History of the L&N Old Line Railroad
The L&N Old Line Railroad, known today as the "Old Line," is the only railroad line in the state of Tennessee located in a Historic District and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.In 2005, a historical survey was conducted along the entire 47mile corridor, which led to a 19-mile segment of the line being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Old LIne Railroad was originally built in 1890 by the Knoxville Southern Railroad Company as part of a project to link Knoxville,TN to Marietta, Georgia. In 1902 the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) Railroad took ownership of the Old line and in 1906 the designation "Old Line" took hold. The Old Line remained part of the L&N system until 1982, when it was placed under the ownership of Seaboard Systems. In 1987 Chessie System and Seaboard Systems merged and became CSX Transportation. In 2001 CSX announced plans to abandon the the track and in 2002 the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association, a non-profit organization, purchased the tracks for preservation. Since acquiring the Old Line, Tenenssee Overhill Heritage Association has worked to preserve, restore and open the railroad to the public. Through an operating and maintenance agreement with Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, consistent passenger trains began running along the line in 2006.
History of the Hiwassee Loop
One of the most unique structures on the historic Old Line is the Hiwassee Loop. 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. The L&N Railroad 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 within 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.
Today, passengers board shuttle buses at the historic L&N Depot in Etowah, TN for a short ride to the train boarding area. The train takes passengers on a 3 hour scenic round trip journey through the Cherokee National Forest, alongside the Hiwassee River and Gorge and then around the historic Hiwassee Loop. Some of the train rides continue on to the historic copper mining town of Copperhill, this includes a two hour stopover in Copperhill.