Construction of the line began in 1912 with the awarding of a $100,000 contract for construction of the grade from the Chattanooga Traction Company junction with rails owned by the Chattanooga Railway & Light Company in North Chattanooga to the top of the mountain, ending near Signal Point. The first rails were laid in June of 1913 and by mid-August, rails had been laid to the foot of the mountain and service commenced with cars provided by CR&L, since those ordered by CTC had not been delivered.
By September of the same year, service began to James Point, the top of the mountain, and passengers bound for the Signal Mountain Inn were transferred from streetcar to auto, but by October this was no longer necessary as the line had been completed in its entirety.
Even in the 1910s, rush-hour traffic was around, and CTC did their part to help alleviate the congestion downtown by offering a special non-stop service in the afternoons, dubbed the "Signal Mountain Inn Limited," which provided service from Woodland Avenue in North Chattanooga all the way to Wilder Station atop Signal Mountain. The Signal Mountain line also offered, in the mornings, a special car operating weekday mornings from Newby and Market Streets downtown at 8:20 AM to the Baylor School. This service is cited in a late 1932 timetable of the Company.
Today, while streetcars no longer carry passengers up and down the mountain, the Company's right-of-way now carries US highway 127 up the side of Signal Mountain. The part of the right-of-way from the riverside near US 27 to the Signal Mountain Cement Company, on Suck Creek Road at the foot of the mountain, is still in service and sees regular use. Norfolk Southern trains frequently work the area, with two MP15 diesel locomotives providing power for moving primarily tankcars and covered hoppers to industry along the route.
Like other streetcar lines in the Chattanooga area and across the nation, the Signal Mountain line saw a sharp decline in the number of riders in the late 1920s and early 1930s. As a result of declining ridership, the Traction Company made application to the Tennessee Railroad and Public Utilities Commission, which regulated rail operations within the state much like the Interstate Commerce Commission regulates railroads on the federal level, to discontinue passenger service over the entire line and to abandon the rails from the foot of the mountain to the Inn. On July 4, 1934, the last trolleys ran and were replaced the next day by buses.
Even though streetcars stopped running to the top of Signal Mountain in 1934, some 66 years ago, there is still noticeable evidence of their presence over 21 years. On James Boulevard between Mississippi Avenue and Signal Point Road, the streetcar rails are still in place in the middle of the road, with the original concrete pavement.
|Chattanooga Traction Company streetcar rails, looking north from Signal Point Road and James Boulevard|
|Chattanooga Traction Company streetcar rails, looking south from Signal Point Road and James Boulevard|
|Chattanooga Traction Company streetcar rails, looking north from Mississippi Avenue and James Boulevard|
Last updated 4/2/2000