Chickamauga-to-Durham Railroad Line

The original name of this 17.2-mile railroad was the Chattanooga and Gulf Railroad Company. It was incorporated Nov. 12, 1889, and on Sept. 1, 1891, its name was changed to the Chickamauga and Durham Railroad Company. The line was used to ship coal from mining town of Durham, Georgia, on top of nearby Lookout Mountain. The mines were operated mostly by state convicts who dug the coal from the underground seams and loaded them into 'dinky' carts that were then hauled out of the mine by donkeys. The coal was then taken to Rock Creek to be washed and loaded onto rail cars.

The railroad was constructed by convict labor and finished in 1892. In 1894 the railroad was sold, at foreclosure, and became the Chattanooga and Durham Railroad Line. In 1900 the railroad was sold again to the Chattanooga, Rome and Southern Railway. One year later, Central of Georgia Railway acquired the Chattanooga, Rome and Southern Railway and operated it until abandoned in 1951.

The rail line took a winding route up the mountain and wound around a point of the mountain, called Eagle Cliff, near Lula Lake, then across 14 wooden trestles in its path along rugged Rock Creek to the mines. The precarious route limited maximum speeds on the railroad to only 12 miles per hour, yet two steam locomotives were often required to haul the cars up and down the mountain. Two trips a day were made by the trains to the Chickamauga Coke ovens, operated by The Durham Iron and Coal Company, delivering the coal to be burned at high temperatures and converted to coke. Passenger service was also offered on the line until it was discontinued in 1936.

By the turn of the 20th century, the mines were producing almost 1000 tons of coal per day. The coal began to be depleted from the mines during the depression years and the coke ovens ceased operation soon thereafter, although coal continued to carried by rail from the mines throughout the 1940's.

The old coke ovens have been restored and the area is now operated by the City of Chickamauga as a park and educational facility. Also located in Chickamauga is the Walker County Regional Heritage/Train Museum.

Traces of the old road bed can still be spotted around the area today.

A work train filling in number 7 trestle on the old Durham line near Lula Lake. Probably taken prior to 1920's Photo copyrighted by Central of Georgia Railway Historical Society - used by permissionA work train filling in number 7 trestle on the old Durham line near Lula Lake. Probably taken prior to 1920's Photo copyrighted by Central of Georgia Railway Historical Society - used by permission

Current photo of the trestle number 7 area Photo courtesy of Warren D. StephensCurrent photo of the trestle number 7 area Photo courtesy of Warren D. Stephens

The Cenchat depot stood where the Durham branch crossed the TAG Railway Photo courtesy of Warren D. Stephens - all rights reservedThe Cenchat depot stood where the Durham branch crossed the TAG Railway Photo courtesy of Warren D. Stephens - all rights reserved

Steam locomotive and coal cars on the old Durham Railway line - Photo courtesy (all rights reserved) - http://www.cityofchickamaugageorgia.org/COKE-OVENS.htmSteam locomotive and coal cars on the old Durham Railway line - Photo courtesy (all rights reserved) - http://www.cityofchickamaugageorgia.org/COKE-OVENS.htm

Links to various places on the Internet that contain references to the Chickamauga to Durham Line

Links to References at railga.com
North Ga. Railroad Map: http://railga.com/ngamap.html
Railroad History Page: http://railga.com/chatdurh.html
1897 Map: http://railga.com/chatdurh97.html
1892 Map: http://railga.com/chicdurh92topo.html
Route Schedule: http://railga.com/chicdurh.html

Central of Georgia Railway Historical Society Forum

The following Q&A discussion was copied from the Central of Georgia Railway Historical Society forum. The original URL of this forum link is: http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=001Mo3

Question - Where can I find information about the Chickamauga to Durham, GA line that ceased operating around 1947, including the current status of specific stretches of the old railroad bed?

-- Stanley Wright Lowe, Jr. (stan.lowe@ey.com), September 07, 1999

Answers:

I have arranged permission for a hike and tour of portions of the Chickamauga-Durham Branch (parts are now private property) on Saturday, November 20. We will probably meet in Chickamauga at the depot in the early morning and carpool to two or three locations. The trip will also involve an approximate 3-4 miles of walking. If you are interested pleas e-mail me.

-- Arnold W. Eaves (aeaves@newcastle.com), October 29, 1999.

Arnold, I would be willing to do a field trip to the area. I talked to a former CG engineer this weekend who had run trains on this line. He confirmed what another former employee had told me about guys having to ride the top of the cars and tighten the brakes up as they came down the grade. If you need any help with this let mew know. Todd Horton,Rome Ga.

-- Todd Horton (Centga@aol.com), September 13, 1999.

I grew up in the area of the Chickamauga-Durham line in the late 40- 50's. At that time the rails went from Chicamauga to Wallaceville (approx.) and From Chenchat to McCallie Lake (about one mile.) I saw the last train to travel the section out to Wallaceville, a worktrain pulling up the track. A shorter segment of approximately one/half to 3/4 mile from Chickamauga out to a small factory site (next to the coke oven ruins) remained until some time in the 60's, as best I can recall. Most of the remaining roadbed can be accessed only by traversing private property, and would make a spactacular hike in the late fall and winter. My cousin owns a tract of land bordered by the right of way and knows the owners of most of the remaining mountain sections. He said he would be glad to arrange permission for a group to walk the road bed. This permission is especially important because the section around Eagle Cliff and Lula Lake has been declared off limits to all visitors. He his confident that we can get approval for a group trip of some sort. Up until the early 60's it was possible to drive most of the mountain section but the county bulldozed most such access after a brutal double murder back in '63 or '64. If people in the society would like to arrange a field trip please let me know.

-- Arnold W. Eaves (aeaves@newcastle.com), September 13, 1999.

Stanley, I am in the process of obtaining a photo of the C.ofGa. depot at Cenchat were the Durham Distric crossed the T.A.& G. RY at grade. Chattanooga Div. emp. timetable No. 27 dated Nov. 7 1915 lists trains 51 west and 52 eastbound, both mixed except Sunday. There were water towers at Cenchat and Chickamauga as well as depots at Cenchat and Durham both open 8am to 6pm. Also a coaling tower at Chickamauga. Max. speed between Chickamauga and Duram was a scorching 12 miles per hour. Last June I took the TVRM excursion down what is left of the old T.A.& G. RY and at Cenchat I saw no evidence of old road bed or any sign whatsoever that there ever was another railroad anywere around. If my memory serves me correctly, they didn't abandon this line until 1952. If you want a photo copy of this timetable, please E- Mail me directly and I'll be glad to send it to you.



-- Warren Stephens (wdstephens@prodigy.net), September 07, 1999.