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The Jeffrey L. Brown Institute of Archaeology, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, conducted archaeological and documentary research on the Union Railyards and Union Stockyards Sites in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, during 1979-1981. The reconnaissance testing and data recovery programs at the sites were aimed at assessing the eligibility of the resources for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places and to mitigate adverse impact on the cultural resources in the project tracts. The research was performed under contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority. The archaeological and documentary resources examined pertained principally to a tract of land where the Western and Atlantic and Nashville and Chattanooga Railroads and their successors maintained terminal yards from c. 1850 to c. 1978, when the project area was acquired by the Tennessee Valley Authority for urban redevelopment. The areas examined archaeologically were the maintenance and freight yards adjoining the Union Depot, a large jointly owned passenger facility. A tract of land adjoining the railyards and used during the 19th century as a stockyard was also tested archaeologically. The research design for the investigations proposed generating: (1) a site-specific documentary history of the development of the yards and concommitant archaeological documentation of the railroad-related structures and features in the yards, (2) information concerning the shift from wrought iron to steel rail hardware, and the shift from wood to coal locomotive fuel, (3) information concerning the nature and distribution of industrial waste at the sites, (4) documentation concerning the ecology of the site, particularly the flora-supporting characteristics of artificial soil (coal, cinder, and clinker), and (5) an examination of "real" versus "ideal" construction practices, comparing archaeologically-observed material behavior with ideal engineering construction practice as evidenced by engineering textbooks and related literature. Excavations at the Union Railyards Site generated site-specific data on site formation processes, railroad architecture and yard layout. Railroad-related artifacts were recovered, but not in great volume. Archaeologically, the transition from wood to coal combustion in locomotives, and the shift from wrought iron to steel rail hardware was not well represented. The nature of locomotive ash and cinder accumulations as a site formation process and the archaeological correlates of the wood to coal fuel transition are discussed. Industrial site ecology was not examined in any depth, but a floral profile of the recently-abandoned railyards was obtained.


Dept. of Social, Cultural, and Justice Studies


College of Arts and Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)




Railroad yards -- Tennessee -- Chattanooga -- History; Industrial archaeology -- Tennessee -- Chattanooga; Industrial Archaeology; Railroad yards; History


Chattanooga (Tenn.)

Document Type



vi, 201 leaves



Call Number

TF308.C39 C68 1984


The Union Railyards Site : industrial archaeology in Chattanooga, Tennessee