Looking Back: “Joint Effort”

This blog entry offers a behind-the-scenes look at “Joint Effort,” my 1988 painting of the Louisville & Nashville depot at Etowah, Tennessee. It’s April 1944 — as the local fireman tops off her tank in preparation for the daily switching chores, First No. 53 South struggles to lift her tonnage, bound for Atlanta, past the L&N depot in Etowah.

L&N Railway Depot - Etowah, TN (Credit: Tom Rock)

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

JOINT EFFORT at 45 hours of development

“Joint Effort” at 45 hrs Development

JOINT EFFORT at 70 hours of development

“Joint Effort” at 70 hrs Development

JOINT EFFORT at 144 hours of development

“Joint Effort” at 144 hrs Development

JOINT EFFORT at 180 hours of development

“Joint Effort” at 180 hrs Development

JOINT EFFORT at 252 hours of development

“Joint Effort” at 252 hrs Development

JOINT EFFORT Complete at 400 hours of development

“Joint Effort” Complete at 400 hrs Development

Etowah Depot History

In 1906, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad opened a depot and shop facility in a sleepy little town in southeast Tennessee called Etowah (Cherokee for “Muddy Waters”). When the construction was complete, the complex included a turntable, roundhouse, engine and car repair shops, passenger and freight depots, power plant and fourteen freight and five repair tracks. This was going to make Etowah the L&N Railroad’s division point between Corbin, Kentucky and Atlanta, Georgia on the new route to connect Chicago with Cincinnati, Ohio, Lexington, Kentucky & Knoxville, Tennessee.

The depot was the key building in the railroad complex and became the center of the business district. It housed the administrative as well as the passenger station for the community, and because of its architectural excellence was proclaimed the finest station between Knoxville and Atlanta.

In 1974, after 68 years of operation, the L&N closed the station, but by 1981, with the help of local civic groups and grants, the building was restored to its original grandeur and reopened, this time to let the public view what a grand part of Americana she once was. It currently houses the Etowah Chamber of Commerce and Cultural Arts Commission as well as a museum.

Take this opportunity to own an Open Edition or Decorator print of Tom Rock’s classic railroad painting, “Joint Effort.”


  • Limited Edition Prints (750) – SOLD OUT
  • Limited Edition Proofs (75) – $100.00 
  • Open Edition Prints – $50.00
  • 13″x18″ Decorator Prints – $20.00
  • 5″x7″ Decorator Prints – $5.00

Shipping to be determined with order. To purchase a print, please email tdrprod@aol.com.

Rock on Trains © 2022, 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: Bridgeport, AL / Blue Ridge, GA / Chatsworth, GA / Murphy, NC / Decherd, TN / Tullahoma, TN

Featured L&N Railway depots this month include various locations in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee:

All photos courtesy of Tom Rock.

Rock on Trains © 2021, 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.

Louisville & Nashville Steam Feature for June 2021

Featured L&N Railway steam subjects for this June’s post include various locations in Tennessee and Kentucky:

All photos courtesy of RailPictures.Net.

Rock on Trains © 2021, 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.

My Train Recollections: Mike Harrison

Mr. Mike Harrison, retired curator at the Little River Railroad and Lumber Co. Museum in Townsend, TN, shares his train recollections with us this month. Thanks for your memories, Mike!

mikeharrison“I never developed an interest in railroads or trains. I was happily and irrevocably born with one. Possibly my earliest recollection of self awareness was as a < 1 year old, traveling with my parents and hearing an N&W conductor on Southern’s Tennessean in 1947 announce our arrival at “Rat-fud! Rat-fud Vaginia!”, a stop on our way from Washington’s Union Station to my Dad’s parents’ home in Knoxville, TN.

Before he graduated Knoxville High School and took a job with the FBI in Washington, DC, my Dad, Joe Harrison, grew up in Knoxville in the 1920’s and ’30’s in a shotgun-style house that backed up to the Louisville & Nashville freight yard (now at the west end of the University of Tennessee campus). His parents’ home was so close to the little freight yard depot, my Dad said that on baseball game days, his Dad would turn their big Phillips console radio around, pointing toward the depot and crank up the volume so the appreciative yardmen could follow the ball game. Dad told us he sold the Sunday Knoxville Journal to train passengers at the depot while the Emmas coaled and took water and let a switcher push the train into the downtown L&N terminal. He said he invariably infuriated the traveling news butches on the train who could not get their copies of the paper to sell until the train reached the terminal.

