Crab Orchard to Ringgold

The Tennessee Central Railway

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The Tennessee Central station in Crossville. The building is being used as a candy store. Photo by Mike Palmer, December 1996.

The Tennessee Central's predecessors began service in 1871 as the Tennessee & Pacific. The T&P pushed east from Nashville to Lebanon and by 1894 to Monterey. By 1900, as the Tennessee Central, it had connected with the Southern (CNO&TP) at Emory Gap. In 1904, a final 2-mile segment was built to Harriman and the 83-mile extension from Nashville northwest to Hopkinsville, KY was quickly constructed. The TC was envisioned as a coal carrier and by the 1950s coal was the biggest commodity shipped. The TC provided access to Nashville from the northwest for ICG and from the east for Southern. The TC went in and out of receivership and had very few profitable years. The TC was never very successful and was abandoned in May 1968. The line was then divided up among the larger regional rail companies in the area: Illinois Central (Hopkinsville to Nashville), Louisville & Nashville (Nashville to Crossville), and Southern (Crossville to Harriman).

Below is a rough timeline of the Tennessee Central Railway.

     Hopkinsville ---- Nashville ---- Lebanon ---- Monterey ---- Crossville ---- Crab Orchard ---- Harriman
===========================================================================================================
1871 |                    |--- Built ----|
1894 |                                   |--- Built --|
1904 |       |-- Built ---|                           |---------------- Built ------------------------|
1968 |       |--- IC -----|----------- L&N --------------------------|--------- SR -------------------|
1971 |       |-abandoned--|
1996 |                    |------ N&E ----------------|-- abandoned--|-- abandoned ----|

Crossville had been the western end of the remnant operated by Southern, but by 1996 the tracks had been cut back to Crab Orchard. On the Nashville end of this segment, the Louisville & Nashville had operated the line between Nashville and Crossville, but this had been cut back further west to Monterey by 1996. This L&N segment is now the Nashville & Eastern. There is a rail bridge over Interstate 40 that still had a "L&N" sign in 1996. IC abandoned their portion by 1971. The portion from Ashland City to Nashville is operated by Central of Tennessee Railway & Navigation Company. The portion north of Ringgold is operated by the US Government as the Fort Campbell Railroad and provides service to Fort Campbell.

Towns on the abandoned IC section NW of Nashville are: Ringgold, Kenwood, Adairville, Clarksville, Summit, Spalding, Hickory Point, Doddsville, Fox Bluff, and Chapmansboro. Towns on the abandoned L&N and Southern sections are: Monterey, Mayland, Campbell Junction, Pomona Road, Creston, Crossville, Dorton, and Otter Creek. There was also a spur to Fall Creek, another one to Plateau and Isoline from Campbell Junction, and another one from east of Monterey to Mineral Springs, Obey City, Bonsack, Hanging Limb, Crawford, Highland Junction, Davidson and Wilder.

Thanks to Mike Palmer for contributing information about this route.

The IC portion remained in service through the Illinois Central Gulf merger, and was mostly abandoned around 1984.

Thomas
Jackson, TN
4/10/2010

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A short stretch of the Wilder branch out of Monterey has been rebuilt to serve a sand mine. The new track stops at or very close to the Putnam county line.

Josh Monroe
Athens, TN
7/21/2010

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I see the mention on your site about tracks to a sand quarry near Monterey. I see those sand trains go past about once a month -- I guess they run 1-2 times a week. I think the tracks to Crossville have all been pulled up now.

Steve Smith
Crookeville, TN
10/7/2010

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There is about 5 miles of Tennessee Central tracks still in place heading from Gordonsville to South Carthage, most is severely overgrown, now is the only time to actually get photos. Once the spring growth starts its gone in a flash. South Carthage just converted the last 2 miles to walk path, tore up the rails. Old spurs and street rail is still intact. I've gotta get my camera down there and take some photos. Too late for some shots, just a trail now. Would have been need to clear and take a speeder thru.

Steve Siegel
South Carthage, TN
2/7/2011

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The steam locomotive on display in Cookeville was not a Tennessee Central locomotive. Unfortunately, none of their steam locomotives were preserved. This display was purchased from the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga and re-lettered TC.

