Depot Doings: Chattanooga Choo-Choo History

TERMINAL STATION – CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE

A challenge went out in 1900 by the architectural students at Beaux Arts Institute in Paris, France.  The students offered themselves a prize for the best plans which could be drawn up for a railroad station that would suit the needs of a large city.  The winner of the prize was Mr. Don Barber, an American from New York City.

In 1904, when the president of the Southern Railway decided to build a new passenger terminal in Chattanooga, one architect who offered an entry was none other than the same Mr. Barber.  When Southern Railway’s president saw Barber’s design, he was very much impressed.  He said he felt the exterior plans were perfect but asked Barber if he could possibly alter the interior design.  Upon this request, the Grand Dome was created.  It is completely free standing and rests on four major steel supports 75 feet apart.  The dome’s underside, which covered the 68 by 82 foot general waiting room, was decorated in artistic plaster embellishments of heraldic emblems.  For those nocturnal passengers who would frequent this 24 hour station, illumination was provided by four ornate brass chandeliers, each containing 40 lights and each centered by an 18-inch opal globe.  When these lights were on, the dome was truly lavish in its different prismatic colors.

On a bitterly cold winter morning, December 1, 1909, a crowd of several hundred gathered in the 1400 block of Market Street for the dedication of Chattanooga’s Terminal Station.  After serving Chattanooga for 61 years, the Southern Railway closed the building August 11, 1970.  It was purchased, restored, and reopened to the public in April 1973 and entered on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Dept. of Interior on January 25, 1974.

On March 5, 1880, the first passenger train connecting the north with the south traveled from Cincinnati, Ohio south to Chattanooga, Tennessee on the first municipal railroad, the Cincinnati Southern Line.  A reporter dubbed the train the “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” and Big Band leader Glenn Miller and the Modernaires immortalized this legendary train in song May 7, 1941.

When the Southern Railway closed this magnificent architectural icon on August 11, 1970, a piece of Chattanooga was forever lost.  Thankfully, it was spared the wrecking ball as so many others were not as fortunate.  These following photos surely tell a story of a more pristine time–a time when traveling by rail was so much more relaxing compared to today.  Hopefully, these photos will stir many a long lost memory.

Photo Credit: Copyright 2009, Justin W. Strickland, “Images of Rail – Chattanooga’s Terminal Station.”


Rock on Trains © 2020, Tom Rock + T.D.R. Productions. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Tom Rock is strictly prohibited.

Depot Doings: Bessemer, AL / Knoxville, TN / Leeds, AL / Toccoa, GA

southern-railway-logoFeatured Southern Railway depots this month are those in Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia:

The Alabama Great Southern Railroad Company completed construction of the Bessemer passenger terminal in March 1916 at a cost of $30,000. The structure is 170 ft long and 50 ft with exterior walls of pressed brown brick. The ticket office was located in the center of the building and today contains original cabinets and desks. Today the depot is home to the Bessemer Hall of History.

The depot at Knoxville was built in 1903. The Southern Terminal is a former railway complex to include a passenger terminal and express depot adjacent to a large railyard. During the 1850’s the arrival of the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad and its predecessor lines transformed Knoxville into one of the southeast’s major wholesaling centers. In 1894 the ETV&G was absorbed by the Southern Railway, which in turn became part of the Norfolk Southern Railway in 1982.

The depot at Leeds, AL was built in 1883-84, following the completion of the Georgia & Pacific RR between Birmingham and Atlanta. The G&P remained until it was taken over by the Richmond & Danville RR in 1885, succeeded by the Southern Railway in 1894. Efforts to save the building were in 1980 after the Southern merger with Norfolk Southern. The depot was added to the National Register of Historic Places prior to the restoration completion in 1984. In 1999, the City of Leeds turned the old baggage room into a public meeting room. Two other rooms in the depot are a museum featuring railroad history, records and artifacts.

The depot at Toccoa, GA was built in 1915. Much, however, is known about the adjacent railroad line. Built originally as the Atlanta & Richmond Air-Line in 1873. In 1877, the railroad was renamed Atlanta and Charlotte Air-Line Railway and in 1894 became part of the Southern Railway, which in turn became the Norfolk Southern. Today the Amtrak Crescent (old Southern Crescent) makes regular stops there. The depot has been restored to its appearance in 1940 and houses the Toccoa-Stephens Chamber of Commerce, the Welcome Center, the Stephens County Historical Society and Currahee Military Museum.


