The Alabama, Tennessee & Northern
Railway Company

            The Alabama, Tennessee & Northern Railroad             AT&N Logo

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The AT&N railroad is only a memory.  The Burlington Northern succeeded in abandoning her rails and a proud line has fallen to be no more.  The steel rails have been ripped from the roadbed.  The ties and chat removed and weeds have taken there place.  The AT&N was where my first day of railroading began.  That day now seems so long ago.   Let's take a look at some of the colorful history that came together to create the Alabama, Tennessee & Northern Railway Company.

As was often the case in the story of American railroads during their development era, the AT&N grew gradually; a gathering of a series of short lines, through acquisitions and additions.   The Mobile & Ohio Railroad Company in 1897 announced plans to build a line from Artesia, Mississippi through Pickens County to Tuscaloosa and on to Montgomery.  Leading citizens in Carrollton sought to persuade the company to bring the line through the county seat, but M&O officials chose a route through Reform and Gordo to ensure faster mail service as required by the U.S. Postal Service.  Led by W. G. Robertson, Judge O. L. McKinstry, E. R. Calhoun and M. L. Stansel, Carrollton residents organized a corporation to build a railroad from their community to Reform, to connect there with the M&O.  The beginning of the AT&N was in July 1897 when the Carrollton Short Line was chartered by the State of Alabama.  In 1900 John Taylor Cochrane of the Tuscaloosa Belt Line started laying track from Reform to Carrollton.  Vast timber holdings were tapped by "dummy lines" connecting to the Carrollton Short Line, creating many jobs to boost the local economy.  The distance of the route was 10 miles. Two years later the line was extended 11 miles to a community known today as Aliceville, Alabama.  Cochrane purchased 36 acres of land from encouraged Pickens County landowners between the villages of Franconia and Bridgeville.  The town of Aliceville was established.  This town was named for Cochrane's wife, Alyce Searcy.  This community was later to serve as a junction point for the Frisco with the AT&N.  At the time of the extension, what is now known as Aliceville was a spot in the swamp.  Records indicate that upon completion of right-of-way construction, section gangs pushed an old box car off the track into the swamp, painted a sign and christened the spot Aliceville.  The depot was at the south end of Broad Street.  On September 29, 1906 the name of the company was changed to the Alabama, Tennessee & Northern Railway Company when the 75 mile line was completed from Reform to York.    

On January 20, 1890 the Seaboard Railroad was chartered under the general laws of the State of Alabama.  Its road was constructed from Nannahubba to Turners, a distance of 33 miles, the following year.  It went into the hands of a receiver on July 6, 1896 and was sold under foreclosure on May 10, 1897.  The Seaboard Railroad was purchased for the bondholders.  The receiver was discharged on June 7th, but continued for some time to operate the road as the agent of the purchasers.  On January 17, 1900 the Tombigbee and Northern Railway Company was chartered as the successor of the Seaboard Railroad.  The Tombigbee and Northern Railway Company was a narrow gauge logging railroad.  Cochrane set out changing the gauge of the line to standard gauge.  After completion of this upgrade on March 5, 1904 the Tombigbee and Northern Railway Company  was reorganized as the Tombigbee Valley Railroad Company.  At the time of the reorganization the line extended from Nannahubba to Penny Hill which was some 50 miles.

During ensuing years, Cochrane constructed additions to this line leading northward.  During 1908-1909 the Tombigbee Valley Railroad Company was extended 2 miles north to Silas.  In 1912, it was further extended to a connection with the Alabama, Tennessee & Northern Railway Company.  The two lines met at Riderwood, Alabama and in May 1913 the properties were joined under the name of the Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad Company.

There is one other important part of the AT&N saga.  On September 1, 1910 the Mobile Terminal and Railway Company was incorporated under the general laws of the State of Alabama in the interests of the Tombigbee Valley Railroad and the Alabama, Tennessee & Northern Railway Company.  The terminal facilities for these two companies were constructed under the charter and it was also included in the May 1, 1913 merger of the Tombigbee Valley Railroad Company and the Alabama, Tennessee & Northern Railway Company.

January 31, 1928 was a special day in the history of transportation in the Southeast.  On that day the Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad operated its first train over its own rails into the port of Mobile.  That operation signaled the completion of the 214 mile route of the AT&N from Reform to Nannahubba.  Before this day the AT&N had trackage rights over the Southern Railway from Calvert to Mobile, a distance of 34 miles.  The total trackage of the AT&N was 222 miles which included branches.

Meanwhile, the Frisco, recognizing the value of a gulf of Mexico port, completed construction of a line from Columbus, Mississippi, into Pensacola, Florida in 1928.  That line crossed the AT&N at Aliceville and a reciprocal traffic agreement was consummated.

In the early 1930's the AT&N established a railroad car ferry and related track facilities to serve newly established refining industries on Blakely Island, situated across Mobile River from the docks.  At the beginning of World War II, AT&N traffic was extended southward on Blakely Island to serve added industries, a number of which were in receipt of extensive government ship building contracts.

Cochrane remained at the helm of the AT&N until his death in 1938.  At that point his son, John Jr., assumed the position and held it until 1946.  He disposed of his holdings in the line to a syndicate of investors.  That group named Jack E. Gilliland president.  Gilliland later was to become Frisco president and chairman of the board.

In the meantime, the AT&N link between the main lines of the Frisco and the port of Mobile and its international commerce grew in importance.  Thus, in December, 1948, Frisco purchased control of the AT&N.  On January 1, 1971, the AT&N was absorbed into the parent company network.  Its importance as a link to the strategic port of Mobile, where a very substantial contribution toward freight revenues is generated each month, cannot be overstated. While born in the heritage days of American railroading, the AT&N network was a viable and valuable part of the modern railroading scene.

This information about the AT&N could not have been done without the help of a former worker and friend.  Jud Arrington is no longer with us but his interest and dedication to preserving the history of the railroads of Alabama was one of his passions of life.  I am glad that I had an opportunity to not only work with him but to have had the chance to hear some of those "old" railroad tales. 


AT&N Picture Album
Various Pictures From the Past
The Cuba Banner from 1911
The York Weekly Press, Thursday January 26, 1911
The York Weekly Press, March 9, 1911
AT&N and Aliceville, Alabama
The Pickens County Herald, 1977
  AT&N Foreman was Rufus Newell
The Pickens County Herald, 1977
The York Weekly Press, Friday June 6, 1913
The York Weekly Press, September 26, 1913
The York Weekly Press, May 2, 1913


Other Items of Interest

AT&N Purchased by Frisco   AT&N Emblem Designed   AT&N Engine Rooster
Old Seniority List   AT&N Northern Division Stations   AT&N Southern Division Stations
AT&N Passenger Train Schedule   AT&N Passenger Train Connections   AT&N's Lindbergh Freight Service
AT&N and Mobile Docks   1911 AT&N Train Ride    AT&N Picture Album
AT&N says Goodbye  NEW!   Benefits of AT&N to York, Alabama   AT&N Cochrane Bridge Collapse


Have an "OLD" story to tell?   Some history about the AT&N?

This page was last updated on
July 28, 2018

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