NS in Eastern Appalachia
Knoxville - Chattanooga
This is a part of Frograil's Norfolk Southern Appalachian Route Tour. As of July 2007, the tour has been completed between Bluefield and Cedar Bluff, and from St Paul, Virginia, to Ebenezer (west of Knoxville), Tennessee, a distance of about 218 miles. Stay tuned, as we'll hopefully be adding more soon. This segment of the tour has just been started, and is complete between the western yard throat of John Sevier Yard in Knoxville and Ebenezer, which is in the far southwest corner of the Knoxville area.
Contents And Navigation:
Daryl Norton: Took time from his sleep hours (he's a graveyard shifter) to help me thru the downtown/old town area of Knoxville.
Tony Hill: Webmaster and all text, unless otherwise noted. Any use of the first person singular pronoun in this tour refers to Tony.
If you'd like to contribute to this or any other Frograil tour, simply e-mail me here , and let me know what you're interested in. We'll work together -- you supply the data, and I'll take care of the HTML stuff. Frograil can only be as good as its contributions, so keep 'em coming.
The Railroad -- Geography. With only 15 miles completed, and all of it within Knoxville, the geography is simple: Urban!. It's an easy road to fan, if you are doing it on a weekend. With the I-40 construction taking place thru downtown as of the summer of 2007, doing this tour during normal business hours is not recommended, unless you've got some help with navigating, note taking, etc. You will not be able to hurry, and most trains will probably outrun you, unless you get pretty lucky.
The Railroad --Traffic. I don't know how many trains per 24 hours ply this route, but a bunch were seen when I did the on-the-ground research for the tour. If you study a route map for NS, you'll realize that Knoxville is in a fairly strategic location. This is not Chicagoland, but you'll see plenty of trains if you slow down and enjoy yourself. Coal predominates, and you won't see much in the way of international containers, but you'll see plenty of general freight.
Photographic Considerations: As I've done in several Other Tours, I've attempted to rate the photo fields for all 4 quadrants of many crossings detailed in the tour. The following format is used: NE2, SE1, SW4, NW4, where you go clockwise around the quadrants from northeast to northwest, and numerical ratings, from 1 to 4, with a 1 being excellent, and a 4 being non-existent, are assigned. Note that I'm rating only photo field availability, not the photogenic qualities of the site. I'm a picture taker, not a photographer, and you guys who are good photographers will have to make your own determinations.
Life Support. Only the first 15 miles of this tour are complete, and the entire route is within the Knoxville area. Nowhere will you be more than a few minutes from extensive shopping, dining, hotels, medical care, etc.
AG. An at-grade crossing.
NAG. A not-at-grade crossing. Unless I mention otherwise, these are usually not worth the time and trouble to drive to.
NARL. Not a railfan location. This is because of any number of reasons, such as lousy photo ops, dangerous, no shoulder on a NAG bridge, etc. As a general rule of thumb, it is wise to avoid NARL's.
NFOG. Not found on the ground. Often, very minor roads depicted on maps of rural areas do not exist on the ground, turn out to be private driveways, or have become overgrown in forests. I lump these together in the NFOG category.
Mapwork: Much of the tour is not easy if you have no detailed map for back country roads. For the start of this tour, however, what you need most is an excellent Knoxville street atlas. I definitely recommend you get a Knoxville Atlas of some sort and a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study them before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work. When you get out of the Knoxville metropolitan area, the tour is quite rural, and you'll definitely benefit by having the Tennessee DeLorme Atlas at your side. You can find information here about Railfan Maps that are available.
WEBMASTER'S NOTE: I do not recommend or condone walking along the tracks, as this means trespassing or exposing yourself to danger. You will have to be creative, in some instances, to avoid trespassing while getting to the detailed locations included herein, but you will either have to be creative or not visit those sites. At no point in this tour guide, or any other tour which is part of Frograil, is it recommended that you trespass or expose yourself to danger. If you are a fool and have a leg cut off (or worse), don't come crying to me: You have been warned. Trains are big, powerful, and often surprisingly quiet. Don't end up being a statistic.
[Webmaster's Note: I strongly suggest you attempt the Knoxville part of this tour on a Sunday. Knoxville is not difficult to drive in, but it's a fair sized city, and it has lots of traffic. Additionally, major work is being done on I-40 all thru the downtown area (as of July 2007). Sunday traffic is much less than on other days, and people don't seem to be in as much of a hurry.]
Knoxville -- Cement Plant Road. Norfolk Southern's major yard in Knoxville is the John Sevier Yard in far eastern Knoxville. From the intersection of I-40 and I-640 in the east side of town, go west on I-40, which is actually going away from the yard. Take the US-11W/TN-1/Rutledge Pike exit, and go northeast. Go under I-640, pass Chilhowee Drive, and just before going over the tracks on an overpass, take a right onto Cement Plant Road.
