through the base of Chetoogeta Mountain.

Workers armed only with rudimentary tools worked 24-hour shifts digging on both sides. At some points in the mountain the workers encountered solid rock. Where there was not rock the sides and top were fashioned of brick.

The work of constructing a tunnel for the Western and Atlantic Railroad was finally completed after 22 months of toil. The first train went through the tunnel on May 9, 1850.

Just 12 years later, the Andrews Raiders drove The General through the tunnel, though they would run out of fuel just past Ringgold.

This narrow tunnel served until 1929 when a larger parallel tunnel was built. The larger locomotives had been having trouble getting through the tunnel, and there are still marks where some got stuck.

The historic tunnel lay neglected for many years, and damaging water marred some of the brick. An historic group eventually made plans to rescue the tunnel and get it in shape for tours. This was accomplished by 2000 - in time for the tunnel's 150th anniversary.

The preservation group also established a museum across from the old Tunnel Hill Depot that is near the tunnel. It includes many items detailing railroad and Civil War history.

The group also now owns the historic Clisby Austin House and 85 acres nearby. It was deeded to the group by businessman Kenneth Holcomb, who restored it and fitted it with period pieces. It includes several original outbuildings and a general store.

The two-story brick mansion was built in 1848. Its builder was a Union sympathizer during the Civil War so he did not feel it safe to return. The house served as a hospital for soldiers brought from the Battle of Chickamauga. Confederate General John Bell Hood was sent to the house to recuperate after losing a leg. He carried it with him so it could be buried with him in case he died. Hood survived, and the leg was buried near the house. It is marked by its own tombstone.  General William Sherman stayed at the Clisby Austin House on his March to the Sea.

The 1850 depot still survives, and there are plans to restore it. The depot was once surrounded by grain silos, but they have been removed.

Civil War re-enactments are held in fields near the mansion and the tunnel.

The museum center, Clisby Austin House and the tunnel are open for guided tours. Guests are taken via golf cart to the mansion, the general store and the tunnel after first visiting the museum and ticket office.




Get Emailed Headlines From Chattanoogan.com; Like Us On Facebook, Twitter For Instant News

We send out headlines each day of the latest Chattanooga news.  Our news headlines have links that take you to the stories with a click. We also send out special emails if there is a highly significant local news story breaking so you will be aware of it quickly. To be added to the email headline list, just email us at news@chattanoogan.com In addition, like us ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ADKINS, KENNETH WAYNE  REFUSED CHATTANOOGA, 37416  Age at Arrest: 42 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County FAILURE TO COMPLY --- ANDREWS, JEFFREY NATHAN  209 ISBELL ROAD CHATTANOOGA, 37419  Age at Arrest: 42 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga VIOLATION OF PROBATION ... (click for more)

Vote No On The Rezoning For A New Landfill In Harrison - And Response (3)

County Commissioners, please consider the following facts when voting on the rezoning request for a new privately-owned C&D landfill in Harrison.  Use of this property for a landfill has been rejected by the county three times in the past (1971, 1984 and 2007).  In 1971 and 2007 the County Commissioners unanimously rejected the proposal.  In 1984 the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘Mom Don’t Have…I Do’

It’s hard to know what goes through the mind of a five-year-old, particularly one who watches her mom go in and out of jail due to drug addiction. But little Sunshine Oelfke is obviously being raised right by her grandmother because the other morning, the five-year-old came into the kitchen before leaving for kindergarten with a baggie full of coins from her piggy bank. “I asked ... (click for more)

Lady Canes Knocked To State Volleyball Loser's Bracket By Portland

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – East Hamilton, a relative green horn when it comes to volleyball’s biggest stage, saved its best effort of the season for Tuesday’s opening match of the 2017 state tournament against Sullivan South. Facing a five-time and defending champion from Kingsport, Tennessee, East Hamilton notched an impressive 3-0 sweep by scores of 25-22, 25-14 and 25-17. ... (click for more)

Baylor Beats Father Ryan Again To Advance At State

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The third time was not the charm for Father Ryan here at MTSU’s Murphy Center Tuesday afternoon. Facing the Baylor Lady Red Raiders in the opening round of the TSSAA D-II Class AA state volleyball tournament, the defending state runner-up Baylor squad defeated their Nashville rivals in three straight sets, winning by scores of 25-19, 25-12 and 25-23. ... (click for more)