Tri-state (TN-GA-AL) Rail Stops - Sequatchie Valley Branch Railroad

Friday, October 14, 2016 - by Chuck Hamilton

SEQUATCHIE VALLEY BRANCH RAILROAD, 1894

 

In the records of the legal history of the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway (NC&StL), its Sequatchie Valley Branch (SVB) Railroad was composed of three separate lines of differing origins, which NC&StL formed into a single railroad.  The three branch railroads are the Jasper Branch Railroad (Bridgeport to Jasper), completed 1867; the Inman Branch Railroad (Inman to Victoria), completed 1883; and the Pikeville Branch Railroad (Jasper to Pikeville), completed 1894.

The Sequatchie Valley Branch Railroad (SVB) began life as the Jasper Branch Railroad of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, originally authorized in 1860 but interrupted by the Civil War.  Work was completed to Jasper in 1867. 

In 1868, the Sequatchie Valley Railroad Company began an effort to extend the railway from Jaser to Pikeville.  The tracks were laid as far as Victoria in 1877 when the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railroad (NC&StL) purchased it, completing the line into Pikeville in 1894.

The Inman Branch Railroad was completed in late 1882 by the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railway Company from its Inman Mines to a junction with what was then still called the Jasper Branch Railroad at Victoria.  The NC&StL took ownership of the line 1 January 1883.

By 1894, the railway from Bridgeport to Pikeville was in full operation (according to the records of the NC&StL), headquartered in Jasper.  In 1917, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N), parent of the NC&StL, consolidated operations of the NC&StL with the SVB at a new depot in Bridgeport.  By 1921, the SVB was offering service all the way into Chattanooga over the lines of its parent, the NC&StL, the junction with these being at Bridgeport, Alabama.

In 1877, the NC&StL purchased the McMinnville and Manchester Railroad from the Memphis and Carlston Railroad (M&C), and after extending its track to Sparta, Tennessee, renamed it the Sparta Branch Railroad.  The NC&StL planned to extend to this line south and junction with the SVB at Pikeville, giving it a railway from Tullahoma, Tennessee, to Bridgeport, Alabama, but this never came about, though the survey was complete.  The furthest south the tracks of the Sparta Branch reached were Ravenscroft in Cumberland County, still twenty-six-and-a-half miles out.

During the Siege of Chattanooga in the Civil War, the entire length of the Sequatchie Valley saw fighting during Wheeler’s Raid on Union supply lines 1-9 October 1863, the most spectacular action in the valley being at Anderson’s Cross Roads, where his troops captured 800 supply wagons and nearly 600 troops .

Rather than in order completed, its station are presented here in order of progression from the SVB’s northern terminus.  While a few of these had mere waiting sheds to service passengers and platforms for freight, the majority had depots, some surprisingly large.

The stations on the SVB were as follows.

Pikeville

This town was the terminus of the SVB.  The depot at this schedule stop was probably located near the intersection of West Railroad Avenue with East Railroad Avenue.

Founded in 1816, Pikeville incorporated in 1830.  In 1818, it became the second seat of Bledsoe County after it was moved here from Madison (now Mount Airy in Sequatchie County).

The post office of Pikeville was established in 1811, according to the archives of the Tennessee Secretary of State.                                                                                                            

Lees Station

The next station down the line is another schedule stop.  This community never had a post office and has never been incorporated but had a huge depot for both passengers and freight, which was probably at or near the Kelly Road crossing.

College Station

The schedule stop at this last station in Bledsoe County was originally intended to service Sequatchie College, founded in 1865, but that closed in 1887.  The institution was somewhat unique at the time for being coeducational.  A fairly decent-sized community had grown up in the vicinity.  The depot was probably at the crossing of College Station Mountain Road.

The post office of Sequachee College operated from 1882 until 1907.

Pailo

The station of this schedule stop was near the intersection of Old Tennessee Highway 28 with Howard Beaver Road.

The post office of Pailo operated from 1886 until 1907.

Mount Airy

The first community down the line in Sequatchie County was at this schedule stop in Bledsoe County until the former was created.  Under its original identity as Madison, it was the first seat of the latter county.  The depot most likely would have been near where Mount Airy Road meets Old York Highway.

The post office of Mount Airy was established in Bledsoe County in 1825 and operated in Sequatchie County after its creation until 1894.