We would visit Dad’s parents for a few weeks every summer and from the time I could walk, I spent every waking moment in that unfenced freight yard watching the yard steam switchers shuttle freight car cuts around, and occasionally being hoisted into the cab for a a few hours of up-close-and-personal switching. Unthinkable and possibly feloniously illegal today, in the 50’s I could freely roam the entirety of the yard from the wye at the Tennessee River bridge to the Cumberland Avenue overpass without parental or yard worker interference or challenge, other than an occasional, “be careful!” Learning early the key rule was, “you can go anywhere if you stay out of the way,” and occasionally running ice water to yardmen, I got into the roundhouse, rode the turntable, climbed all over bad order cars sidetracked nearest Dad’s house along with hundreds of spare parts and played with the very mobile wheel sets. Even bedtime was memorable. The diesel switchers (FM or ALCO?) had a soothing pitch rise when accelerating and anticipated lowing back to idle when drifting, to the inevitable jarring crash of knuckles reacquainting. With one possible exception, time at the end of Cornell Ave was the most joyful two weeks of the year, especially so if during the Christmas holiday.

The possible exception was equal time spent at my Mother’s parents’ house at Barboursville, VA. Her Dad and all three of her brothers and a cousin worked for Southern Railway in various capacities for varying durations. My grandad, Jessie Strickland, ran the coaling station at Weyburn, VA. I have his 30 year Southern Railway service pin, and one uncle’s Flagman hat badge. Another Uncle, Peyton Strickland, lost his right arm while working as brakeman, but SR took great care of him during his lifetime, and his children until they reached adulthood. Mom’s house was just two miles from the Weyburn coaling tower, but less than 100 feet from Southern’s double tracked main from Orange, VA, to Charlottesville. The outhouse would shake when the long freights passed pulling the grade from Weyburn to Barboursville, moving slowly enough that catching a ride to town was easy. We had standing excuse to leave the supper table to run trackside whenever the Tennessean, Southerner, or Crescent would fly by or even for a long freight. Steam was gone from SR in 1953, but I came to appreciate the EMD E and F’s almost as much, though it always bothered me when the A units all faced forward. Uncle Peyton had retired to Gordonsville, six miles away where SR and C&O met at the wye junction. I’d watch the C&O trains from Richmond to Charlottesville either stop or more often greatly slow for the sweeping wye curve through town.

Mom and Dad met and married in Washington, DC, during WWII and whenever they wanted a little alone time, Mom had only to take my brother and I to Union Station and hand us up to Uncle Lynn (actually Mom’s cousin), a Conductor on the Crescent. Two thrilling, memorable hours later, often having ridden the business/observation car platform, he would give to Aunt Opal in picturesque Orange, VA, for a week or two of continual SR dual main action at the family home in Barboursville. Too often, though at the time I had no idea of the ominous implications, it seemed we had the whole five or six car consist to ourselves, and whether true or not, we always explored the whole length of train at least once during the far too short trip.

Now, I love to get stopped at a grade crossing for a creeping CSX coal drag. Near ecstasy was the 7,000 mile Amtrak trip my Dad and I took in 2005 on the Cardinal, Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder and Capitol Limited, and seeing the grandeur of our Creator’s creation from a Superliner’s wide stateroom window, or from the never-to-be-opened-during-motion open lower level Dutch door in the First Class Lounge car. I never got tired of watching or being in or around trains — still don’t; can’t. Like I said at the top, I didn’t become interested in trains. I was born that way, and remain eternally grateful to my parents and theirs for making it thus.”

Rock on Trains © 2021, 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.

Louisville & Nashville Railroad Steam Feature for August 2020

LN-logoFeatured Louisville & Nashville Railroad steam subjects this month include locations in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Illinois:

Images courtesy of Mr. Ron Kohlin.

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.