Tri-state (TN-GA-AL) Rail Stops - East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad, 1851

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - by Chuck Hamilton

This railroad began existence as the Hiwassee Railroad Company in Tennessee in 1836, intending to link up with the Georgia State Railroad (Western and Atlantic, or W&A) at Dalton extending to Knoxville, Tennessee.  The Red Clay and Cross Plains Branch Railroad Company was chartered in 1840 to meet the former company at Red Clay.  After reorganizing into a single entity, the two became the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad (ET&G).  The first section opened between the southern terminus at Dalton, Georgia, to which the community of Cross Plains had renamed itself, and Loudon, Tennessee, in 1851.  The second section, from Loudon to Knoxville, opened in 1855.

During the Civil War, the U.S. Military Rail Roads operated the railway from Cleveland south under the name Cleveland and Dalton Railroad.

In 1869, the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad merged with the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad (from Knoxville to Bristol) to form the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad.  In 1883, it became part of Baron d’Erlanger’s Queen and Crescent Route.

After J.P. Morgan merged this railway with the Richmond and Danville Railroad in 1894 as the Southern Railway (SOU), the stations formed part of SOU’s Chattanooga, Cleveland, and Brunswick Division.  Most of these also formed the Cleveland and Dalton Division, in which they were all schedule stops.

The stations from Calhoun to Dalton on the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad and its successors were as follows.


The last station in McMinn County coming from Knoxville was the site of the Hiwassee Garrison before Removal in 1838.  Before the the Civil War, it was a schedule stop but afterwards downgraded to a signal stop.

During the Civil War, Unionist sympathizers burned the railway bridge over the Hiwassee River linking this town with Charleston on 8 November 1861.  There was a military engagement here on 26 September 1863 and again on 26 November 1863.  During the Federal Military Occupation, a blockhouse guarded this side of the railway bridge.

The post office of Calhoun operated from 1820 until 1869.


The depot at this schedule stop stood beside the Hiwassee River south of the railway.

Before the Removal, this was the last location of the Cherokee Agency in the East.  Many prominent Cherokee lived here, including Lewis Ross, brother of John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation East.  The Removal-era Fort Cass stood here guarding the various camps into which the Cherokee were interned; it was built on the site of the former agency.

Interesting fact: In the late 19th century, the Eastern Cherokee Agency was located in Charleston, Swain County, North Carolina.

During the Civil War, there was an engagement here 26 November 1863, in the aftermath of the Battles of Chattanooga, and another on 16 December 1863.  The Union army built a redoubt and two blockhouses to guard the bridge from this side of the Hiwassee, which marked the eastern boundary of the Union District of the Etowah based in Chattanooga.

The post office of Charleston was established in 1840.


Originally called Herndon then McMillan Station, this signal stop was in Dry Valley halfway between Charleston and Cleveland.  The depot is long gone, but a small community is still there.

The post office of Tasso operated from 1903 until 1953.


Seat of Bradley County, Tennessee, this town was a schedule stop and coupon station on the first major railroad line in East Tennessee.  Its latest passenger station, built by Southern Railway in the early 20th century, still stands at 175 Edwards Street, now serving the town’s bus service.

During the Civil War, there was an engagement here 25 November 1863, in the aftermath of the Battles of Chattanooga.  Another took place 17 August 1864 during Wheeler’s cavalry raid behind Union lines.  A blockhouse guarded the depot during the Federal Military Occupation, supported by two redoubts, Fort McPherson and Fort Sedgwick.

The post office of Cleveland was established in 1836.

Blue Springs

This schedule stop stood east of the tracks in Blue Springs Valley four miles south of Cleveland at a crossing of the railway by Blue Springs Road.

The post office of Blue Springs Station operated from 1874 until 1906.

Marble Switch

This signal stop stood three miles south, near another crossing by Blue Springs Road.  Its main purpose was to service the switch, or side-track, here.

The post office of Marble Switch operated from 1891 until 1906.

Weatherly Switch

This signal stop stood two miles south, at the crossing of Weatherly Switch Road.  There was also a side track here.

Red Clay

Originally called State Line Station, this schedule stop was just inside Whitfield County, Georgia, in the community that adopted the name Red Clay after the Cherokee council grounds just over the state line in Bradley County.

During the Civil War, troops from Union cavalry raided the depot here 27 November 1863.

The post office of Red Clay operated from 1840 until 1905.


Two miles from Red Clay, this schedule stop was first known as Parker’s Woodyard, renamed Cohutta after it became the junction point for the Ooltewah Cut-off with the main line of the ETV&G.  The layout of the well-planned town is readily apparent.

The post office of Cohutta was established in 1882.


This schedule stop four miles from Cohutta gave its name to the community originally known as Red Hill.  Today the community is best known for its large spring and for Prater’s Mill.

The post office was established as Red Hill in 1834.  The name changed to Varnell’s Station in 1856, and to Varnell in 1929.


This schedule stop five miles from Varnell lay at the crossing of the railway by Waring Road NW.

The post office of Waring operated from 1890 until 1906.


After five more miles, we reach the southern terminus of the ET&G, and the junction of that railway with the Western and Atlantic.  Known as Cross Plains before the railroad came, the community adopted the name Dalton at that time.  In addition to being a schedule stop, it was also a coupon station.

During the Civil War, the First Battle of Dalton was fought here 27 February 1864.  The Battles of Dug Gap, Buzzard’s Roost, and Rocky Face took place immediately to the northwest 8-12 May 1864 at the start of the Atlanta Campaign, just after the Battle of Tunnel Hill.  The Second Battle of Dalton occurred 14-15 August during Wheeler’s cavalry raid behind Union lines.  The Third Battle of Dalton happened early in the Nashville Campaign on 13 October 1864.

During the Federal Military Occupation, Union troops built two redoubts here, Fort Miller and Fort Hill, the latter of which gave its name to the hill it was on.  A blockhouse guarded the depot and railyard, and another at nearby Buzzard’s Roost guarded the line of the railway.

Dalton is fortunate to have not one but two surviving railroad depots.  The Western and Atlantic Depot was built in 1852 to provide both passenger and freight service.  The Southern Railway Freight Depot was built in 1911.  The first now houses a restaurant and the second the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau.

The post office was established here as Cross Plains in 1837, changing to Dalton in 1847.

Chuck Hamilton


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