Decherd, TN to Chase, AL

The Huntsville Branch

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(Forwarded from the Wincester & Alabama Railroad)

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The passenger depot in Maxwell, Tennessee, looking northeast. Photo by Phillip Kennedy, May 2008.

This abandoned railway line started out as the Winchester and Alabama Railroad in 1852. While originally planned to run between Decherd (on the Nashville, Chattanooga and Saint Louis Railroad mainline) and Huntsville, AL, to the south, the W&A got as far as Elora, TN before running short of money. Instead of continuing the line southward until running completely out of money, the W&A decided to set their targets to Fayetteville, TN, to the northwest. The American Civil War wreaked havoc on the W&A, and the line went into receivership soon after, being purchased outright by the state of Tennessee. Consequently, the line went dormant.

A few years later in 1877, the NC&StL (then owned by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad), interested in reaching Huntsville, AL, purchased the line from the state of Tennessee, and in 1887, they begin building south from Elora into Alabama as the Elora-Huntsville Railroad. As they approached Huntsville from the northeast, the E-H joined with the Memphis and Charleston Railroad (coming from the east into Huntsville) at Chase, and used the M&C line to reach Huntsville while their line into Huntsville was being completed. Once finished, the switch at Chase, called "Fearn Switch", was removed, with both railroads entering Huntsville on their own lines.

The line between Decherd and just outside of Chase was abandoned in 1985, just a few years after the L&N and Seaboard Coast Line formed the Seaboard System. A segment of the line outside of Chase, about 5 miles to the start of the abandonment, is still in operation by volunteers of the North Alabama Railroad Museum, who operates an excursion train over the line.

See also the southern end of this line from Norton to Hobbs Island.

The southern end of this line, from the NS in Huntsville to the Port of Huntsville is still in operation by the Port of Huntsville Railroad. You can easily trace much of the ROW from the NS in Huntsville to where the remaining museum portion starts at the edge of a college campus a mile or so before Chase.

Harold Holiman
LaFayette, GA
10/11/2010

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I have located some vintage photo's of the southern end of this line, at the Tennessee River. This is where they loaded the train onto a riverboat (near Hobbs Island) where it was continued at Guntersville Landing. From there the line went south into Gadsden, AL.

I will send these to Richard, so he may post them on this site.

Phillip Kennedy
Toney, AL
4/12/2011

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I had a B&B in Winchester, TN several years ago. While there, I found the old (Winchester) train depot being used by the city maintenance department. At the time (2004), it looked in decent shape, but driving by this year (2014), it looks much worse for wear. I wonder if the city knows it is letting a piece of local history get away?

Bob Fedder
Easley, SC
5/15/2014

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There are some old bridge pillars along US 64 where it crosses the Elk River in Tennessee. I also remember seeing some culverts along the old ROW where it paralleled US 64 for a while somewhere near the Elk River bridge, but I don't remember where they were. I wasn't able to get any pictures sadly.

freebrickproductions
Huntsville, AL
11/5/2014

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Dad and I explored some of this line today and found the old bridge pillars crossing the Elk River and the station in Winchester. The station is being used by the city as noted above and appears to be in very good shape. It looks like the brickwork has been cleaned and new paint applied. One end is used as a conference room. The passenger depot in Kelso has had all of the weeds removed and fencing attached to both ends on the road side. Paint is peeling but it still looks ok. The station in Maxwell is looking significantly worse.

Cindy Carlton
Shelbyville, TN
3/19/2015

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