ALABAMA, TENNESSEE AND NORTHERN RAILROAD
The Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad Company commonly known as the A. T. & N. Railroad originally consisted of 214 miles of main line track. The A. T. & N. began in 1900 when John T. Cochrane built the Carrollton Short Line Railroad which extended ten miles from Reform to Carrollton, Alabama. Two years later the line was extended 11 miles to Aliceville, Alabama. This community was later to serve as a junction point with the Frisco.
In 1904 Mr. Cochrane then purchased a narrow-gauge logging line extending North from Calvert, Alabama for a distance of about 20 miles. He rebuilt the railroad to standard gauge and renamed it the Tombigbee Valley Railroad.
Subsequently, Mr. Cochrane constructed additions to this line leading Northward and at the same time construction began at various points South of Aliceville on the Carrollton Short Line Railroad.
In 1912 the two lines met at Riderwood, Alabama and were merged into the Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad. Because portions of the railroad were constructed as logging railroads and other portions constructed at minimal cost the line was undulating and curvy often following the contour of the land where possible.
The A.T.& N. Railroad was still thirty miles North of Mobile, Alabama and in 1926 Mr. Cochrane started construction southward from Calvert to Mobile, Alabama. This extension was completed in 1928 and the first train operated on this line into Mobile on January 31, 1928.
Ironically, this was the same year the Frisco's Pensacola Line, which crossed the A. T. & N. at Aliceville, was opened. A reciprocal traffic agreement with the Frisco was entered into on February 1, 1928. This gave the A.T.& N. access to important Midwest markets through the Frisco and probably more importantly gave the Frisco access to the docks at Mobile.
In the early 1930s the A. T. & N. established a railroad car ferry and related track facilities to serve newly established refining industries on Blakely Island, across Mobile River from the Docks. Rails were extended southward on Blakely Island to serve added industries during W. W. II.
In 1938 Mr. Cochrane passed away and his son John, Jr., assumed control of the company until 1946 when he disposed of his holdings to a syndicate of investors. That group named Jack E. Gilliland President. Mr. Gilliland was a former president of the St. Louis Terminal Railroad and later would become President and Chairman of the Board of the Frisco.
In December 1948, Frisco purchased control of the A. T. & N. The A. T. & N. became a wholly owned subsidiary but retained its separate identity. By this time the A.T. & N. was fully diesilized with eleven ALCO RS-1s, one 80 ton GE and one 45 ton GE. It is probably safe to say the only original engine that stayed with the A. T. & N. was the 45-ton GE. The others were either retired or used elsewhere on the Frisco System.
After the purchase the Frisco did extensive upgrading to the A. T. & N. property including reballasting, inserting ties, laying heavier rail and rebuilding bridges. The shops at York were closed and engine maintenance performed at Amory, MS until that shop closed. Even thought the A. T. & N retained a separate identity all operations were managed by the Southern Division with headquarters at Amory, MS. For operating purposes the portion between Aliceville and Mobile was known as the Mobile Subdivision and the portion between Aliceville and Reform was known as the Reform Branch. Train Crew Districts were Reform to York and York to Mobile. A substantial amount of Export as well as Import Traffic moved on this line and necessitated unit train movements. Since grades were undulating and alignment curvy, especially between York and Mt. Vernon, Alabama unit train operation was difficult.
There were few online industries (mostly wood & chip loading facilities) between Aliceville and Mobile, most of the traffic being import/export and Mobile business. There was a paper mill and a chemical plant about 25 miles North of Mobile. The paper mill was switched by the Southern RR (NS) and the A. T. & N. interchanged traffic to and from this mill.
A.T. & N. leased Alabama State Docks and Terminal Railway tracks between Terminal Junction and Mobile yard, a distance of five miles, to enter Mobile. Mobile had a small yard with a fuel facility and small rip track. There were many forest-related industries including Scott Paper in Mobile although none served directly by the A. T. & N. A small industrial park in North Mobile at Terminal Junction had the standard warehouses and bulk chemical plants. The Alabama State Docks and Terminal Railway handled all import/export business through interchange. Among the commodities exported were grain and agricultural products and imported were iron ore and bauxite ore. A. T. & N. interchanged with the GM&O, Southern, L&N and Alabama State Dock and Terminal Railway.
One of the interesting operations in Mobile was Blakely Island. As noted above Blakely Island, a large industrial development, was reached by rail ferry from Mobile. The Ferry operation consisted of a small tugboat and two barges which held six or seven cars depending on the size of the cars. (Only one barge was in use at any one time, the other being on standby.) The barges belonged to the Frisco and the Tugboat was contracted. On the Mobile side the Alabama State Docks and Terminal Railway unloaded/loaded the barge. Once the barge arrived at Blakely Island it was spotted to the slip and unloaded/loaded by the A. T. & N. The slip was a simple operation with manual chain lift for adjusting to the level of the tide. The A. T. & N. maintained a small industrial type switcher on the island, a 45-Ton General Electric switcher with side rods. This switcher was later replaced with a 600-HP EMD model SW-1. Industries served included chemical processors, scrap yards and shipbuilding. Track maintenance on the island was a headache due to the high water table and this coupled with the cost of maintaining the barges, slips, and contracting the tugboat made this operation very expensive and consequently the development never materialized to the extent hoped for.
On January 1, 1971, after receiving authority from the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Frisco acquired the assets and took over the Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad Company; that company then was dissolved.
In the summer of 1973, the Cochrane Bridge across the Tombigbee River Bridge, South of Aliceville had a catastrophic failure and all traffic was rerouted from Aliceville to Boligee on the Frisco's Columbus Subdivision and from Boligee to York, Alabama on the Southern Railroad. This arrangement would last until the demise of the A. T. & N. Railroad after Frisco merger with the BN.
In 1975, regulatory authority was received from the Interstate Commerce Commission to retire a portion of the line including Cochrane Bridge across the Tombigbee River South of Aliceville. The Frisco recorded extraordinary income of $3,452,000 as a result of this retirement and sale of rail facilities near Cochrane, Alabama, under threat of condemnation by the United States Corps of Engineers. This effectively severed the link between Aliceville and York, Alabama.
In 1978, the Interstate Commerce Commission granted the Frisco certificates to abandon 20.35 miles between Aliceville and Reform, Alabama and all trackage was removed North of Aliceville, Alabama. Thus the original portion of the A. T. & N. was among the first trackage to be retired.
On October 30, 1979, the interstate Commerce Commission issued a Certificate, effective February 27, approving the abandonment of 41.6 miles of Frisco's line between Cochrane and York, Alabama. Track between Aliceville and York with the exception of the portion across the Tombigbee River at Cochrane, Alabama remained in place until early 1980 at which time it was taken up and moved to the Columbus Subdivision and re-laid in May 1980. This effectively eliminated all of the A. T. & N. North of York, Alabama. The reroute between Aliceville and York on the Frisco and Southern via Boligee became permanent with trackage rights over the Southern RR.
On November 21, 1980, the Frisco merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad and the Frisco became the Springfield Region of that Railroad. After merger with the BN that portion of the A.T. & N. between York and Mobile was abandoned. All that remains of the A. T. & N. is the terminal trackage in Mobile and part of the main line North of Mobile. Mobile is reached by using the old Frisco between Aliceville and Kimbrough, Alabama and trackage rights over the NS between Kimbrough and Mobile.
Source Frisco Archives
Mike Lutzenberger 8/07/2001