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.



PHOTOS: Coca-Cola Bottling Breaks Ground On New Distribution Center

Chattanooga Coca-Cola Bottling celebrated its 115th year in opening a new distribution center on Shepherd Road (click for more)

Bradley County Commission Discusses SPCA Shelter, Budget, Service Weapons

Bradley County Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones told the commission Monday that when the Bradley County SPCA shelter reaches capacity, they legally cannot take any additional animals.   Because of this, she said a waiting list would open every time the shelter was full. However, she said, typically, the wait was no longer than a week.  During the Monday afternoon ... (click for more)

Vote To Retain Supreme Court Justices

On Aug. 7 or by voting early by Aug. 2, voters will choose to "retain" or "replace" Tennessee Supreme Court Justices Connie Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade. If retained, they will serve for another eight years.  The retention election is a way to retain judges who make decisions based on the law and facts -or remove judges who are incompetent. Tennessee's Judicial Performance ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Judge Philyaw Is The Best

Tomorrow morning there will be a special gathering at the Hamilton County Juvenile Court that will prove to our community that we have perhaps the most innovative juvenile judge in America. Shortly after Rob Philyaw was hand-picked by our Hamilton County Commissioners to fill the remainder of Suzanne Bailey’s term 15 months ago, he found that truancy was a big problem in our schools. ... (click for more)

Chattanooga FC To Host NPSL National Semifinals Saturday

After two straight weekends of back-to-back playoff victories, winning both the Southeastern and South Region championships, Chattanooga FC is in the NPSL National Playoffs powered by Mitre. The club received news today that its #2 ranking in the league means that the NPSL National Semifinal match will be hosted this Saturday in Finley Stadium. "We are extremely pleased to be ... (click for more)

Local Swimmers Excel At Georgia, Tennessee State Meets

Several Chattanooga-area swimmers had successful weekends in various meets this past weekend. The McCallie/GPS Aquatics team finished sixth out of 50 teams at the Southeastern Swimming Championship in Knoxville while swimmers from Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold also had memorable performances at the Georgia State Meet, also held last weekend. The McCallie/GPS team recorded ... (click for more)