My Train Recollections: Jason Fields

This year’s first blog post and train recollections come to us from my buddy, Jason Fields. Thanks very much for sharing with us, Jason!

My first memory ever involving trains was when I was maybe a year old. We had a VHS tape called “Who Left the Juice in the Caboose?” aimed for preschool kids. My family often would tell me that I started watching that at nine months old, and that my first words were Woo-Woo! A lot of folks seem surprised to learn that Thomas the Tank Engine was not necessarily the jump-start into my passion of trains.

My name is Jason Fields, I’m an ammature railroad photographer and videographer from Chattanooga, Tennessee and I run a YouTube channel called “The ‘Nooga Railfan.” The thrill of a chase and the sights and sounds of a roaring locomotive thundering through various landscapes keeps me going back for more. 

Mom and Dad did the typical Day Out With Thomas things with me, as any young child would have loved to have done, and rode behind many trains at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, mostly the Missionary Ridge Local behind steam engine #610. I had a few picture books here and there, but I wasn’t as deep into the history of trains at the time.

My mother purchased a book for me when I was around 11 years old, Steam in the Valley: A History of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, written and photographed by John W. Coniglio, as well as tickets for the Summerville Steam Special for October of 2011, which was hauled by the recently-restored Southern Railway 630. That was probably the moment my interest in trains really sparked. 

A few years went by, and I attended Railcamp, a week-long summer camp at the TVRM, where teenagers can get their hands dirty and get a feeling of what it’s like working on engines and cars. My first week there, we repainted the cab of NC&StL VO-1000 36 (originally a unit from the US Air Force). I continued to attend Railcamp from 2013 to 2016, and eventually met one of my best friends there. I’d still come and visit now and then, pre-covid, and would often chat with the kids and counselors. 

By that time, I’d really gotten pretty interested in doing railroad photography and videography. I didn’t have a whole lot, equipment wise, that was, per-say “good;” a fairly used point-and-shoot and a smartphone, but it did the trick for a few years until I got my first DSLR camera. As better quality equipment came along, so did my photography skills, having been published in two calendars and a magazine since 2016.

My main focus on my photos and videos is vintage railroad operations, concerning steam and old diesel locomotives. Traveling from state-to-state, meeting new people and experiencing new (to me) engines and railroads is a pure joy. I always plan for the year with at least five-to-seven railroads to visit and photograph. Naturally, I didn’t get to go to all of them when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, but I know I definitely wasn’t the only one yearning for more to do. 

Railfanning and the history and lore of railroads is a little bit more than a hobby to me, it’s become a part of me. I’ve met so many friends over the years, some of them I’d consider close brothers and sisters, and they are one of the defining reasons for my interest in the hobby. Without them, I would not enjoy this hobby as much as I do. Taking photos of trains by yourself gets boring pretty quickly. I thank them for always being there for me. 

May green signals continue to light your way!

Jason Fields

Chattanooga, Tennessee


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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.”


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Southern Railway Engine #6910

In 1960, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum was founded by Paul H. Merriman and Robert M. Soule along with a group of local railway preservationists who were concerned with saving steam locomotives and railway equipment for future historical display and use. In 1964, Mr. Merriman and Mr. Soule found out that the Kentucky & Tennessee Railroad was converting to diesel. With this in mind, they raised $5,000.00 and purchased K&T Nos. 10 & 12. The latter of the two engines originally belonged to the Southern Railway as 4501. Engine No. 10 was renumbered 6910. It ran for a short while after restoration. In October 1965, the engine made a fan trip to Cleveland, Tennessee from Chattanooga. I thoroughly enjoyed working with this engine back in 1978 & 1981. Currently, the engine is in storage at the TVRM.

The silent video of this historic trip is courtesy of HawkinsRails.net via YouTube.


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.

“Pardon Me Boy, Is That the Chattanooga Choo-Choo?”

This blog entry features my 1991 painting of the the Southern Railway’s Terminal Station in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The title of this painting, “Pardon Me Boy, Is That the Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” was chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Glenn Miller’s big band era hit song which was recorded May 7, 1941. This painting, which is comprised of two images, shows the majestic building front as viewed from Market Street and the rear where the trains departed, reviving a more tranquil time in railroad history.

By the 1970’s, declining rail traffic to Chattanooga forced Southern Railway to close the doors of Terminal Station. The Birmingham Special, Train No. 18, became the last regular passenger train to pass through Terminal Station. On August 11, 1970, at 11:35PM, the Birmingham Special departed Terminal Station and headed for Washington, DC. The windows of the station were boarded up, as its once immaculate interior began collecting dust. The abandoned station faced the sad prospects of demolition.

Fortunately, a group of two dozen local investors had a much better idea for the old station; the investors obtained the property from Southern Railway, and with an initial investment of 10 million dollars, converted the old Terminal Station into a family vacation complex second to none.

My two images of the Choo-Choo took five (5) months and 325 hours to complete. I’m including several development photos taken during its creation. When my lithographs were released in 1991, I mailed a set to Jonnie Miller Soper (Glenn Miller’s daughter) along with Paula Kelly Turner and Tex Beneke, both singers of Glenn Miller’s famous song. Not long after the prints were mailed, I received very nice thank you notes from all three recipients (see images below). Unfortunately, Paula (d.1992) and Tex (d.2000) have passed away, but Jonnie is still living. This 8-minute video clip on YouTube shows Tex and Paula performing the Chattanooga Choo-Choo song.

“Choo-Choo” rear Preliminary Development Photo

“Choo-Choo” rear at 30 hrs development

“Choo-Choo” rear at 56 hrs development

“Choo-Choo” rear at 122 hrs development

“Choo-Choo” rear at 150 hrs development (complete)

Click here to view/purchase this print at Rock on Trains.

“Choo-Choo” front Preliminary Development Photo

“Choo-Choo” front at 30 hrs development

“Choo-Choo” front at 90 hrs development

“Choo-Choo” front at 175 hrs development (complete)

Click here to view/purchase this print at Rock on Trains.

Paula Kelly Turner thank you letter

Tex Beneke thank you letter

Jonnie Miller Soper thank you letter

Click here to visit Rock on Trains and view/purchase your “Choo-Choo” print set.

Thank you for your interest!


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.

NC&StL Steam Feature for August 2019

Featured subjects this month are of Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway Yellow Jacket and Stripe locomotives in Nashville and Chattanooga:

All images courtesy of Mr. Charles Castner (L&N Historical Society) and Mr. Frank Ardrey.


Rock on Trains © 2019, 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.