During the 1830s, Georgia's progress in railroad-building attracted the attention and enthusiasm of eastern Tennessee businessmen. Seeing the advantages of a direct rail route to the Atlantic as compared to the long and arduous trip down the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers, they organized in 1836 the Hiwassee Railroad, named for the river that would be crossed on the way to Georgia. The railroad would connect Knoxville with the Georgia Railroad, which at the time was planned to reach across northern Georgia to the Tennessee River valley.
Construction of the Hiwassee began promptly, but a change of plans was afoot in Georgia. The Georgia Railroad would not be extended north, but instead would connect with a new state-owned railroad, the Western & Atlantic, at a point near the Chattahoochee River. The northern terminus of the W&A would be at Ross' Landing on the Tennessee River, well to the west of the route preferred by the Hiwassee.
Further clouding the Tennessee railroad's prospects, an economic panic in 1837 and the severe depression that followed brought the construction of the W&A to a crawl. The Hiwassee had completed a million dollars worth of grading and bridge-building, but had incurred heavy debt without any revenues to offset it. Without the W&A connection, it was a road to nowhere. Having little likelihood of surviving until a connection was made, the company entered bankruptcy.
The ET&G was organized in 1848 from the financial wreckage. In 1856, it completed the line from Knoxville to the W&A at Dalton, Georgia, finally linking eastern Tennessee to the Atlantic coast. In 1869 it was merged with the East Tennessee & Virginia (Knoxville to Bristol) to form the East Tennessee, Virginia, & Georgia Railroad.
Maps and Timetables:
1853 map (103K)
1863 timetable (104K)
Civil War period map (158K)