Nashville, Chattanooga &
St. Louis Railway

Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway locomotive no. 330

The Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad Company was chartered in Tennessee in 1845. The main line from Nashville to Chattanooga, running a distance of 151 miles, was opened in early 1854.

A key link in the line, the 2,228-ft. Cumberland Mountain Tunnel near Cowan, Tennessee, opened in 1852.

From Chattanooga, the line twisted its way westward through the mountains of the Cumberland Plateau, generally following the route of today’s I-24. At several places on the west side of Lookout Mountain, the rails crossed into Georgia, but seldom more than a few hundred feet. At Georgia’s northwest corner, the railroad turned southwest to Bridgeport, Alabama, where it crossed the Tennessee River. From there it continued southwest to Stevenson, Alabama, where it turned north towards Nashville.

In 1870, the Nashville & Chattanooga acquired the Nashville & Northwestern which ran from Nashville to Hickman, Kentucky. The two railroads consolidated in 1872, and the name was changed to Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway in 1873.

In 1880, L&N gained control of NC&St.L by acquiring 55 percent of its stock.

In 1890, NC&St.L leased the Western & Atlantic Railroad from the State of Georgia, giving it a line to Atlanta.

The branch from Kingston to Rome, purchased from the Rome Railroad in 1896, was abandoned in 1943.

During the 1940s, NC&St.L realigned its tracks between Acworth and Emerson to reduce curvature and to accommodate the new Lake Allatoona. North of Emerson, a new Etowah River bridge opened in December 1944, replacing the older structure upstream.

In 1944, the NC&St.L had 1,072 miles of track, most of which was in Tennessee.

NC&St.L was merged into L&N in 1957.

Eight-wheel standard passenger locomotive built by Rogers for NC&StL. (From 1897 Rogers Locomotive Company catalog).

Ten-wheel passenger locomotive built by Baldwin for NC&StL. (From Railway and Locomotive Engineering, April 1906).

Locomotive no. 650

2-8-2 freight locomotive built by ALCO and used by NCSL as no. 650. From Walter Arndt Lucas, Pocket guide to American Locomotives, 1953. Online at HathiTrust Digital Library here.

Maps, Timetables, and Other Information:

1877 advertisement (99K)

1891 advertisement (130K)

1889 map at Library of Congress

1895 timetable, Atlanta - Stevenson, AL (178K)

1895 map (275K)

1911 map (653K)

1917 equipment list (52K)

1918 timetable (382K)

1944 map, northwest Georgia (36K)

1940s map, Cartersville to state line and to Rome (502K)


In this Civil War period photograph, the Nashville & Chattanooga railroad is shown running through a narrow corridor between Lookout Mountain and the Tennessee River, a little over two miles north of the GA-TN line. In 1905, Southern Railway wanted to come through here too, but was forced to construct a parallel tunnel through the mountain. Today the two railroads still pass through this area, along with Interstate 24.
From: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Larger image online here.

A later view of the same area. From: Chattanooga, the Mountain City, 1906. Online at Internet Archive here.

Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway passenger car

NC&St.L passenger car at Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway bridge at St. Elmo Avenue, Chattanooga

On the railroad overpass at St. Elmo Avenue on the south side of Chattanooga, near the Georgia/Tennessee line.

Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway bridge over Bolton Road, Atlanta

Railroad bridge over Bolton Road in northwest Atlanta.

More information:

NC&StL Preservation Society

Suggested reading:

Dain L. Schult, Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis; A History of the Dixie Line (Lynchburg, VA: TLC Publishing, 2002).

Charles B. Castner, Jr., Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway; The Dixie Line (Newton, NJ: Carstens Publications, 1995).

Richard E. Prince, Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway; History and Steam Locomotives. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001, Reprint. Originally published by Richard E. Prince in Green River, Wyoming, 1967.)

James D. B. DeBow, Legal History of the Entire System of Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Ry. and Possessions. Nashville, TN: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, c. 1900. Online at Internet Archive here.

Terry L. Coats. Next Stop on Grandpa's Road: History and Architecture of the NC&St.L Depots and Terminals. Nashville: Author's Corner, 2009. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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