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.



Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Nomination Of Rex Tillerson To Be Secretary Of State With Corker Backing

Senator Bob Corker on Monday joined a majority of committee members in  voting to favorably report the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State to the full Senate for consideration.   “I personally have no doubt that Rex Tillerson is well - qualified,” said Senator Corker. “He's managed the world's eighth largest company by revenue with over 75,000 ... (click for more)

Corker And Alexander Vote To Confirm Mike Pompeo As Director Of CIA

Senator Bob Corker on Monday voted in favor of Congressman Mike Pompeo to serve as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.   He said, “Director Pompeo brings the knowledge and military experience needed to help address the emerging threats at home and abroad. He is a tireless advocate for the intelligence community, and I look forward to his leadership at ... (click for more)

Proud Of Chattanooga And The Women's March - And Response (2)

I was very happy to participate in the Women’s March on Chattanooga yesterday afternoon. The diversity and the sheer numbers of women, men and children were incredible. One estimate was at least 3,000. Standing together with all of these like-minded souls was overwhelming and humbling.  I have rarely been so happy and so proud of my town.  One question is, why is ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Puzzling Women

After Rhonda Thurman left the “Enlightment” meeting of the Hamilton Country School Board Saturday afternoon, she must have been catching up on the news when she posted this message on her Facebook page: “I am really trying to understand. I am a woman and I cannot think of one "RIGHT" I do not have. Can someone enlighten me?” Not one person enlightened Rhonda because nobody could ... (click for more)

Big McClendon Curtis Leads Central Past Hixson

Central coach Rick Rogers knew this would be a long season for his Purple Pounder basketball team after his top seven players graduated last year. He’s exactly right, but things are headed in the right direction for Rogers as his team improved to 5-10 overall and 3-6 in District 6-AA with a heart-stopping one-point win at Hixson Monday night. That’s two wins in a row and the ... (click for more)

Father Ryan Rallies To Beat Soddy Daisy

The Soddy Daisy Trojans may have been embarrassed over a lopsided whipping they took at the hands of the Bradley Bears Thursday night in Cleveland, but they came out with fire in their eyes Friday night in a dual meet with Father Ryan. The host Trojans had a seemingly-comfortable 32-22 lead with three matches remaining, but the Purple Irish won all three -- including two with ... (click for more)