Tri-state (TN-GA-AL) Rail Stops - Western and Atlantic Railroad

Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - by Chuck Hamilton

This is the railroad that gave birth to Atlanta and other towns and spearheaded the making of Chattanooga into the great railroad center it became.

The Western and Atlantic Railroad (W&A) started life as the Georgia State Railroad, which was leased to the company bearing this name in 1870.  The railroad was built from Zero Mile Post in what is now Atlanta to Chetoogeta Mountain in Whitfield County, and from Chattanooga to the west side of the mountain.  The Chattanooga to Tunnelsville branch was completed in 1849, with service beginning the same year.  Passengers past Tunnelsville, however, had to carry themselves and their belongings across Chetoogeta Mountain to hop another train on the other side.  But then the Chetoogeta Tunnel was finished, track laid, and and the two lines joined in 1850.

As part of the U.S. Military Rail Roads during the Civil War, the line was known as the Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad.

When the lease of the Western and Atlantic with the State of Georgia ran out in 1890, the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway (NC&StL) leased the rights to the railroad, and there was then a complete line from Atlanta to Nashville.  In 1957, the NC&StL merged with its parent company, the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) Railroad.  In 1982, the L&N was itself was merged into the successor of its own parent company, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, as part of the Seaboard System Railroad, which merged with the Chessie System railroads to become CSX Transportation in 1986.

The stations on the Chattanooga-Tunnel Hill branch of the Western and Atlantic Railroad and its successors were as follows.

Tunnel Hill

This schedule stop was the southern terminus of the line before the tunnel opened.

The community was called Doe Run until the building of the railroad; the town incorporated as Tunnelsville in 1848.  The town and its station became Tunnel Hill in 1856.  The depot, which still stands, is on the eastern edge of the town a short distance beyond the mouth of the Western and Atlantic Railroad Tunnel through Chetoogeta Mountain. 

During the Civil War, there were encounters here on 11 September 1863; 28 November 1863 (the last of the Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign); 23 February 1864; and, finally, the Battle of Tunnel Hill on 7 May 1864, the first of the Atlanta Campaign.  During the Federal Military Occupation, there was a blockhouse here.

The post office of Tunnelsville was established in 1847, changing to Tunnel Hill in 1858.

Copeland Crossing

Three miles down the line and the first after the W&A enters Catoosa County, this signal stop was near the crossing of the railway by Bandy Road.


About eight-and-a-half miles from Copeland, this signal stop was near the crossing of the railway by Greenwood Road.

Catoosa Station

A mile and a half down the line, this signal stop lay a mile from the eastern mouth of Taylor’s, or Ringgold, Gap at the end of the eponymous road off U.S. Highway 41. 

Its claim to fame is having been the muster point for the (Confederate) Army of Tennessee after its retreat from Chickamauga Station on 26 November 1863, which by coincidence happened to be the first national Thanksgiving Day.

The post office of Catoosa operated here from 1850 until 1853.


Another mile-an-a-half brought the fine stone depot at this schedule stop which still stands at its original location just west of the railway at the eastern edge of the downtown area.

During the Civil War, the Battle of Ringgold Gap took place here on 27 November 1963.  There were also engagements 11 September and 17 September 1863 during the run-up to the Battle of the Chickamauga.  Ringgold was the last station passed by The General during Andrews’ Raid of 12 April 1862 before it ran out of fuel three miles north in Rabbit Valley.  During the Federal Military Occupation, a blockhouse guarded the depot.

In 2009, a bronze statue of Maj. Gen. Patrick Ronayne Cleburne, designed by Ron Tunison, was unveiled and dedicated in the Gap, funded by the Cleburne Society and the Ringgold Telephone Company, to commemorate his victory here.  This came about in large part from the efforts of anthropologist-historian Raymond Evans, who recently passed away.

The post office of Ringgold was established in 1847.

Gaines Quarry

A little less than four miles from Ringgold, this signal stop was primarily to load out limestone quarried on the Hale Property by Graysville Mining and Manufacturing, but occasionally there were passengers.


One-and-a-half miles further, this town was laid out by John D. Gray in 1849 in the postal village known as Opelika after the Cherokee settlement in the vicinity, itself named after the town of the “Napochi” Indians burned by Coosa Indians and Spanish soldiers under Tristan de Luna in 1560.  Once a thriving town with several industries, this station was for a long time a schedule stop.  The tiny depot, scaled down from Graysville’s glory days, stood between Front Street and the railway in front of the old post office in the middle of the block between Vaughn and Grove Streets.

