locked Re: Depot for St. Elmo, TN

George Eichelberger

Here is a poor quality (small) map of Chattanooga Traction circa 1939. There are several large, and clear, blueprints in the file but they are not yet scanned. It has been many years since the Signal Mtn. line was abandoned but I am curious if there are any traces left.

(If anyone has a large format scanner they are willing to donate or sell, we will put it to good use. There is a good quality 42” color roll scanner in the archives SRHA purchased years ago but there is a limit to how many scans we can make. Some large drawings are in poor condition so it takes significant time to use a document carrier and adjust scan size and color levels.)


On Feb 11, 2021, at 7:59 PM, Warren Stephens <wdstephens@...> wrote:

George that CTC file sounds interesting. I guess it discussed Webster James and his disposal of his father’s creation and his abandonment of Chattanooga for life in Daytona Beach, Florida. I would love to read about the electrified freight operations especially the pushing of coal hoppers up Signal Mountain to the Signal Mountain Inn. I have valuations maps of the existing CTC but would love to have maps for the route up the mountain. 

Tim I also have that file from as far back as the earliest attempt by Chattanooga to relocate the railroads till the end. What I have is mostly from a CofG perspective. I especially love the early inner railroad communications where a CofG official wrote “this too shall pass”. Boy was he wrong. The former L&N engineer who was brought in by the city had an interesting concept compared to what actually took place and he was the one that provided the interesting concept drawings of the new Art Deco depot. I especially chuckled when I read in his report,  that the TAG was given credit for four passenger coach movements per day. The Brill motorcar deadheading to Union Depot. Then to Gadsden. Then back to Union Depot then deadheading back to the TAG yard. There were a lot of freight and passenger cars flowing through down town back then. Based on CofG files, they were grateful to be free of their old yard which was crammed between 23 rd street and Roseville Boulevard. They were having trouble building the longer freight trains brought about by multiple unit diesel trains. I think you could take these files of ours and some pictures and easily write a book on the railroad relocation. Ike I would love to have a copy of that CTC file as well as the file on the TAG merger. COVID won’t last forever. 


On Feb 11, 2021, at 6:19 PM, TIM ANDREWS <andrewstim@...> wrote:

Warren and George,

I will have to find the file on Plan N, the grade separation and removal of the NC and CG from "Downtown" Chattanooga.  I believe it was lettered "N" because it was the final plan after plans A through M were never agreed to, but I'm just speculating.  In the file there is also a discussion of a combined depot on the relocated LN mainline near where Broad Street goes over the relocated LN and Chattanooga Creek.  Of course passenger service ended before any of this was built so it became a moot point. IIRC plan N was completed with Federal urban renewal dollars, probably with Chattanooga Housing Authority money from HUD in the early 1970s.  I seem to remember the completion being mentioned in a Southern Railway annual report shortly after I became a Southern Railway stockholder (10 shares of Southern Railway preferred stock-it had a better yield then the common stock) in about 1974.

Tim Andrews

On Thursday, February 11, 2021, 05:04:46 PM EST, Warren Stephens <wdstephens@...> wrote:

George, Remember Southern had traditionally used trackage rights on NC&StL to gain access to Stevenson Alabama and therefore Memphis (west) and to reach the AGS on the west side of Lookout Mountain (south). This new trackage was supposed to get all the way to Stevenson but for financial reasons, they only made it out as far as the AGS. He is referencing railroad south and not geographically south through St. Elmo. 

This new Southern method of egressing town to the west and south was good for Southern but it added yet another busy mainline down town for automobile traffic to contend with. Chattanooga began the interesting process of kicking the railroads out of down town not long after Southern opened this new route. Very strange episode. The city at first wanted the railroads to elevate all their trackage in town. If you ever saw a vintage aerial of Chattanooga, there were 40 foot boxcars parked everywhere. The railroads countered with how would they switch these customers. The railroads did their best to ignore the city till Chattanooga went to the state legislature and had a Chattanooga Rail Authority formed with the ability - through imminent domain - to kick the railroads out of town and at their own expense. There were proposals for a new art deco union station over close to the National Cemetery and this is what brought about the CofG and NC&St.L abandoning their original yards and the relocation of the NC from town to alongside Southern and then both were elevated over Main street. Chattanooga is a most interesting rail hub. Far more interesting to me than Atlanta.

Warren D. Stephens

On Thursday, February 11, 2021, 04:35:14 PM EST, George Eichelberger <geichelberger@...> wrote:


I cannot say definitively there was no St. Elmo station but I can find no references to it in any of the Southern files I have scanned. (The “line from the south” in his letter I found confusing.)


On Feb 11, 2021, at 3:50 PM, Warren Stephens <wdstephens@...> wrote:

To be honest I am not totally certain where St. Elmo ends and Chattanooga and/or Alton Park begins. This gentleman is obviously referring to the new Southern alignment which was being crafted partly by upgrading Belt Railway of Chattanooga trackage to mainline and then an entirely new right of way from just south of Shipp yard. This junction of upgraded Belt and new right of way was called “Southern Extension” in TAG employees timetables. Just below the meeting of old a new trackage a natural wye occurred on what was still the Chattanooga Belt. It was here that TAG turned their large steam engines after they outgrew their turntable at Alton Park. The new right of way began a climb to Lookout Mountain tunnel almost immediately after Shipp and was therefore elevated by the time it reached what I have always believed to be St. Elmo city limits. St. Elmo had always been connected to down town Chattanooga. By street car and by the Chattanooga Union Railway steam dummy and by the Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain Railway but as the letter stated only the street car remained by this point. Vintage maps indicate that there was a St. Elmo station on the Chattanooga Union Railway (later Chattanooga Belt) trackage used by Chattanooga Southern (later TAG) to reach the state line. I assume it was used by TAG and steam dummy trains and I can’t see it being very elaborate. By virtue of the fact that the new AGS alignment was elevated through St. Elmo, I doubt this station was ever built. I also doubt the AGS really saw a need for a suburban station that close to Terminal Station. As the crow flys maybe three to three and a half miles? 

Warren D. Stephens
CofG and TAG fan

On Feb 11, 2021, at 8:58 AM, George Eichelberger <geichelberger@...> wrote:

Until the time of WWI, one of the marks of an “up to date little town” was to have its own freight and passenger stations. The SRHA archives have many letters, similar to the attachment, touting the status of towns, or even developers’ dream of where a town will be, to the Southern in hopes of having a depot built and becoming a timetable stop.

In some cases, the Southern would decline to spend the money but would offer to let whoever was promoting the concept pay to build a combination freight and passenger station on company property to be owned and controlled by the railroad. Having an established post office in the town was almost always a requirement so mail revenue could add to the revenues.

The attached letter from the St. Elmo, TN Business League is typical. SRHA archives "Box  O File 167” does not offer information on if a depot was ever built for St. Elmo (a suburb of Chattanooga).


<1916-1-19 St. Elmo, TN depot request.jpeg>

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