History courtesy of Kevin Comer – from his book Louisville & Nashville Railroad in South Central Kentucky.
In the 1870s, surveyors from the Cumberland & Ohio (C&O) Railroad Company planned a line from Gallatin, Tennessee, to Scottsville, Kentucky. That company fell apart before completion of the survey. The 35-mile line was completed In the 1880s to Scottsville as the Cincinnati, Green River & Nashville Railroad and connected at Hartsville Junction with the ll-mile Middle & East Tennessee Central Railway to Hartsville. The M&SETC had aspired to reach Knoxville, Tennessee, but never got past Hartsville.
The Gallatin to Scottsville line and the line to Hartsville combined to become the Chesapeake & Nashville Railway in 1898. The traces of the wye at Hartsville Junction are still visible today although the rails are gone. The C&N had intended to build north from Gallatin and Nashville to connect with the Cincinnati Southern Railroad at Danville, Kentucky. Parts of the line north of Scottsville were graded, but never completed.
The town of Westmoreland, Tennessee, was actually laid out by the railroad. Near Westmoreland is a tunnel said to be the shortest in the United States and possibly the world. It measures Just 46.5 feet in length. Reportedly, this tunnel came about because the railroad had to make a deep cut in this section, and it would separate the property of George Washington “Wash” Minnick into two pieces. His cattle would not be able to move from one side of his pasture to the other. It is said that the railroad constructed the tunnel to satisfy his needs. Money was allocated in 2004 and used to clear out debris and make the closed tunnel a tourist attraction, but that has not completely materialized. Westmoreland takes pride In having the world’s shortest tunnel. A second tunnel south of Westmoreland was called the “big tunnel”.
In addition to the tunnels, the line had many trestles, including a huge structure just south of Scottsville spanning a wide valley, two creeks, and U.S. Highway 31 East. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad purchased the line in July 1906 since it connected with their main line at Gallatin. Many such lines were purchased by the L&N to keep competitors from operating in their territory. With the acquisition, the L&N also received Locomotives No. 2, 3, 4, and 5; renumbering them as L&N 140, 458, 2185, and 62. No. 3 was a Mogul, and the others were 4-4-0s.
An L&N timetable from 1907 shows that train 9 left Hartsville at 5:30 a.m., arriving in Gallatin at 6:30 a.m. As soon as Train 9 reached Gallatin, Train 11 would leave Scottsville, stopping at Petroleum at 6:48, Adolphus at 6:59, Turners Station at 7:08, Westmoreland at 7:18, Bransford at 7.32, Bethpage at 7:43, Roganna at 7:52, and finally reaching Gallatin at 8:30 a.m. Afternoon Train 10 would leave Gallatin at 4:30 p.m. and make the same stops northbound, reaching Scottsville at 6:30 p.m. The equipment would remain In Scottsville overnight and began the next morning as Train 11. Train 9, which had reached Gallatin at 6:30 a.m., would run back to Hartsvllle as Train 12 at 6:30 p.m., leaving as soon as Train 10 reached Scottsville. Train 12 would arrive at Hartsville at 7:30 pm. and tie down for the evening, then leave Hartsville the next morning as Train 9.
An article in the Scottsville Times-Messenger in 1907 noted that “the town has been free from the sale of intoxicating liquors for the past forty year’s”. However, in reality, the daily train from Tennessee had many jugs, barrels, and bottles addressed to unfamiliar names in Scottsville, usually claimed by local residents.
In the line’s best times, eight trains per day traveled the line carrying passengers, strawberries, tobacco, fertilizer, cloth goods, sand, lumber, livestock, timber, oil, and general freight and mail. Oil was a big part of the line’s commerce, since there were large oil fiends in the area.
The 170-room Epperson Springs Hotel near Westmoreland became famous for the implied medicinal value of the sulfur water in a nearby spring. Travelers would come to Westmoreland by train and be transported to the hotel. The hotel was destroyed by fire in the 1920s and never rebuilt, eliminating most passenger service.
There were reports that the L&N might convert the line into an electric trolley line at one point, but that never materialized. With the small tunnel and many trestles, the L&N eventually used a 70-ton switch engine, usually No. 98 or 99, which was assigned to Gallatin to handle the infrequent trains on the line. No. 98 was eventually sold to Tropicana for switching refrigerated cars of orange juice, and now resides at the Tennessee Central Railway Museum in Nashville.
Near the end, the line saw a couple of trains out of Gallatin a week at best. The maintenance cost of the line with all the trestles eventually outweighed the revenue, and the L&N abandoned it on December 10, 1976. Not long after, the rails were pulled up, and the large trestle near Scottsville eventually came down. All that is left today are the large concrete piers that supported the bridge over US 31 East near Scottsville. Depots remain at Scottsville and Hartsville, and traces of the right-of-way are very visible in several areas.
In tracing the former line, one might find whistle posts, a few stray rails, crossing signs, culverts, bridge piers, and even an intact bridge or two. With no railroad serving the area, and very few reminders, the one-time importance of rail service to Scottsville and Hartsville is easily forgotten.
Kevin’s Comer book may be found at Arcadia Publishing: Louisville & Nashville Railroad in South Central Kentucky