Initially the incline's developers planned to build an electric street railway from the summit station to Rock City, just across the state line in Georgia, and Lula Lake, about four miles farther south. Rock City, which had not then been commercially developed, and Lula Lake, which had waterfalls, cascades, and a scenic lake at the top of Rock Creek canyon, attracted visitors despite their limited accessibility. A streetcar line would open up these natural wonders to a wider audience, and supplement the receipts from the incline.
The line was never built. Millions of people did, however, eventually see Rock City, arriving by automobile and bus. Lula Lake received sporadic visits by area residents, along with regular arrivals by the crews of the Chickamauga & Durham Railroad and its successors.
The first incline, which had become known as Incline No. 1, was abandoned on July 3, 1899. Service on the narrow-gauge and broad-gauge lines also ended the same year.
At the base of the mountain, below Rock City and about two miles south of the state line, was the community of Blowing Springs. There is some indication that the Chattanooga Union Railway extended its steam dummy line from St. Elmo to the vicinity of Blowing Springs sometime around 1890, but, if so, it only lasted a very few years.
To Rossville, Fort Oglethorpe, and Chickamauga Park
A few miles east of Lookout lie the Georgia communities of Rossville and Fort Oglethorpe, as well as Chickamauga Battlefield Park, site of a major Civil War battle in 1863. Most street railway companies thought that having a park at the end of a line was an asset because it would attract fare-paying passengers at times when commuters and business travelers were not filling the cars. Chickamauga Park was especially advantageous because it already existed, was close to the city, and would not have to be company-built.
The first streetcar line to the park was constructed by Chattanooga's Rapid Transit Company in 1900. Its electric cars began in Ridgedale and ran south through East Lake to Rossville, passing just east of that town's railroad depot. After looping through eastern Rossville, they continued south to the north edge of the park, at a place that would later become Fort Oglethorpe.
Not to be outdone, the older Chattanooga Electric Railway worked out an arrangement with the Chattanooga, Rome & Southern Railway, which ran from Chattanooga into Georgia, passing through the community of Lytle at the park's western edge. Essentially, the street railway worked with the railroad to provide through rates via streetcar and train that were competitive with the Rapid Transit Company rates. (See 1917 map).
In 1917 a second streetcar line to Fort Oglethorpe was constructed by the Chattanooga Railway & Light Company. It followed a route east of LaFayette Road, primarily using a private right of way rather than a public road or street.
Map from "Battlefields in Dixie Land ..." Larger map on separate page.
After several mergers and reorganizations of the city's street railways, the new Chattanooga Railway & Light Company emerged in 1909. It quickly upgraded the cars and tracks in its system and began studying ways to improve existing routes and build new ones. One result was a new line through Rossville to Fort Oglethorpe and Chickamauga Park. Completed in 1917, this route used a private right of way that avoided the curves and hills of the older line constructed by the Rapid Transit Company.
Return of the Broad Gauge
The CR&L also built an electric streetcar line on the old Broad Gauge right of way of the Chattanooga & Lookout Mountain Railway, which had been abandoned in 1899. While the steam locomotives that had previously traveled the route needed a switchback on the west side of the mountain, the electric cars did not have the same limitations. The switchback was replaced with a 180-degree curve, eliminating the stop-reverse movement of the steam trains. Cars began operating on the 15-mile route, which came to be called the "Surface Line," in 1913. (Photo at top of page).
Surface Car Line tracks passing under incline. (From: Electric Railway Journal, April 11, 1914. Online at Google Books).
After three money-losing years, the owners of the Surface Car line sought to discontinue the service, but local protests kept the operation more or less intact until 1920. In that year the cars ended service up and down the mountain, although trolleys continued to operate on top until 1928.
Today most of the mountainside route of the Broad Gauge railroad has been preserved as the Guild-Hardy Trail, owned and managed by the Lookout Mountain Conservancy. Also, the general route of the Narrow Gauge railroad can be followed by walking the Bluff Trail between Sunset Rock and Point Park near the top of the mountain.
The first streetcar line to Fort Oglethorpe, built in 1900, was abandoned some time after the Chattanooga Railway & Light line opened in 1917. Park City Road now follows part of its route. The second line ended service by 1933 and was also abandoned. Car Line Road in Rossville now runs on a section of its former route.
Gay Morgan Moore. Chattanooga's St. Elmo. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2012.
Joseph P. Schwieterman. When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2001. Includes a chapter on Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.
David H. Steinberg. And To Think It Only Cost A Nickel!; The Development of Public Transportation in the Chattanooga Area. Privately published, 1975.
Alan A. Walker. Railroads of Chattanooga. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2003.
John Wilson. Scenic, Historic Lookout Mountain. Privately published, 1977.