There was an engagement here between the retreating Army of the Tennessee against its Union pursuers on 26 November 1863, and another nearby at the Lafayette road and Ringgold road crossroads that same night.  There was also a skirmish here involving units of Wheeler’s Cavalry on 16 August 1864.  During the Federal Military Occupation, a blockhouse guarded the station and another the far end of the railway bridge over the Chickamauga River.

The post office  was established here in 1850 as Opalika, changing to Graysville in 1856.


A mile down the tracks, the first station in Hamilton Co., Tennessee, was a signal stop in the southeast corner of the Concord community (now East Brainerd).  It lay at the end of the farm road off Davidson Road, which was supposed to have been part of the roadbed for the Harrison, Lafayette, and Jacksonville (Alabama) Railroad whose construction was ended by the war.

On 26 November 1863, the Battle of Cat Creek, as Sam Watkins called it, or of Shepherd’s Run, as two Union accounts refer to it, took place nearby.  It was the biggest engagement fought that day between retreating Confederates and pursuing Union forces.  The action only lasted an hour because it was so near sundown.

Whorley Switch

This signal stop stood three-and-a-half miles down at Ellis’ Crossing of the Chattanooga-Graysville Pike (or Bird’s Mill Road) of the railway, west of the tracks and north of East Brainerd Road.  Its main purpose was to service the switch, or side-track, here.

The building which formerly housed the Masonic Lodge to which my grandfather belonged, Whorley Lodge, may be the sole reminder of Whorley, now known as Brainerd Hills.  The lodge was organized at the nearby Concord Baptist Church, one of the oldest continuing Baptist congregations in the county.

The post office of Whorley operated from 1898 until 1907.

Chickamauga Station

A mile-and-a-quarter down, this is the railway station talked about in Civil War reports from or of “Chickamauga Station”.  The depot at this schedule stop sat on the east side of the tracks just south of Chickamauga Road, now across the street from Lovell Field.  The locals called the section in which the station  was built Pull Tight.  Union maps from the Civil War sometimes refer to it as Campbell’s Station.  

When Cleburne’s Division was stationed in the area during the summer of 1863 between the Tullahoma Campaign and the Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign, two of the redoubts he built guarded Chickamauga and its depot from Milliken Ridge.  Later that year, Chickamauga Station was the muster point of the Army of Tennessee after Missionary Ridge on 25 November 1863.  The first engagements between Union and Confederate forces on 26 November began north of here and continued across Milliken Ridge into Hickory Valley.  Another engagement took place here on 30 January 1864.  During the Federal Military Occupation, a blockhouse guarded the depot and village.

The post office of Chickamauga was established here in 1850, but service went by the wayside during the war.  By the time service reopened in 1867, another  community had a post office under the name Chickamauga (see Daisy, in the section on the Cincinnati Southern), so it adopted the name Chickamauga Station.  The name reverted to Chickamauga in 1882 when the other became Melville in 1878.  The name of the post office changed to Shepherd in 1898 over confusion with Chickamauga, Georgia, which was given priority due to its proximity to the National Park, but the depot’s name remained the same well into the 20th century, when it was also changed to Shepherd.  The L&N closed Shepherd depot and the USPS its post office in 1955.  The new USPS site in Brainerd Hills adopted the name Chickamauga Station; in the 1980s it moved down East Brainerd Road to a spot near the old Rains place under that name.

Col. Lewis Shepherd, father of the well-known judge, operated a post office called Hickory Valley at his nearby home named Altamede from 1840 until 1842.

Holmes Station

This signal stop used to stand where Stein Paving and Sealing now sits on Quintus Loop.

During the Civil War, the bridge immediately after this stop and one of the two beyond on the W&A line were two of the three bridges burned 9 November 1861 in the “Little Rebellion” by Unionist sympathizers.  Hamilton County had twice voted a majority against secesssion.  While the two bridges were being repaired (there were three in all on its tracks between Chickamauga Station and Chattanooga), the W&A detoured to go over the bridge of the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad (ET&G).

Chickamauga Junction

After the Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign, Union engineers built a junction of the W&A and the ET&G just west of Chickamauga River.  This cut ten miles out of the W&A’s mileage, which was the intention.  The junction was so important it was guarded by two blockhouses in the immediate vicinity and another one-third mile down track.  After the war, the two railways returned to their original routes, with the ET&G building an overpass bridge above the W&A.  The junction remained a station into the 20th century.


Serving both the ET&G and the W&A, this signal stop stood where Allied Shipping now operates on Lightfoot Mill Road in a diamond formed by the tracks of the former (now part of the Tennessee Valley Railway) and of the latter.  CSX Railroad still has a presence there.

