Last Updated: Tuesday, April 11, 2000


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Tennesee Central

Tennesee Central

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Owner: Dan MacKellar

History: In August, 1968, the Tennessee Central Railway was supposed to fade into oblivion and be auctioned off. Only a last ditch effort by the State saved the line from this fate. A bill was put forth to purchase the ailing rail line at scrap value and lease it out to a designated operator. The bill was passed in late July, and the railroad passed into State ownership on September 1st, 1968. Several factors had to be addressed immediately, the first being the sale of a portion of TCs Nashville Belt Line to the State for construction of Interstate 440. It was decided to push the TC mainline through the middle of Nashville along the south bank of the Cumberland River, very similar to what TC founder Jere Baxter had envisioned nearly 70 years earlier.

The Tennessee Central had also sold a large number of locomotives and rolling stock to the Louisville and Nashville, which in turn leased these back to the TC. The influx of cash allowed TC to operate until the end of August. The company emerged from a reorganization as the Tennessee Central Railroad, and began debt free under new management.

The new operators, a group of businessmen from Nashville and area decided to invest in new motive power as opposed to continuing to lease from L&N. The only motive power TC had upon purchase were 5 Alco RS3's, and one S1. The new management went to the ailing New York Central for power in the form of 3 SW8's, 6 F7As, 4 F7Bs and 10 RS3's. Heavy drag freight power was purchased from the Southern Railway. Ten SD9's arrived on property in early September, the first 6-axle diesels on TC rails. The SW8's were numbered 52-54, the F7As became TC 600-605, the B units 600B,602B and 604B respectively. The RS3's became #260-269 and the SD9's Tennessee Central #1000-1009.

The TCs Western Division had fallen into disrepair due to deferred maintenance. A rebuilding program was initiated to upgrade the track speed to 45MPH from 15. New ties and rail were laid, bridges were reinforced, and by Spring of 1969, trains were rolling at 45MPH between Nashville and Hopkinsville, KY. The Tennessee Valley Authority let out coal contracts in late 1968, and several of the mines on TC regained the business they lost in the late 1950's. Management also pushed pig service. Using A-B-A sets of F7's, TC began running hotshot piggyback trains between Nashville and Knoxville, running into Knoxville over Southern rails. Throughout late 1968 and early 1969, the ex NYC and Southern units were repainted into a grey and blue scheme similar to that introduced in 1967 on 3 RS3's.

By the mid 1970's, the RS3's were beginning to show their age. They were traded in to EMD in 1977 for 10 brand new GP38-2's. These units rode on trucks from the RS3's. The 38's showed up on everything from drag freight to pig train to local. The line continued to toil until 1984, when the next major purchase occurred. The line purchased 9 miles of ex-Illinois Central track from Hopkinsville, KY to Gracey, KY. Another 22 miles from Gracey to Princeton, KY was purchased in 1988, giving TC a link with the newly formed Paducah & Louisville Railroad.

More motive power was purchased in the mid 80's, virtually all of which has remained on roster. Ten SD35's were purchased from Southern in early 1987, as well as 10 former Chicago & North Western Alco C628's (nee N&W). The F7's and SW8's were retired, and the SD9's went into the shops for overhauls. Five emerged with chopped noses and upgraded prime movers. Designated SD9uM's, they also initiated a new horsepower based numbering scheme as #1800-1804. The other five SD9's were chopped down into engineless slugs, mated to their powered siblings. The GP38's were renumbered #2000-2009, the SD35's became TC #2500-2509 and the C628's #2800-2809.

The GP38-2's are used for local runs as well as TOFC and stack trains, the SD9's are mainly for switching, but its not unusual to see one performing through or way freight duties. Coal and drag freight is exclusively the domain of the SD35's and Centuries. The TC remains a viable bridge route, and business has been extremely successful.

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