If you're coming from the yard office, just continue on Old Rutledge Pike until it ends at US-11W/Rutledge Pike. Take a left, go over the tracks, and take your first left onto Cement Plant Road.
This first location will give you a good view of most arriving and departing trains, with the possible exception that you'll miss some because of stopped cars blocking your view.
When you get to the drive up to the cement plant, you'll see an attractive sign announcing a safety award the plant received a few years ago. Before you get to the sign, there is a kind of turnaround off of Cement Plant Road. Head towards the sign, but take the turnaround to the left and park on the left side of it. This is a fine place to watch trains, but it is NOT a photo location. Stay in your car and enjoy the show. During the week, there is an awful lot of heavy truck traffic in and out of the plant.
Do NOT go further down Cement Plant Road, as the Knoxville Police Department has a firing range down there, and the big red sign with white letters leaves no doubt that you are not welcome beyond that sign. During the week, I suspect that you have a good chance of being asked to leave, as you are probably on the cement plant's property. Obviously, everything north of Cement Plant Road is Norfolk Southern property.
Knoxville -- Rutledge Pike. Drive back up Cement Plant Road and park just before Rutledge Pike. Walk up to the road, and walk out on the overpass. There is a wide shoulder, but there is a lot of traffic, and the speed limit is 50 mph, so be careful. Viewing is terrific, both to the east and west. However, the road is so busy that you will not be able to walk back and forth. Based on the position of the sun, pick a side and stay there.
To the east is the yard throat, and to the west is Control Point "West Sevier", MP 125.0A. At West Sevier, the line going up to Cumberland Gap/Oakdale comes in from the north, and the line towards downtown Knoxville and Chattanooga (the line we'll be following) is on the south. The scene is great for train watchers.
Knoxville -- Ault Road. Walk back to your car, and take US-11W/TN-1/Rutledge Pike south. Skip Chilhowee Lane, as it's NAG/NARL, and then pass up Spring Hill Road, as it is AG/NARL. When you get to the interchange with I-40, take a right just before the entrance to the interstate, onto Ault Road. Photo ratings are NE2, SE2, SW3, NW3. If you want to fan the south quads during the week, you'll need to get permission.
Knoxville -- Prosser Road. Continue up Ault all the way to Buffat Mill Road, take a left, and take another left onto Prosser Road. This will take you back to the tracks and an interesting crossing. About 1/4 mile north of the tracks is a large industrial building, and south of that is a very large, well maintained lawn. There is a stupendous view of the tracks sweeping from right to left. It's a Richard Steinheimer location...but the light is going to be very tough to work around.
Photo ratings are NE4, SE1, SW2, NW1. This is the best all-around location we will see for some distance. If you're doing some map work and think there may be other locations directly ahead, let me give you the details between here and the heavy construction in the I-40/Washington Street area.
There is no viewing from the Cherry Street Industrial Park.
Cherry Street itself is AG/NARL.
9th Street is AG/NARL.
Knoxville -- Washington Street. As of late June 2007, much of the I-40 work seems to have been completed in this area, so railfanning is once again a practical possibility. I-40 goes overhead on a very wide bridge on a somewhat southwest -- northeast bias. The viewing under the bridge is wide open, but will always be in shadow, so leave your camera behind in the afternoon, and just enjoy the action. Obviously, the area is very noisy, so be alert.
Here's how I'd rate the photo ops on the crossing's quads: NE4, SE2, SW3, NW4. The 44°s on the north are because of the shadows.
Knoxville -- Morgan Street. From Washington Street, head south on Winona Street to a right onto Magnolia./US11/US70. Pass up East 5th Avenue, as it's NAG/NARL. Also, pass up the crossing past First Creek. The crossing south of Magnolia on Randolph is AG/NARL, so continue on, go under the James Platt Parkway/ TN-158, and take a left onto Morgan Street.
After a block and a half, you'll come to a crossing: NE4, SE 4, SW1/4, NW1. The parkway puts some shadows into the area, and photo ops are poor to the east. The SW quad will go from a 4 to a 1 if you will walk south of the electronic crossing gate control box. Keep well back from railroad property. Like Washington Street, this is a better train watching than photography spot. In June 2007, this area was under heavy duty highway-related construction activity during the day.
Knoxville -- Southern Depot Area. Go back up Morgan and take a left on Depot Street. Cross Central Street and take a left to go down to the station area. This is the Southern's Knoxville passenger station. You can get decent shots of the structure pretty much all around it. There are old passenger heavy weight cars parked between the station and the trackage ahead, so train viewing and photography are poor here. The draw is the structure, not the trains of today. For an excellent photo location, go to the next location: Central Street.
