Tennessee railroads date back to 1845 when the Nashville & Chattanooga
Railroad was chartered to connect its namesake cities, and it completed
its main line on February 11th, 1854. The railroad was chartered,
however, nearly ten years earlier in December 1845 but due to rugged
terrain that required several tunnels and bridges the 125-mile line took
years to complete. During the Civil War the N&C found itself
constantly under attack from both Northern and Southern forces resulting
in the company having trouble seeing any substantial growth. In 1872
the railroad was renamed as the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis
Railway as it continued to expand following the war, intending to reach
St. Louis to the west.
Unfortunately, the railroad lost its independence in 1880 when after a nasty stock battle the Louisville & Nashville took control of the company although it was not dissolved as an operating entity until 1957. In the succeeding years following the construction of the Nashville & Chattanooga, Tennessee would be home to most of the South's largest railroads with Memphis a hub for several more railroads, both east and west.
Today Tennessee railroads are mostly the domain
of CSX and Norfolk Southern (with a few miles also operated by KCS
reaching Counce, Tennessee) along with the hub of Memphis which sees
interchange traffic among UP, BNSF and Canadian National along with the
aforementioned railroads. Aside from the Class I systems, Tennessee
also features several short lines some of which include the Caney Fork
& Western Railroad, Conecuh Valley Railroad, East Tennessee Railway,
Knoxville & Holston River Railroad, KWT Railway, Nashville &
Eastern Railroad, Nashville & Western Railroad, Sequatchie Valley
Railroad, Tennken Railroad, Tennessee Southern Railroad, Walking Horse
& Eastern Railroad, West Tennessee Railroad and the Wiregrass
In total, today these railroads operate about 2,600 miles of
the original 4,100 miles of track originally located in Tennessee. With
the state retaining nearly 64% of its original rail infrastructure,
this is a remarkably high number considering that so many states have
experienced losses typically over 45% of their rail networks. For a
more in-depth look at the state's route mileage over the years please
refer to the chart below.
As for passenger trains Amtrak still operates Illinois Central's City of New Orleans, which calls at Memphis. And, the Volunteer State got its first commuter rail service in 2006 when the Music City Star which operates between Nashville
and Lebanon to the east, a distance of just over 32 miles. To learn a
little more about some of the classic streamliners which served
Tennessee please click here to visit the site's section covering the subject. Tennessee
railroads feature several museums and tourist railroads like the Three
Rivers Rambler and Tennessee Central Railway Museum. The Three Rivers
Rambler offers numerous train rides behind motive power like a Baldwin
2-8-0 and an EMD SW600 (one of only a handful ever built).
Tennessee Central Railway Museum likewise features excursions but also
tells the history of one of Tennessee's most famous railroads. Of
course, there are several more museums and tourist trains in Tennessee
than those listed above.
In all, along with its rich history (such as Casey Jones, who is buried
in Jackson, TN and whose home is now a museum) Tennessee
railroads offer a wide range of operations that should appeal to about
any railfan. If, however, you are just interested in museums and/or
excursion trains the Volunteer State offers plenty of those as well!
And lastly, after a thorough day of enjoying everything Tennessee has to
offer book a room in the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the Southern Railway's
former Terminal Station.
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