Kings Bridge

Sitting on the left bank of the Chickamauga River (South Chickamauga Creek) at the river crossing of Harrison Pike, this was the ante-bellum site of the station and village now known as Old Boyce.  Both the original depot and the village around it, which had grown to double the size of Chickamauga, were destroyed during the war, and the community dispersed.  As Old Boyce, this was a schedule stop; as King’s Bridge it was a signal stop.

Boyce Station

After being released from the U.S. Rail Road in 1865, the W&A rebuilt Boyce Station four-and-a-half miles above its previous location, west of the railway opposite the end of Cushman Street.  It remained a schedule stop and in its later years was a coupon station.  When the Cincinnatti Southern Railway came to town in 1880, the name changed from Boyce to Boyce Junction.  In the early 1880s, the W&A changed the name of its station to Amnicola, probably to match the name of the post office at the time.  Later in the decade, the depot moved a half mile above to a spot north of Wilder Street between the tracks, shared with the Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Texas Pacific Railroad (CNO&TP), under the original name.  The Union Railway of Chattanooga later extended its tracks from Sherman Heights to Boyce Station, crossing those of both the NC&StL and the CNO&TP.

After the depot burned in 1912, Southern Railway (SOU)—which then controlled the Alabama Great Southern Railway (AGS), which in turn controlled the CNO&TP and the Belt Line—rebuilt it, the new facility opening in 1913.  The Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis ceased passenger serivce here in the early 1930s and Southern in 1938, after which it was torn down.

The post office of Boyce Junction was established in 1879.  It changed to Amnicola a month later, to Boyce for three weeks, back to Amnicola for eight years, then back to Boyce for a year-and-a-half before settling on East Chattanooga in 1889.  Postal service moved to Chattanooga in 1905.  The town of Boyce, between Bachman and Sims Streets and between the railroads and Chamberlain Avenue, merged with Sherman Heights as the town of East Chattanooga in 1905.

Citico Junction

The first junction of this railroad with the ET&G coming into town, it gave its name to the Afro-American community of Citico City which is now called after its recreation area, Lincoln Park.  The two railroads shared a depot at this schedule stop before and during the war, and probably for at least several decades after. 

The Citico Yards which grew exponentially along the tracks here are now called the DeButts Yards, but “Citico Junction” remains a geographic point.

King Street Junction

The second junction of this railroad with the ET&G.

For more information, see the section on the Chattanooga Extension Railroad, ET&G.

Union Junction

This was originally the junction of the W&A (and later the merged railways) with the tracks of the Nashville and Chattanooga and its successors at the south end of the yards of Union Depot.


The northern terminus of the W&A, and the main terminal in Chattanooga of its successors the NC&StL and the L&N, was the Union Depot on what is now Martin Luther King Boulevard until it closed in 1971.  It was not only a schedule stop but a coupon station.

The passenger station and freight depot both stood across from the Read House.  Both were torn down in 1972 along with the Car Shed, despite efforts to save them.  The Car Shed was built first, a cooperative venture of the W&A with the Nashville and Chattanooga (N&C) and the Memphis and Charleston (M&C) Railroads.  The freight and passenger head stations were built in 1882.

During the Civil War, the town served as the headquarters for Confederate Department No. 2 and its successor the Department of the West, and later for the District of the Etowah of the Union Department of the Cumberland.  The Confederate Army of the Mississippi (forerunner of the Army of Tennessee) occupied the region 23 July-28 August 1862.  The Confederate Army of Tennessee occupied the region 4 July-9 September 1863.  The Union Army of the Cumberland was besieged here 22 September-25 November 1863.  Chattanooga also served as the main rear base for Sherman’s Military Division of the Mississippi during the Atlanta Campaign.

The town was the focus of the Chattanooga Campaign, which included two of the bloodiest battles of the war, the Battle of the Chickamauga (or of Mud Flats) and the (Third) Battle of Chattanooga, forming the most decisive series of encounters in the western theater.

The First Battle of Chattanooga occurred 7-8 June 1862.  The Second Battle of Chattanooga took place 21 August-8 September 1863.  The Third Battle of Chattanooga, also known as the Battles of Chattanooga, happened 23-25 November 1863.

The Federal Military Occupation officially began 29 September 1863 during the siege, and lasted until April 1866.  After the campaign, in addition to the system of walls, redoubts, and trenches (then called “rifle pits”) which guarded the town, a huge two-story multi-sided blockhouse stood south of Union Depot.

The post office was established as Ross’ Landing in 1837.  The name changed in 1838 when the new town adopted the name Chattanooga.


Chuck Hamilton



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