Hook and Eye Line

The Hiwassee Loop at Bald Mountain, near Farner, Tennessee.

L&N's route between Marietta, Georgia, and Etowah, Tennessee, was nicknamed the Hook and Eye Line because of two memorable curves on the route. The Hook was a tight double reverse curve just north of Talking Rock, while the Eye was an 8000-foot loop up Bald Mountain near Farner, Tennessee. At the Eye, better known as the Hiwassee Loop, the track encircled the mountain nearly twice before crossing back over itself via a 60-foot-high trestle. The 1.5 percent grade loop was built in 1898 by the Atlanta, Knoxville & Northern Railway to replace a set of switchbacks built by the earlier Marietta & North Georgia Railroad.

L&N acquired the AK&N in 1902 and bypassed the Hook, but the loop remained in operation until 2001 when L&N successor CSX abandoned the 43 miles of line between Etowah and Copperhill. In July 2002, the Southeast Local Development Corporation, a regional improvement organization, reached an agreement with CSX to acquire the abandoned line and convert it into a scenic recreational trail.

In recent years, however, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, in partnership with the Tennessee Overhill Association, has been running passenger excursions from Etowah, TN along the Hiwassee gorge and over the Loop. Some of these trips continue beyond the Loop to Copperhill, TN and McCaysville, GA for a 94-mile roundtrip excursion.

The loop is shown here on the Farner, TN, 1:24,000 scale topographic map. If the older map below is accurate, the two switchbacks were in the area marked "BM RN 199 1261" at the bottom of this map.

This 1892 map shows the switchbacks (east of Prince Ferry). At the time, the railroad was the Marietta & North Georgia.
From: Murphy quadrangle, 1:125,000-scale topographic map. U. S. Geological Survey, 1892 (surveyed). Online at Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas at Austin.


An earlier near-abandonment affected the segment between Blue Ridge and Ellijay, which was out of service and not maintained for some twenty years. In mid-1997, a volunteer group organized by NARCOA cleared trees and brush from the route, reopening it for limited service. (More information here).

The Hook was a tight curve north of Talking Rock. It was cut off in the 1950s when L&N constructed a bypass through the ridge.

Suggested Reading:

Bonita S. Pagel. The Hook and Eye: History of a North Georgia Railroad. Georgia Association of Historians, 1995. Online at CSU Archives, Columbus State University.

RailGa.com. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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