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 armies.

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.

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. For more information about the railroad please visit the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway Preservation Society's website.

Diesel Locomotive Roster

The American Locomotive Company

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
S11-41941-19464
S25-111942-19467

The Baldwin Locomotive Works

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
VO-6601019411
VO-100015, 30-341941-19436

Electro-Motive Division

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
SW-115 (Ex-GN)19501
NW220-23, 251941, 19495
SW724-33195010
SW934-3819515
GP7700-731, 750-7541950-195237
F3A800-8081948-19499
F7A809-8311949-195123
F3B900-9111948-194912
F7B912-9191949-19508

General Electric

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
44-Tonner100-10319504

Steam Locomotive Roster

Class Type Wheel Arrangement
B2-29Switcher0-6-0
G8-29Ten-Wheeler4-6-0
H7-37Consolidation2-8-0
I1-44Twelve-Wheeler4-8-0
J1A-54, J1C-54Mountain4-8-2
J2-57, J3-57Northern4-8-4
K1A-37, K2-35Pacific4-6-2
L1-55, L2-55, L2A-55Mikado2-8-2
M1-99Articulated2-8-8-2
P1-51Decapod2-10-0


L&N GP30 #1000 sits at the engine terminal in East St. Louis with several other units on July 31, 1977.

If you're interested in learning more about the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway you might want to consider the book Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis - A History of "The Dixie Line" from author Dain Schult. Just recently published in 2003 at almost 300 pages of information and photographs Mr. Schult's book goes into even more detail about "The Dixie Line" and its operations. All in all, if you have any interest in the NC&StL or would simply like to learn more about this often forgotten Class I system you cannot go wrong with either book!  Also, for more reading on the L&N consider the book History of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad by Maury Klein. With over 500 pages the book covers in vivid detail the entire history of the L&N, from its earliest days to final years under the Seaboard System and eventually part of CSX. The book is certainly a must for anyone with a deep interest in the railroad. In any event, if you're interested in perhaps purchasing either (or both) of these books please visit the links below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.

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