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A Brief History of the Tennessee Central Railway Company

Compiled and written by: J. Allen Hicks

FA-1 leaving Nashville in January 1963 The Tennessee Central Railway Company extended from Harriman, Tennessee, on the east to Hopkinsville, Kentucky, on the west, a distance of 248 miles, and was composed of lines constructed and lines acquired by a predecessor Company as follows:

March, 1884 - The Nashville and Knoxville Railroad Company was chartered by Alexander Crawford, a wealthy Pennsylvania iron baron. The route of the proposed railroad went from Lebanon, Tennessee, eastward to Glen Alice, Tennessee, approximately 125 miles.

The section from Lebanon to Gordonsville, Tennessee, was opened on August 11, 1888, with the Carthage branch (Hickman Junction to Carthage) completed in December of that same year. Crawford died in 1890 with the railroad ended at Cookeville, a total of about 60 miles. His sons funded the building on eastward to Monterey (another 19 miles) and a branch from Monterey to Hanging Limb that was completed in 1894.

August, 1893 - The Tennessee Central Railroad Company was incorporated to build a line from the eastern terminus of the N & K RR (now Monterey) to a point on the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway near Glen Alice, Tennessee. With Jere Baxter as president, the aim of the TC RR Co. was a rail link from the Tennessee River east through Nashville and on to Knoxville. Some construction was complete before the Panic of 1893 struck the United States. Baxter, himself, lost his own fortune in the Panic and with this the railroad was placed in the hands of a receiver in April of 1895. However, Baxter used receiver's certificates as a basis for credit and work was continued on the rail line.

Baxter, in June of 1897, formed a syndicate which bought the TC in a foreclosure sale and line was renamed the Tennessee Central Railway.

October, 1900 - The line was completed from Crossville to Emory Gap.

#726 leaving Nashville January 1901 - Baxter leased the Kingston Bridge and Terminal Railway for a period of 99 years and in February of the same year the Cumberland Plateau Railroad (from Campbell Junction to Isoline) was leased.

February 5, 1901 - Baxter organized the Tennessee Central Railway Company to build a line from a connection with the Nashville Terminal Company at Nashville to a connection with the N & K RR Company at Lebanon. The N & K itself was purchased by Baxter in late 1901 and the Nashville-Lebanon section was completed in April 1902.

April 16, 1901 - Baxter obtained a charter for construction of the Nashville and Clarksville Railroad Company and this charter was amended on June 30, 1901, to move the western terminus from Clarksville to a point on the Kentucky-Tennessee line in Montgomery County.

Also, with this amendment, the Tennessee Central Railroad Company purchased the Tennessee Central Railway, the Tennessee Central Railway Company, and the Nashville and Knoxville Railroad Company. It also leased the property and trackage of the Nashville Terminal Company for 99 years and along in the same period of time the Tennessee Central Railroad Company bought the Cumberland Plateau Railroad. Work was commenced on the Nashville and Clarksville Railroad.

May 4, 1903 - Jere Baxter resigned as president of the TC and was succeeded by N. C. Chapman. Baxter, however, remained on the Board of Directors.

June, 1903 - A coal spur from Hanging Limb, Tennessee, to Crawford was completed and extended on to Wilder in December 1903.

October, 1903 - The first train ran on the Western Division from Nashville to Ashland City.

February, 1904 - The Western Division was completed to Hopkinsville, Kentucky,(95.4 miles) to a connection with the Illinois Central Railroad. Also, in 1904 the eastern terminus was extended from Emory Gap to Harriman and a connection with the Southern Railway.

Jere Baxter died in mid-1904 and the financial problems of the past rose again and continued to do so until December 31, 1912, when the road was again placed in the hands of receivers. Here it remained until January 10, 1922, when a purchasing syndicate purchased the line and changed the name to the Tennessee Central Railway Company, the name it bore for the remainder of it's life.

1930 - Passenger service on the Western Division was discontinued.

TC Locomotive #50, first diesel in operation in Nashville 1939 - TC bought the first Diesel-Electric locomotive (#50) to be used in regular service in Nashville, and in 1941 obtained a second (#51) such unit. Several ex-New York Central Railroad steam locomotives were purchased for Company use also.

1940's - Troop trains and hauling of war materials helped inject a hope for TC and during the war some ex-Illinois Central Railroad passenger steam locomotives were bought for freight service. Four (4) ex-Norfolk and Western Railway Mallet-type 2-6-6-2 locomotives were bought for use in the mountains. But, after the war, traffic again sagged and the uphill fight was still losing ground.

Train #2 at speed behind 4-8-2 #553 1948 - TC bought 3 1000 horsepower locomotives from the Baldwin Locomotive Works. (#75-77)

1949 - 6 cab unit type diesels were bought from the American Locomotive Company. (#801-805, 801B)

1952 - TC had 19 diesels on the property and yet a few steamers, though by 1956 all steam power was gone from the roster.

Mid-50's - TC borrowed almost $5 Million from the Federal Government's Reconstruction Finance Corporation for improvement of it's right-of-way. This money kept things going for some time but even in the end was never repaid.

1955 - Passenger service on the Eastern Division was terminated.

RS-36 #301 new at Nashville in 1962 1956 - RS-3's #259-260 purchased.

1962 - RS-36's #301-302 purchased.

1963 - RS-36's #303-305 purchased.

1966 - C-420's #400-401 arrived plus 3 ex-Reading Railroad RS-3's were also purchased secondhand from Alco Products, Inc.

W. W. Glenn become President but even his efforts couldn't stop the downhill spiral of the TC.

1968 - A. Battle Rodes was appointed trustee for the bankrupt line with debts amounting to approximately $10 Million. Rodes considered abandonment of the road but too many jobs, industries, etc. were dependent upon the TC.

May 31 was the supposed 'death date' for the line but the Louisville and Nashville Railroad purchased 10 locomotives (#248-250, 301-305, 400-401) and 25 freight cars and with this money the line was able to continue operations. The locomotives were leased back to the TC for their use. TC was finally divided into three sections and sold as follows:

Illinois Central bought the Hopkinsville - Nashville segment for $600,000.00, Louisville and Nashville bought the Nashville - Crossville segment for $525,000.00, and Southern bought the Crossville - Harriman segment for $340,000.00. The TC belt line around Nashville had been sold to the State of Tennessee in 1965 as a right-of-way for the proposed 1-440 loop, and had TC continued to run, trackage rights over the L&N would have had to been obtained to tie the east and west divisions together at Nashville.

August 31, 1968 - TC operated its last train and all equipment and properties were divided and sold to pay off debts.


4-6-0 #502 on an inspection train at Clarksville in 1942 4-6-0 #502 on an inspection train at Clarksville in 1942
4-8-2 #551 with a passenger train at Nashville on a snowy January day in the 1940's 4-8-2 551 with a passenger train at Nashville in the 1940's
4-8-2 #552 new at Alco 4-8-2 #552 new at Alco
2-8-2 #703 new at Alco 2-8-2 #703 new at Alco
TC Crane 2081 sets girders in place for bridge at Edgoten in 1942 TC Crane 2081 at Edgoten in 1942
2-8-2 #704 leaving Nashville 2-8-2 #704 leaving Nashville
A triple header with train A triple header with train
TC Chair Car #750 TC Chair Car #750

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