Dunlap

The depot at this schedule stop operated from 1888 until 1972 on Railroad Street.  The Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) ceased operations and closed the depot in 1972, and it burned two years later.

This town is the seat of Sequatchie County.  In fact, it was created for that purpose in the area previously known as Coops Creek in 1858.  It incorporated as the “Taxing District of Dunlap” in 1901, as the “Town of Dunlap” in 1927, and as the “City of Dunlap” in 1941.

The railroad arrived here in 1888, but it wasn’t until 1900 that the Douglas Coal and Coke Company began operations.  To convert mined coal into coke, Douglas built 268 ovens atop nearby Fredonia Mountain and an incline railway to haul the coal up and the coke down.  In 1904, Douglas went bankrupt, and was purchased by the Chattanooga Coal and Iron Company, which continued the operations until 1927.  The coke ovens now belong to the Sequatchie Valley Historical Association as the Dunlap Coke Ovens Park.

The post office was established in Marion County (before the creation of Sequatchie County) as Coops Creek in 1837, changing to Dunlap in Sequatchie County in 1866.

Daus

The route of TN Highway 27 runs directly through the former roadbed here, and the depot that once stood at the schedule stop in this community was probably at west side the intersection of the highway with Stone Cave Road.

The community here was originally named Delphi by one of its prominent families.  When the railroad came and Witco Mining began operations, a member of another family gave land for a depot on the condition it not be named Delphi.  Thus it became Daus, and for a while there was a good deal of confusion with shipments being made to and from Daus Station but bills and other correspondence going through the Delphi Post Office.

The post office here was created as Delphi in Marion County in 1822, changed to Sequachee in 1850, and discontinued in 1850.  Meanwhile, another post office nearby called Daus was created in 1827 that moved to Sequatchie County along with the community; it operated until 1873.  Postal service revived under the name Delphi in 1878 and operated until 1921.  A post office named Daus reappeared in 1927, operating until 1973.

Cartwright

The primary reason for existence of this signal stop, which stood at the crossing of Cartwright Loop, was the Palmetto Coal Company Mines, which shut down during the Great Depression. 

Condra Switch

This signal stop at the crossing of Condra Switch Road was the first stop after crossing into Marion County, and its purpose was mainly to service the side-track here.

The post office of Cedar Springs was established near here by a member of the local Condra family in 1874, moving to Whitwell in 1929.

Shirleyton

This schedule stop stood at a westward curve of the tracks that brought it close to Old Dunlap Road, near the intersection of Blacksmith Road.

The post office of Shirleton operated from 1883 until 1904, when it moved to Cedar Springs.

Whitwell

The railroad reached this schedule stop in 1887.  Until 1878, the community here was named Cheeksville; the name changed in honor of Thomas Whitwell, the cofounder of Southern States Coal, Iron, and Land Company killed in a mine explosion that year.  Coal was so big here that the town gained the nickname “Coal City of the Sequatchie Valley”.  Its major employer was Southern States Coal, Iron, and Land Company until 1882, then Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company.

The post office of Cheeksville was established here in 1830, changing to Whitwell in 1887.

Victoria

For ten years, from 1877 until 1887, this community first known as Dadsville was the northern terminus of the SVB.  The depot here still exists on Victoria Commerce Center Road, being used today as a private residence.  It is one of two depots from the Sequatchie Valley Branch Railroad days still in existence.

Along with Whitwell, Victoria was one of the two centers for coal mining and coke production by the British-owned Southern States Coal, Iron, and Land Company.

The post office of Dadsville was established here as in 1850, changing to Victoria in 1877 in honor of the British monarch.  It was moved to Whitwell in 1974.

The next two stations are on the line of the Inman Branch Railroad.

Hutton

Briefly a schedule stop, this tiny station four miles from Victoria and five miles from Inman has left no trace it ever existed.

Inman

This station was in the vicinity of the intersection of Inman Road with Griffith Highway on the east bank of the Sequatchie River, at the end of the spur line from Victoria.

The Inman Mines were at first run by the Southern States Coal, Iron, and Land Company, until it was bought out by Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company.  The latter used mostly prison slave labor in its mines, sixty percent of all prison inmates in the state, in fact.  The mining camp here was a prison stockade and conditions were deplorable.  Situations like this, and the fact that using prison slaves took jobs away from free colliers (coal miners) led to the Coal Creek War that began in Anderson County in 1891.  That rarely heard-of conflict lasted nearly two years and resulted in the use of prison slave labor being ended in the State of Tennessee.

