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Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad


Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad

Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway
Reporting mark NC
Locale Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia
Dates of operation 1851–1957
Predecessor Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad
Successor Louisville and Nashville Railroad
Track gauge (standard gauge)
Length 1900: 1,189 miles (1,914 km)
Headquarters Nashville, Tennessee

The Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway (reporting mark NC) was a railway company operating in the southern United States in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. It began as the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, chartered in Nashville in December 11, 1845, and was the first railway to operate in the state of Tennessee.[1] From this link between two Tennessee cities, it gradually grew until it formed one of the important railway systems of the South by the turn of the twentieth century.[2](iii, Dedication)


The Nashville & Chattanooga Railway, predecessor to the NC&StL Railway, was organized in 1848 by a group of prominent Nashville Tennessee businessmen. By virtue of his connections to wealth from the Grundy and Bass families of Nashville, and of his vigorous promotion of a line between Nashville and Chattanooga, Vernon K. Stevenson was elected president of the line and served in that capacity for sixteen years. The first locomotive in Nashville arrived in December 1850 on the steamboat Beauty along with thirteen freight cars and one passenger car. The train made its first trip the following spring, 11 miles (18 km) to Antioch, Tennessee. It took nine years to complete the 150 miles (240 km) of line between Nashville and Chattanooga,[1] made difficult by the steep elevations of the Highland Rim and Cumberland Plateau between them. A 2,228 feet (679 m) tunnel near Cowan, Tennessee was considered an engineering marvel of the time.[1] Due to terrain difficulties, the rail line crossed into Alabama and Georgia for short distances. Towns sprang up during construction, including Tullahoma and Estill Springs.

During the Civil War the rail line was strategic to both the Union and Confederate armies. The Tennessee campaigns of 1862 and 1863 saw Union troops force the Confederates from Nashville to Chattanooga along the line of the railroad. The tracks and bridges were repeatedly damaged and repaired, and at different times carried supplies for both armies. In 1885, the railroad successfully defended itself before the Supreme Court in Nashville, C. & St. L. R. Co. v. United States from repaying postage payments for mail in 1861 that was not delivered due to the war.

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After the war the company purchased the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad and the Hickman and Obion Railroad to Hickman, Kentucky to reach the Mississippi River. In 1873 it was reincorporated as the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway (NC&StL) (though the company's tracks never actually reached St. Louis, Missouri in the north). In early 1877 the NC&StL bought the bankrupt Tennessee and Pacific Railroad from the state government and operated it as a connection to Lebanon, Tennessee.

The Louisville and Nashville Railroad, an aggressive competitor of the NC&StL, gained a controlling interest in 1880 through a hostile stock takeover that caused massive rancor between the cities of Nashville and Louisville.[3] The railroads operated separately before finally merging in 1957. Despite the 1880 takeover, the NC&StL continued to grow through the acquisition of branch lines in Kentucky and Alabama, and expanded from Nashville to Memphis. In 1890 the tracks reached Atlanta, Georgia, by leasing the state-owned Western and Atlantic Railroad.[2](List of Branches in Order of Their Acquisition)

The L&N, itself controlled by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in a takeover similar to that of the NC&StL, was merged in to the Seaboard System Railroad, and finally into the CSX freight rail conglomerate. It continues to use the original NC&StL tracks between Nashville, Chattanooga and Atlanta.

At the end of 1925 NC&StL operated 1259 miles of road on 1859 miles of track; at the end of 1956 mileages were 1043 and 1791.

The railroad operated a series of passenger trains: Dixie Express (once the coach section of the all Pullman Dixie Flyer and at another time the interim name of the Dixie Limited, Dixie Flyer, Dixie Limited (formerly the Dixie Express, formerly the Chicago and Florida Limited), Dixieland (winter season only until early 1950's), Dixiana, Dixie Flagler (ran evey third day; later renamed the Dixieland) and Dixie Mail aka Dixie Flyer - Mail and Express. Thus, the railroad's nickname was The Dixie Line. Additionally, the railroad operated these named trains: Quickstep (name dropped before 1910, then known as Nos. 3 and 4), Lookout (formerly the Nashville/Chattanooga Express), Georgian, City of Memphis, Volunteer, Night Trains (formerly the Memphis Limited), Nashville/Hickman Local, plus a through sleeping car from The Tennessean on Nos. 3 and 4.[4]

Surviving equipment

Two 4-4-0 locomotives, The General, and The Texas from the NC&StL's predecessor road, the Western and Atlantic, are on display in museums in the Atlanta suburbs of Kennesaw and Grant Park, respectively.

In 1953, the NC&StL donated its last remaining steam engine, No. 576, to the city of Nashville. This locomotive, a J3-57 class 4-8-4, originally known as a Yellow Jacket, was manufactured by the American Locomotive Company (“ALCO”) in 1942. It has been on display in Centennial Park since then. In keeping with its Southern heritage, the NC&StL referred to 4-8-4 locomotives as Dixies, while most other railroads called them Northerns.

In 2004, a former NC&StL diesel locomotive 710, an EMD GP7 was restored to its original paint scheme by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

In 2007 former NC&StL GE 44 ton Diesel (1950) Huntsville terminal switcher number 100 was moved from Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee to Cowan, Tennessee at the Cowan Railroad Museum. Though subsequently an L&N engine (number 3100), she was cosmetically restored to original scheme and number. In the process, the locomotive was found to be runable. It is important as the first transitorized remote control locomotive in the US (converted in 1962)

See also




  • Prince, Richard E., Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway: History and Steam Locomotives. Indiana University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-253-33927-8.

External links

  • NC&StL Preservation Society, Inc.
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