Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific (CNOTP)

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Notice the reporting mark on the cab…. CNOTP. That’s the Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway (reporting mark CNTP). A railroad that runs from Cincinnati, Ohio, south to Chattanooga, Tennessee that railfans and railroaders knew as the “Rathole Mainline“ because of the steep grades, 27 tunnels and numerous curves the line once had.

The CNOTP is operated by NS as a part of the Central Division and more than 50 trains a day can be seen on the line with the heaviest concentration between Danville and Harriman, Tennessee.

A lot of the traffic is intermodal and automotive with general manifests, local freights, grain, coal, and other bulk commodities making up the rest.

The line has three districts: the First is from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Danville, Kentucky; the Second is from Danville to Oakdale, Tennessee; and the Third is from Oakdale to Chattanooga.

The Second District is the “Rathole” and several projects over the decades have eliminated many of the problematic areas of the line, the best known is probably the Southern Railway’s line improvement project between 1961 and 1963.

This project saw numerous cuts and line relocations to bypass tunnels and reduce the steep grades and tight curves. Only Tunnels #22 and #24 at Nemo, Tennessee and Tunnels #25 and #26 at Oakdale remain on the line; all but #25 were built brand-new in the 1960s.

Because of these improvements the Rathole now has many spectacularly deep cuts instead of the tunnels that have become the signature of the line.

The late 1990s saw another improvement with the NS double tracking much of the line and in particular, the segment south of Somerset, Kentucky, between Tateville and KD Tower (near Greenwood, Kentucky).

As of 2013, another massive project is underway to double track from Woods, also known as Somerset, to Grove just north of Burnside. This project will also straighten a curve near the KY914 bypass overpass, and allow for improved train handling.

Today, the CNO&TP is operated by the Norfolk Southern Railway.

Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific