1. Home
  2.  ›
  3. Interurbans
  4.  ›
  5. Tennessee

Tennessee Interurban and Streetcar History


Published: June 9, 2023

By: Adam Burns

The Deep South did not see considerable interurban development when compared to the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and, especially, the Midwest.  The systems that were built were sporadic.  However, most cities of any significance within these states did typically contain a local streetcar operation.

In their book, "The Electrified Interurban Railways In America," authors Dr. George Hilton and John Due note that Tennessee contained two systems that would be described as true interurbans, as well as one other that would be termed as a suburban system.

The former were both located in Nashville and included the Nashville-Gallatin Interurban Railway (NG-I) and Nashville-Franklin Railway (pictured below).  In addition, the latter included the Memphis & Lakeview Traction Company which operated a 12-mile system between Memphis and Lakeview, Mississippi.

In total, all three operated 58 miles of trackage in the state.  The N-GI was gone by 1932 while the N-F carried on far longer than most other interurbans, continuing service until February 4, 1943.  The Memphis & Lakeview Traction was an early victim to the automobile, discontinuing service on April 30, 1928.

19571975198679269378938.jpgSeen here is a postcard featuring the Nashville-Franklin Railway, circa 1910.

Chattanooga Traction Company

The Chattanooga Traction Company served the Chattanooga area from around the turn of the 20th century to 1940 at which time bus operations, operated by the Southern Bus Company, replaced streetcars. However, rail service continued until 1946 due to the war.

Memphis Street Railway

The Memphis Street Railway was created in March of 1895 through the merger of several smaller systems including the Memphis & Raleigh Springs Railroad, East End Street Railway, Citizens Street Railroad and City & Suburban Railway.

At its peak the interurban operated nearly 77 miles of trackage, 51 one of which was double-track. Service lasted until the 1940s when operations were abandoned in favor of buses.

Chattanooga Railway & Light Company

The Chattanooga Railway & Light Company also serve Chattanooga beginning operations in 1909 from several smaller operations.

It was purchased by the Tennessee Electric Power Company in 1922 and streetcar service survived until 1940 when it was replaced by buses.

Knoxville Street Railway

The Knoxville Street Railway was the first of many interurbans to serve the city beginning operations in 1876 as a horse-powered operation.

It was renamed the Knoxville Traction Company in 1897 and again in 1904 as the Knoxville Power & Light Company.

The operation changed hands twice more as the Tennessee Public Service Company in 1930 and again in 1938 as the Knoxville Transit Lines before streetcars were discontinued in 1947 in favor of buses.

Nashville-Franklin Railway

The Nashville-Franklin Railway began operations in 1909 connecting its namesake cities. It remained in service until 1943 when streetcars were replaced by buses operated by the Franklin Interurban Bus Company.

Nashville-Gallatin Interurban Railway

The Nashville-Gallatin Interurban Railway connected its namesake cities beginning operations in 1913. Streetcar service survived until 1932 when the line was abandoned.

Memphis & Lake Traction Company

The small Memphis & Lake Traction Company operated a 12-mile system that served Memphis and Lakeview, Mississippi.

It was first known as the Lakeview Traction Company and later became the Memphis Street Railway Company. In 1913 it gained its final name as the Memphis & Lake Traction. It was never very profitable and was abandoned before the depression in 1928.

Other Systems

Bristol Street Railway


Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource on the study of steam locomotives. 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website. 

It is quite staggering and a must visit!