Chattanooga Railroad Series: The Unfinished Line To Stevenson (Part 3)

  • Tuesday, December 16, 2014
  • John Wilson

The train route that was planned between Chattanooga and Stevenson was built for eight miles high on the steep sides of Aetna Mountain well above Highway 41.

The route proceeded from the Raccoon Mountain Tunnel on the east side of Highway 41 past the entrance to the Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant, then it crossed to the opposite side.

The old bed of the line can be clearly followed as it passes above Anna's High Falls that is now owned by the Tennessee River Gorge Trust. There is no trace of a stream along the track above the interesting falls, which emerge from the side of the mountain below the old unused rail bed and disappear into a deep sinkhole at the base of the falls.

This route encountered several ravines, and the railroad had to construct large culverts across the gaps far above the highway. One is a long concrete pad for a trestle that was to have been built later.

There are two interesting culverts above Sullivan's Grocery. When there was a cloudburst in 1982, one of the culverts was damaged and the other was filled with silt at one end. This torrent washed away the original grocery established in 1929 by the river by Frank Sullivan after he left the Orme Mines. His son, Randall Sullivan, rebuilt on the uphill side of the highway at a spot that had been a ravine, but was filled in by the silt.

A major culvert is not far from the highway just past Holder Lane at Parker Gap. It was intended that the track would be built on a trestle across the culvert, which had a tunnel to carry away the water of Parker Gap Branch.

Still another interesting creation on the Stevenson Extension is under the highway just before McBrien Lane. A wash at this point created a deep ravine near the river. The culvert built by the railroad builders is topped by several layers of rock and brick. The old road to Kelly's Ferry veered to the left here and then back toward the river to avoid the ravine. However, the railroad was built across the chasm. When Highway 41 was constructed, it chose the route of the unfinished train line, leaving the old, sturdy culvert still in place.


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