The post office of Gholston was established at the Inman Mines in 1882, changing to its name Inman in 1884.  It was discontinued and postal service moved to Whitwell in 1929.

From here we return to the main line.

Sequatchie

This unincorporated town lies at the mouth of Waterfall Cove at the foot of Sequatchie Mountain on Valley View Highway.  Unlike many of the whistlestops in Sequatchie Valley, it has continued to thrive, if somewhat less than in earlier days.  The depot at this schedule stop was probably located at either the Harding Street crossing or the Lassiter Road crossing, more likely the former.

The post office of Sequatchie was established in 1890 and still operates, its station standing right in the middle of “town”.

Jasper

Jasper depot was the original terminus of the Jasper Branch Railroad, which began service in 1867.  This schedule stop was headquarters for the SVB until 1917.  The town was established in 1819 on land leased from Cherokee Beloved Woman (the literal translation of the Cherokee for a female “chief”) Betsy Pack, daughter of Cherokee leader John Lowery.  Since its inception, the town has been the seat of Marion County.  Until 1917, the headquarters of the Sequatchie Valley Branch Railroad were located here.

During the Civil War, there was an engagement here on 24 June 1863.

The town’s railway depot, built in 1923 by the L&N, parent of the NC&StL, serves today as the Jasper city hall.  It is the other depot from the days of this railroad still in existence.

The post office of Jasper was established in 1819.

Browder Switch

This depot at this signal stop stood at the Browder Switch Road crossing.

Kimball

The depot here stood north of the tracks at the end of what is now Kimball Lane.

This town nestled between its two much larger neighbors was founded as what was planned to be an industrial city, much the same as in the dreams of the founders of New England City in Dade County, Georgia.  The enterprise never really got off the ground due to the explosion of growth by its neighbor to the west. 

On what were once the outskirts of town, the two most important highways of the early 20th century, the north-south Dixie Highway and the east-west Robert E. Lee Highway cross paths, giving the name Dixie-Lee Junction to the area, though outside Kimball it is usually called simply Dixie Lee because of the same-named community in Loudon County.  The actual “junction” was where the old Stuckey’s restaurant used to be; it’s now a Krystal

The post office of Ino was established here in 1887, changing to Wallview later that year.  It became Kimball in 1890 and operated until 1914, when service moved to Jasper, moving again to South Pittsburg in 1918.

South Pittsburg

The depot at this schedule stop and coupon station stood along Railroad Avenue on the same block as the last location of United States Stove Company.

The Southern States Coal, Iron, and Land Company chose this community to be the major center for its iron production in the region, using ore produced by the nearby Battle Creek Mines.  As mentioned above, that company was purchased by Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company in 1882.  The economy of the town mushroomed, and the city ballooned, becoming the industrial center Kimball’s backers had dreamed of it becoming.

During the Civil War, the Battle of Fort McCook took place here along the riverside 27-28 August 1862.  There had been another engagement here 21 June 1862.

A post office called Battle Creek was established in the vicinity in 1831, operating until it was discontinued in 1858.  The post office was reestablished as Battle Creek Mines in 1869, the name changing to South Pittsburg in 1876.

Richard City

This schedule stop on the stateline originated as a company town for and was built by Dixie Portland Company, to house the employees of its large cement plant here.  In 1926, Dixie Portland merged with several other cement producers as Pennsylvania-Dixie Cement Corporation, or Penn-Dixie.

A spur line operated briefly from here to the Rexton Mines for about two years.

The post office was established as Copenhagen in 1879.  It changed to Deptford in 1890, and back again to Copenhagen in 1893 until changing to Richard City in 1918. 

Bridgeport

The SVB maintained a depot here separate from its parent companies the L&N and the NC&StL until 1917, when the L&N consolidated the depots and brought the offices of the SVB south from their original home in Jasper, Tennessee.  The SVB depot here was also a coupon station.

For more information on Bridgeport, see the section on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad.

Chattanooga

When the SVB began running trips into Chattanooga, it used Union Depot as its terminal here.

Chuck Hamilton

<natty4bumpo@gmail.com>


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