The railroad over which Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum trains travel on its Hiwassee River Rail Adventures was formerly part of the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) Railroad’s Atlanta Division stretching between Etowah, TN and Marietta, Georgia.
When the line was first finished in 1890, it consisted of multiple switchbacks in the tracks in order to gain elevation while crossing the high mountains. The switchbacks proved inefficient and before long the railroad was looking for an alternative. They soon decided to loop the tracks around Bald Mountain, creating one of only three points in the United States where railroad tracks loop over themselves to gain elevation in limited space.
This loop in the tracks, completed in 1898, coupled with a double “S” curve near Jasper, Georgia gave the old line its nickname of the Hook and Eye Line. The “S” curves made up the hook and the loop made the eye.
In the first decade of the Twentieth Century, the L&N obtained a new, more efficient, right of way that passed to the west of the Hook and Eye. With the completion of the new line, the Hook and Eye became the old line. Traffic continued to move on the old line due to the mining operations in Copperhill, TN, but when that business ceased in 2001, the railroad (now CSX Transportation) abandoned that portion of the tracks. In 2002, the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association, a non-profit organization, purchased the tracks for preservation and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum became the sole operator of historic passenger trains on the old Hook and Eye Line.
Today, passengers board busses at the historic depot in Etowah, TN for a short ride to the train boarding area. The train then takes passengers on a scenic journey through historic areas and the Cherokee National Forest. Passengers enjoy views of the Hiwassee River immediately alongside the train for much of the trip as well as waterfalls, wildlife, mountains and the ruins of historic settlements.
Current trips on the Hiwassee line:
For more information on the history of the L&N’s Atlanta Division:
George, Michael. Louisville & Nashville’s Atlanta Division. Collegedale, TN: The College Press, 2000
Buehler, Ingrid, and Linda Caldwell. The Old Line Railroad. Benton, TN: Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association and Polk County Publishing Co. Inc., 2009