The town of Wartrace (population 550) is located at mile post 55 from Nashville on CSX’s Nashville-Chattanooga J-line and at the junction of the Shelbyville Branch, now operated as the Walking Horse & Eastern Railroad.
In 1851 Rice Coffee donated eight acres of land to the newly chartered Nashville and Chattanooga Rail Road to attract the proposed line to eastern Bedford County. Wartrace Depot came into existence when the N&C was completed in 1852. The eight mile branch to Shelbyville was completed the same year.
During the labor intensive steam locomotive era as many as 60 Wartrace families either worked for the railroad or the Railway Mail Service. A total of 31 RMS Wartrace based clerks worked the Railway Post Office cars between 1898 and 1944.
Wartrace Main Street, circa 1922-23. photo taken by Lucy Macrae Justice; submitted by Jerry Fox
Until the mid 1950’s Wartrace boasted a small rail yard and a water tank fed by a limestone-lined reservoir still visible today near the end of Spring Street next to the tracks. An early town map show a turntable near the junction to Shelbyville. The freight house and passenger depot have long been demolished with the latter removed in the 1960’s.
Wartrace Depot, early 1900's looking northwest.
The passing track at Wartrace can accommodate 151 cars and is the longest between Nashville and Chattanooga. CSX forwards approximately 20 to 25 trains through Wartrace every 24 hours on it’s main corridor between the upper Midwest and Southeast. Traffic includes an equal mix of intermodal, general freight, unit coal and grain trains, and unit auto rack trains. The Walking Horse & Eastern operates on an as-needed basis.
Wartrace is a popular railfan destination with the Walking Horse Hotel (circa 1916) offering three large verandas facing the tracks. L&N caboose #6162 in Memorial Park and a large gazebo across the tracks from the hotel offer prime train watching spots. A railroadiana and model railroad retail shop with a deck for viewing trains is scheduled to open soon.
Wartrace Depot, photo by Bob Bell, submitted by Jerry Fox