Knoxville -- Central Street. Leave your car at the station, and walk back up to Depot Street. Take a right, and then another right onto Central. In half a block, you'll be at a multi-tracked crossing. You are now into the NS Knoxville Yard area, and the area is quite wide open for photos and viewing. There is no parking in the area, so the station parking area is a blessing. This is an excellent "urban railroady" railfan location -- one of the best in the metro area. Another real plus here is that Jackson Avenue, the next street beyond the crossing, is a revived Old Town area, and has lots of restaurants (everything from dives to the Melting Pot), as well as some most interesting shops.
Continue south from the Central Street crossing and turn right on Jackson Avenue. Cross Gay Street and park along the street. Walk back to Gay and take a left to go up and over the tracks. You're still in Knoxville Yard trackage, so there is usually something interesting going on. PM shots to the east and AM shots to the west are full of potential. There are nice sidewalks on both sides, but be careful.
Looking north from Gay Street, probably about where you parked your car, you'll see a large pay parking lot. There is a fence around about 80% of it. The remaining 20% is to the west, and you can walk thru the lot and towards the tracks. There is plenty of room to take your shots well back from the tracks and railroad property. There was a major fire in the building to the southwest of the lot, and that's probably why the fence is incomplete.
Knoxville -- Western Avenue Overpass. Unlike Gay and Oak streets, Western Avenue overpass crosses the tracks at a very oblique angle. There are, therefore, quite different photographic considerations involved. Be aware, however, that there is more traffic here than at the previous two locations, so be extra careful.
Knoxville -- Concord/Safety City. This is an interesting one, as we are leaving the area of concentrated overpasses, and entering a different railfanning milieu. South of Western Avenue, head west on Grand Avenue. Pass up 17th Street as it's a NAG/NARL, but turn right on 17th, and take your first U-turn opportunity. Head back south on 17th, go over the tracks again, and then take a right to continue west on Grand Avenue.
At 22nd Street Southwest, take a right and drive all the way to Kingston Pike. Turn right and go west to Concord Street. Take another right and go north on Concord. Just before the crossing, take a left onto Safety City Street. Park to the left and enjoy the view towards the southwest. NE4, SE2, SW1, NW4.
Knoxville -- Tobler Lane. From the crossing at Concord Street, head north to Sutherland Avenue and turn left. Go all the way to Tobler Lane and turn left. This will take you to the first crossing in some time, but alas, it's not a very good one. On the other hand, if you know something is coming and need to get trackside in a hurry, this will do: NE3, SE3, SW4, NW4. The MP 134 marker is immediately northeast of the crossing.
Knoxville -- Gore Road. Continue south on Tobler to Kingston Pike and turn right. Kingston will go up and over the tracks, as does it's neighbor Forest Park Boulevard, but both are NAG/NARL. Be aware that my notes concerning the latter show the street as Forest Park Boulevard, while the street map I have shows it as Forest Hills Boulevard. Pass up Homberg Drive, as it does get quite close to the tracks, but it's somewhat overgrown, and the angle is flat. At Gore Road, take a left and park near the tracks.
The crossing at Gore and the next few to come are not at all great locations, but each offers at least one quad with very good photo potential. Pick your locations with care. Gore is NE2, SE4, SW3, NW1.
Knoxville -- Agnes Road. Continue south on Gore to a right onto Walden Road, and then another right one block later onto Agnes Road. Here are the photo ratings, but please take them with a grain of salt, as my notes are unclear, and I may have them upside down and backward! NE1, SE4, SW4, NW4.
Knoxville -- Royal Crown Drive. Go north on Agnes Road to Kingston Pike, turn left and head west. Ignore Northshore Drive, as it is NAG/NARL. Two blocks past Northshore, slither left onto Deane Hill Drive. Take a left onto Royal Crown Drive. At the crossing, there is a moribund spur track and some sub-spurs, and one main track. The photo ratings are: NE3, SE4, SW3, NW1.
Knoxville -- Cessna Road. Continuing west on Deane Hill Drive, pass up Morrell Road, as it is NAG/NARL. At Moneta Road, take a left and then a right on Luscombe Drive. Continue southwest to Cessna Road and turn left. Photo ratings are NE2, SE3, SW2, NW4, but remember that the railroad is now pretty much dead northeast -- southwest, so photo ops should be available virtually any time of day.
Knoxville -- Gallaher View. Cross the tracks via Cessna Road and turn right onto Westland Drive. You'll parallel the tracks very closely all the way to Gallaher View. Along the way, there are some viewing opportunities, especially in the cold months. The Gallaher View crossing offers the following photo ops: NE3, SE2, SW2, NW3. There is, however, some clutter throughout the area.
Knoxville -- Villa Crest Drive. Continue southwest on Westland Drive. Again, there is limited viewing along this street as you parallel the tracks. At Villa Crest Drive, the photo ratings are NE2, SE3, SW1, NW3. The MP 140 sign is just northeast of the crossing.
Unfortunately, at this point my time ran out and I had to attend to domestic responsibilities. If you want this tour to be extended, why not do the research yourself and become a tour contributor to Frograil. E-mail me here.