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Canadian Corner/Depot Doings: Kingsville, Ontario, Canada

canadian-flag-smallKINGSVILLE,
ONTARIO DEPOT
On the Pere Marquette / C&O Rwy

The depot at Kingsville, Ontario, Canada was built in 1889 on the Lake Erie, Essex and Detroit River Railway. Originally owned by Hiram Walker, the line and depot later became part of the Pere Marquette Railroad. Still later, it was acquired by the Chesapeake & Ohio which owns the depot today, although it is no longer used for passenger service.

Kingsville is located about thirty miles east of Windsor, Ontario on what used to be a single track between Windsor and St. Thomas. East of St. Thomas, the C&O uses ex-New York Central tracks. Several C&O freight trains still pass over this route on the way to Buffalo, New York. Those trains, coming from Detroit through the Michigan Central railroad tunnel, take the Penn Central out to a Pelton Interlocking where they switch to the C&O mainline. Passenger train service on the Pere Marquette line ended in the mid-1920’s; however, many of the depots on the line were eventually refurbished for freight-only service. The first floor originally consisted of a Ticket Office, located where the semicircular bay window is at trackside, a Gent’s Waiting Room, a Ladies’ Waiting Room and a combination Freight and Baggage Room where stairs to the second floor are located.

The second floor consists of a small hallway from the stairs leading to a single large chamber that has a series of small windows facing trackside. To the left of the bay window is an opened and curved covered porch that adjoins a porte-cochere to the rear of the building. It was probably once used as a carriage entry and exit point. When the depot was first built there was a raised platform in the Freight and Baggage Room which occupied about half the room next to the large freight door. Another platform of equal height joined this same wall on the exterior of the building. Both were used for the handling of freight and baggage. The exterior platform no longer exists but it is shown in the drawings.

The chimney, like the exterior walls, is of stone and the roof peak joints are covered with a galvanized iron projection. All windows on the first floor are set in deep casements and entry doors are crowned with an arched design.

The Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad still staffs the Kingsville depot with a part-time agent. The former waiting room is now used as a storeroom and kitchenette for the maintenance-of-way crews.

Article courtesy of the Mainline Modeler April 1990
Text Credit: Julian Cavalier
Drawings made expressly for Mainline Modeler. Copies of these drawings may be made for noncommercial use only.


The depot slowly fell into disrepair in the 80’s with its abandonment. The timeless images below were taken from 1972 to 2003 and reflect on the station’s many years of neglect. Through tireless efforts and what seemed like constant delays, the citizens of Kingsville prevailed in keeping this exquisite piece of railroad architecture preserved for future generations. After full restoration, the depot now houses a beautiful Mediterranean-style restaurant, Mettawas Station.


Rock on Trains © 2020, Tom Rock + T.D.R. Productions. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Tom Rock is strictly prohibited.

Depot Doings: Montville, CT / Kittitas, WA / Wallace, NY / St. Matthews, SC / Davenport, IA / Danbury, CT

Hope you enjoy this month’s mix of restored depot photos courtesy of GodFatherRails:


Rock on Trains © 2020, Tom Rock + T.D.R. Productions. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Tom Rock is strictly prohibited.

Depot Doings: Oliver Springs, TN / Bryson City, NC / Decherd, TN / Chatsworth, GA

Featured Southern Railway depots this month are Oliver Springs, Tennessee (1980), and Bryson City, North Carolina (1978). The Oliver Springs and Bryson City depots have been restored. The Oliver Springs depot houses the Oliver Springs Historical Society, and the Bryson City depot houses the Great Smoky Mountain Railway excursions.

Featured Louisville & Nashville (L&N) Railway depots are Decherd, Tennessee (1978), and Chatsworth, Georgia (1980). The Decherd depot has been removed from service, and the Chatsworth depot was relocated and restored in 1990. It currently houses a museum of railroad and talc industry memorabilia.

Southern Railway Depot: Oliver Springs, TN – 1980 (Credit: Tom Rock)

Southern Railway Depot: Bryson City, NC – 1978 (Credit: Tom Rock)

L&N Railway Depot: Decherd, TN – 1978 (Credit: Tom Rock)

L&N Railway Depot: Chatsworth, GA – 1980 (Credit: Tom Rock)


Rock on Trains © 2020, Tom Rock + T.D.R. Productions.  All rights reserved.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Tom Rock is strictly prohibited.