The Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway: The Dixie Line
The Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway, also known as the Dixie Line, has a history dating
back to the mid-1840s when it was originally chartered as the Nashville
& Chattanooga Railroad to connect its namesake cities. During its height the NC&StL stretched across most of Tennessee and reached the major cities of Atlanta, Memphis, Chattanooga, Nashville, Lexington, and even the western tip of Kentucky. The railroad
was under constant attack during the Civil War by both the North and
South as they battled for control of the strategic line and late in 1873
the railroad was reincorporated to what it is classically remembered as
today the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway. Eventually, the road came under the control of the Louisville & Nashville following a long fight.
NC&StL Class H7A-37 2-8-0 #410 sits at the yard in Chattanooga on December 19, 1935. With her stack capped the locomotive appears to be in storage although its very shiny boiler leads one to believe that may not be the case.
As mentioned above the NC&StL became a victim of a vicious takeover by the Louisville &
Nashville in 1880 (the two railroads were bitter rivals), an
act which resulted in significant distrust towards the L&N by the
cities of Nashville and Louisville for some time. Despite its unfortunate loss as an independent system the railroad
was allowed to mostly operate on its own over the
next 70 years building a railroad that stretched from Paducah,
Kentucky south to Atlanta, Georgia with lines also reaching Bruceton and
Memphis, Tennessee. During the Civil War the then Nashville & Chattanooga
Railroad, whose original main line connected its namesake cities
covering roughly 125-miles (interestingly, the line in a few locations
ever so slightly broke into both the states of Alabama and Georgia), was
a strategic transportation link for both the Northern and Southern
However, this also resulted in the railroad being repeatedly
sabotaged, attacked, and destroyed in places by both sides trying to
gain an upper-hand on the other.
After the war the N&C took control of the Nashville &
Northwestern in 1870, which connected Nashville with Hickman, Kentucky
on a main line which covered roughly 170 miles. The two lines merged in
1872 and a year later was renamed the Nashville, Chattanooga and St.
Louis Railway. Then, in 1877 the NC&StL took control of the bankrupt Tennessee
& Pacific Railroad, which operated as far east as Lebanon. While the Louisville & Nashville gained control of the Dixie Line in 1880 through a hostile stock
takeover the railroad continued to grow. In 1890 the NC&StL leased the Western & Atlantic
Railroad from the state of Georgia which gave the company
a direct connection to Atlanta. For more information about the railroad please visit the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway Preservation Society's website.
L&N GP30 #1000 sits at the engine terminal in East St. Louis with several other units on July 31, 1977.
The railroad would also add branches
to Paducah, Kentucky; Allen's Creek, Columbia, Palmer, Perryville, and
Orme in Tennessee; and Gadsden, Alabama. In total the NC&StL would come to operate a system stretching
1,072 miles. Despite the Dixie Line's ambitious plans
to connect with St. Louis, as its name implied, it never reached
further west than Memphis. The railroad's lines were broken down into
four, official divisions; Chattanooga, Huntsville, Nashville, and
Paducah & Memphis. It remained a separate entity until 1957 when it
was formerly merged into the Louisville & Nashville.