The Tennessee, Alabama And Georgia Railway: The Tag Route
The TAG Route, as it came to be known, was a small Class I which served all three of its namesake states. The
company was just slightly less than 100 miles in length and dated to
the 1890s. After a few reorganizations it acquired its final name in
the early 1920s. The railroad survived on various forms of traffic over
the years, such as coal early on to steel in its later years. After
World War II it predominantly remained profitable by working
as a bridge route between Chattanooga and its southern terminus of
Gadsden with little online traffic of its own. As a means of removing
the competition and gaining access to this freight itself the Southern Railway
purchased the TAG in 1971. Already operating its own line between
these two points the Southern had little need for the TAG property and
abandoned it over the years. Today, virtually nothing remains of the
railroad, with the last segment abandoned in the 2000s.
The TAG's brand new GP38, #80 the "John A. Chambliss."
The history of the Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia Railway begins in April of 1890 with the chartering of the Chattanooga Southern Railway,
a system created to move coal, iron, and timber from Lookout Mountain
to nearby Chattanooga as well as points further south. After just a
year of construction the 93-mile route south to Gadsden, Alabama was
open in 1891. Along the way it passed through the northwestern tip of
Georgia and along the base of the Pigeon Mountain plateau, which gave
the Chattanooga Southern the nickname as the "Pigeon Mountain Route."
To the south at Gadsden the line connected with the Louisville &
Nashville and the Alabama Great Southern (a Southern Railway subsidiary)
and to the north at Chattanooga interchanged again with Southern and
L&N, as well as the Central of Georgia and Cincinnati, New Orleans
& Texas Pacific Railway (another Southern subsidiary).
Unfortunately, the company's debt quickly overwhelmed it and it fell into receivership a few years later in 1896, reemerging as the Chattanooga Southern Railroad. Two more bankruptcies would continue to plague the line; in 1911 it was reorganized as the Tennessee, Alabama, & Georgia Railroad and for a final time in 1922 as the Tennessee, Alabama, & Georgia Railway, acquiring its famous slogan as The Tag Route. At this time of the system's history coal from Lookout Mountain still played an important role in sustaining the company, which remained this way through World War II. Additionally, the TAG had a coal branch from the main line at Menlo, Georgia to Coe/Chesterfield, Alabama along the state line. This short extension was only about five miles in length and survived until 1920 when it was abandoned.
Southern F3A #6706 leads a quartet of other covered wagons as they appear to be leading a passenger train along the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac at Ashland, Virginia on August 22, 1969.
While the TAG Route had little online industry of its own it was able to
build up a profitable level of bridge traffic, which was vital after it
lost its coal business following the end of the war. This freight was
derived from its interchange connections, which usually was bound for
other northern or southern points such as Cincinnati, Louisville,
Birmingham, Montgomery, or even New Orleans. The 1950s were, perhaps,
the best years for the railroad as profits were high enough that diesels
replaced the steam locomotives, track speed was 50 mph for passenger
trains and 40 mph for freight movements, and the infrastructure was
upgraded to 100 pound rail (quite heavy for that period of the industry,
particularly for a system of the TAG's size). During the 1960s the
railroad gained an important new source of traffic, steel. For additional reading of the TAG please click here.
It came to serve two mills; the Siskin Steel Company in Chattanooga
(whose owners also owned the TAG, Mose and Garrison Siskin) and Republic
Steel located in Gadsden which received both scrap steel and raw
materials for production. In 1968 even more new traffic was gained when
a latex plant, owned by Reichold Industries, opened in Kensington about
22 miles south of Chattanooga. Unfortunately, the '60s spelled trouble
for the TAG. Much larger systems,
like the Southern and L&N were trying to undercut the little line
since its primary source of revenue was still bridge traffic. To them,
the TAG was nothing more than a nuisance taking away potential freight
from their own lines. A number of court attempts to force the TAG to
capitulate failed. So, the Southern sidestepped the courts and simply
purchased the railroad itself in 1971. For more reading about the history of The Tag Route please click here.
Diesel Locomotive Roster
Acquired new, 1960, named "Dave E. Hedges" after the railroad's president.
Acquired new, 1968, named "John A. Chambliss" after the railroad's vice president.
Acquired new, 1951.
Steam Locomotive Roster
4-6-0 Ten Wheeler
202-205, 301-307, 350, 401-403
Tennessee, Alabama And Georgia Railway GP18 #50, the "Dave E. Hedges."
Of course, the Class I already served the same territory as the
TAG via its Alabama Great Southern line to the west and slowly began
abandoning the railroad. The middle sections of the system were the first to go
in the early 1980s with the entire southern section gone by the end of
that decade. For many years a 22-mile section between Chattanooga and
Kensington was operated by shortline Chattooga & Chickamauga Railway
(a Genesee & Wyoming property)
that served the Reichhold Industries plant. However, after the
facility closed in 2008 so did the need for the railroad, which ended
service soon after.