Robert Thurman
Cookeville originally, Brentwood now, TN
5/2/2011

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In the late 90's me and my uncle actually cleared off a section and put his speeder on it. The track was severely out of gage in some spots. There's a tall trestle crossing Bluff Creek next to the water treatment plant. Couldn't clear that section because of a large slide on the track. I remember when I was a kid when the trains would come into South Carthage. I wish they still did! Its a shame they don't anymore. I remember the L&N putting new crossing towers and lights up at Hwy. 53. It all went away with the N&E and no rail traffic.

Brandon Bussell
Carthage, TN
5/27/2011

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I once read that there was a roundhouse in the Crab Orchard/Crossville area. They said the lights were viable at night from the interstate? Is this true and where is it at?

Bo Ellis
Cleveland, TN
6/20/2013

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I rode the TCRy from Creston to Monterey home from school every day in the spring of 1954. One day when the engineer stepped down from the cab he told me I had to ride in the cab going home. He explained that the rail road was getting rid of steam engines in not long and he wanted me to be able to say I had shoveled coal on a main line steam train. the next day the run from Nashville to Dayton and back went to Diesel. The last day steam ran on the TCRY a ten year old worked as fire man for about 20 miles. they don't have train men like that any more. Thanks for listening to my story, Conrad Hay

Conrad Hay
gaithersburg, MD
11/9/2013

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Perhaps as a predecessor for the line between Nashville and Lebanon, but the T&P and the TC were totally separate.

In the beginning the TC, as the Nashville & Knoxville, ran from Lebanon eastward, intending to meet the CNO&TP (Southern, now Norfolk Southern) at Glen Alice, Tn. It made its connection from Lebanon into Nashville over the T&P. But Jere Baxter and the T&P didn't get along so the TC built a sort-of parallel track to Nashville. The T&P/NC&StL became a dead end with only a few customers in Lebanon and along the line. The only significant expansion was the Old Hickory branch from Stones River Jct. to the Dupont gunpowder plant built during WWI. The "Lebanon Accommodation" ended service in 1935. The Old Hickory branch then connected to the TC and is operated now. The TC acquired the former T&P/NC&StL properties in Lebanon.

I remember the Mud Tavern toll house and another building used as a lawnmower shop on Elm Hill Pike (as in "TurnPike," a toll road) just east of McGavock Pk. from my childhood. I spent many enjoyable hours tramping along the ROW when at about 10 or 11 I was allowed to run around the area.

The T&P RR station in Lebanon stands to this day.

As a note of interest, some of the predecessor railroad corporations are still in "paper" existence as owners of ROW.

Al Grayson
Tennessee
11/24/2013

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To Robert Thurman,

One known steam engine operated by the TC was donated to the city of Nashville and placed on display at the Centennial Park on West End Ave. Don't remember size of engine at this writing but is easily "googled" for more info.

Frank Monfette
Springfield, TN
4/13/2014

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As a life long resident of the Robertson/Montgomary counties of Tn. I would like to correct something that has been mislabeled. The river that runs from Robertson county into the Cumberland River in Clarksville is the "Red River",,,the "Little West Fork of the Red River" is a tributary that connects to the Red River. So the TC railway only crosses the Red River but it does travel along the West Fork for several miles on its way towards Hopskinville, ky. FYI,,,the portion of railway north of the Red River has been turned into a very nice trail way, paved, benches, restrooms, water stations, etc.

Frank Monfette
Springfield, TN
4/13/2014

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I was a trainman for Southern and Norfolk Southern. I made the run from Harriman to Crossville until service was cut back to Crab Orchard. We ran to Crossville until 1985 and meet L&N. The line is still in use to Crab Orchard. We also work Harriman and the Kingston Coal Fired Generator to this day. I miss the ride up and down the mountain. I was a young man and had a great job.

Chuck Davis
Chattanooga, TN
5/26/2014

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I have a mile marker 39. would this be 39 miles from Ky?

The tracks were pulled in 1985 I think. This was L&N.

james brady
Erin , TN
6/14/2014

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We have a turn-a-round in Erin, I had been covered for years. we uncovered it in 1980. only thing left is the stones. it's part of the Park.

james brady
Erin, TN
6/14/2014

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I recently bought a pay ledger from T&P Railroad from 1922. Has the s lot of pretty cool things in it. Names of employess, pay rates, hours worked. And what they purchased. Has some receipts for life insurance policy from a J.W. Shields of Memphis.

John
Florence, AL
7/4/2014

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