NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Central Railway connected Nashville, Tenn., and Hopkinsville, Ky. The railroad operated until it went bankrupt in 1968. It was taken over by the Illinois Central Gulf, which operated trains through Clarksville until the early 1980s.
The Tennessee Central Railway, at its heyday, operated a line between Harriman and Hopkinsville, Ky.
Like other railroads in the latter half of the 19th century, the Tennessee Central grew after combining a slew of smaller short lines, many of which bore the name “Tennessee Central.” All would later come under the control of former Memphis & Charleston Railroad president Jere Baxter, who organized the Tennessee Central Railroad on Aug. 23, 1893.
Tracks between Nashville and Knoxville were completed in 1898. And later, Baxter tried unsuccessfully to complete a section of road between Nashville and Memphis, according to the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. However, a lack of adequate finances hampered the company from its beginning, with several receiverships and bankruptcies occurring.
In 1905, the railroad leased its western section to Southern Railway and its eastern section to Illinois Central, which finished laying tracks to Clarksville, Tenn., and later Hopkinsville.
However, by June 30, 1908, both Southern Railway and the Illinois Central ended their leases. The Tennessee Central Railway was later reorganized and remained a freight line until it ceased operations on Aug. 31, 1968. At that time, a court-appointed trustee divided the railroad and sold its property to three competing railroads: the Illinois Central, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad and Southern Railway.
Though the Tennessee Central Railway has not operated since 1968, it lives on in the form of a railroad museum in Nashville, Tenn., which offers weekend excursions over the former railroad’s right of way, today operated by the Nashville & Eastern Railroad, a short-line.