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The Tennessee Railroad (reporting mark TENN) was a short line standard gauge (4 ft 81⁄2in) common carrier railroad running from Oneida, Tennessee to Fork Mountain, Tennessee. Reorganized in 1973 by the Southern Railway as the Tennessee Railway, it remains a subsidiary of the Norfolk Southern Corporation.
The story of the Tennessee Railroad is one of incredible endurance against the odds. Sold at foreclosure on Valentine’s Day in 1918, the Tennessee Railway never was a financial powerhouse. In 1959, the first petition for abandonment was filed, but the coal business picked up and it was withdrawn. In 1973, with the railroad in receivership, the line became part of the Southern Railway. In the years following, Southern upgraded the line with new ties and rail, daylighted the tunnel near Oneida, and streamlined operations to make the line an important feeder for coal traffic.
As environmental regulations became more strict and tremendous low-sulfur coal reserves were discovered in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, coal mining operations in the area began to play out. By 2005, it appeared the Tennessee was again doomed when Southern Railway successor Norfolk Southern filed to abandon the line, but thanks to National Coal Corporation, the line was purchased with hopes that King Coal would once again ply these rails on the way to market. National Coal originally selected the Watco Companies to manage and operate the line, but only one train ran in 2006. Since then the line has been inactive. In 2008, a company known as the New River Railway began operating passenger excursion trains over various parts of the line.
- The Tennessee is Tough; Trains Magazine 1968
- Various Surface Transportation Board filings, 2005