The History of the Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail

About the Rail Road


The railbed going from Nashville to Clarksville via Ashland City began as the Tennessee Central Railroad, a linkage of the Tennessee Midland, the Tennessee, and Pacific, the Nashville and Knoxville, and the Cincinnati Southern. Its charter was granted in 1893 and the leg to Clarksville began in 1901 when the city council of Nashville, referendums in Cheatham (to provide $50,000) and Montgomery (to provide $100,000) counties authorized the building of the line. The line to Clarksville from Nashville carried lumber, scrap paper, ore, plastic, and brick. It was abandoned by Tennessee Central in 1960, then it was operated by Illinois Central Gulf, then Nashville and Ashland City, then Cheatham Country Rail Authority, then Walking Horse and Eastern Railroad, then McCormick, Ashland City, and Nashville Railroad. In 1992, Central of Tennessee (operators: Don Cheatham and Beverly Ogle) bought the 19 miles from Nashville to Chapmansboro and sold the remaining segment to private parties, e.g., Montell Metals.

Currently owned by the Cheatham Rail Authority, the railroad is operated by Nashville & Western Railroad and carries freight (scrap metal, to-be-recycled glass, steel) from Nashville to the Industrial Park just south of Ashland City.

About the Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail

In 1992 a group of trail enthusiasts from different places in Middle Tennessee got together to discuss the possibility of turning the railroad bed from Nashville to Clarksville into a trail. The goal of that group was a long trail from Nashville to at least as far north as Land Between the Lakes. At the same time, the Mayor and Vice-mayor of Ashland City were considering leasing part of the rail bed and turning it into a trail. These two groups met up by accident at a Greenway conference late in 1993 and started working on the common goal of making a trail. Ashland City took over the responsibility of developing the 7 miles from the downtown to Chapsmansboro Road. The other group formed the Cumberland River Corridor Task Force and worked to develop the entire rail bed, often in conjunction with the Ashland City group.

Subsequent inquiries by the groups concerning the segment from Nashville to Ashland City were discouraged by the County Executive, Linda Fizer who believed that the railroad would eventually be restored. As of 2004, that segment is active under the ownership of the Cheatham County Rail Authority, operated by Nashville & Western RR.

The Town of Ashland City, under Mayor Mary Grey Jenkins, leased the five miles from Marks Creek (Chapmansboro Road) to the next intersection with Chapmansboro Road (about 4 miles) and about .8 miles beyond that intersection. The city submitted a grant proposal to the Tennessee Department of Transportation to develop the four miles of rail bed from Marks Creek to Chapmansboro Road. The grant proposal was awarded in 1994 for the amount of $183,750 (including 20% matching funds from the city.) With these funds, the city decked the bridges, cleared the rail bed, paved about a mile, and put in trailheads. The “Friends’ of the Trail made signs, conducted cleanups, and educational programs, held Wildflower Walks, and engaged in numerous activities to promote the trail. The Trestle Segment of the trail became an Ashland City park in its formal opening in 1997. In 2004 this segment of trail was completely paved with the help of a second grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (T-21).

The next segment of the trail, 3 miles north of the developed segment, was owned by two parties: the Cheatham Rail Authority (.8 miles leased by the city) and Dr. Doty who had bought about a mile of the rail bed from Montell Metals. In 2000, the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation raised funds to buy 1.7 miles from Dr. Doty to add to the .8 mile leased by the city to form 2.7 miles. To make the trail go to a destination, Cheatham Dam Road, the city obtained an easement for several hundred feet from Dr. Doty. The result is the Eagle Pass segment, a 3-mile link in the Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail.

In 1999 the Town of Ashland City bought the next four miles taking the trail to within a few hundred feet of the Cheatham-Montgomery county line. This segment is not yet open to the public. Once it is opened the Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail will be approximately 11 miles long.

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