Depot Doings: Huntsville, AL / Louisville, KY / Mascoutah, IL / Foley, AL / Nashville, TN

LN-logoFeatured Louisville & Nashville depots on the blog this month are those in Huntsville, AL, Louisville, KY, Mascoutah, IL, Foley, AL, and Nashville, TN.

HUNTSVILLE, AL – The Huntsville Depot located on the Norfolk Southern Railway line in downtown Huntsville is the oldest surviving railroad depot in Alabama and one of the oldest in the United States. Completed in 1860, the depot served as eastern division headquarters for the Memphis and Charleston Railroad.[3] It is listed on both the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage and National Register of Historic Places.[1][2]

Huntsville was occupied by Union forces in 1862 during the Civil War as a strategic point on the railroad and the depot was used as a prison for Confederate soldiers. Graffiti left by the soldiers can still be seen on the walls. The Huntsville Depot saw its last regularly scheduled passenger train, Southern Railway’s The Tennessean, on March 30, 1968. Today the Depot serves as a museum, part of the Early Works Museum.

Information courtesy of www.wikipedia.org.

LOUISVILLE, KY – The Union Station of Louisville, Kentucky is a historic railroad station that serves as offices for the Transit Authority of River City, as it has since mid-April 1980 after receiving a year-long restoration costing approximately $2 million. It was one of three union stations in Kentucky, the other two being in Paducah and Owensboro. It superseded previous, smaller, railroad depots located in Louisville, most notably one located at Tenth and Maple in 1868-1869, and another L&N station built in 1858. The station was formally opened on September 7, 1891 by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. There was a claim made at the time that it was the largest railroad station in the Southern United States, covering forty acres (16 ha).[2]

Union Station provided the entrance to Louisville for many visitors, with its height being the 1920s, when it served 58 trains a day. As a Union Station, it served not only the L&N railroad, but also the Monon Railroad, the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Louisville, Henderson, & St. Louis, the latter eventually merging with the L&N. Many of those traveling to the Kentucky Derby would use the Union Station as their first place of celebration, with twenty special trains coming to the facility, and Pullman cars allowing overnight accommodations, a trend that continued until the mid-1960s. Three separate United States presidents arrived in Louisville by Union Station.

Information courtesy of www.wikipedia.org.

MASCOUTAH, IL – In 1870, the St. Louis and Southeastern Railway Company built a depot in Mascoutah, Illinois. On September 8, 1870 it inaugurated the town’s first train service. In 1879, the Nashville Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad bought this railroad, which itself was taken over by the L&N Railroad in 1880. In June 1975, the town of Mascoutah bought the depot from the L&N for $1.00, and in early July moved it to Scheve Park. The depot soon became the centerpiece for homecomings and other activities.

FOLEY, AL – Located in the old L & N Railroad Depot is Foley’s Museum Archives. The first depot was built in 1905 when Mr. John B. Foley of Chicago used some of his own money to bring the railroad to the southern part of Baldwin County. This first depot burned to the ground, and a second station took its place in 1908. The railroad line was a spur from Bay Minette and ended approximately a mile south of Foley. At that end, there was a wye when the train could turn around.

The depot and the railroad became the center of activity for the growing town of Foley. At this time, the area was primarily agricultural so the railroad was vital to getting the produce to market. During “shipping” season, thousands of boxcars would pull out of Foley loaded with potatoes, corn, gladiolas, and many other types of produce that was grown in the area.

In 1971, the L & N Railroad discontinued their services to Foley. It was the intention of the company to tear down the depot. However, John Snook, owner of Gulf Telephone Company, bought the building for one dollar. He then moved the whole building to Magnolia Springs, a small community five miles West of Foley. For 24 years, Mr. Snook used the building as a warehouse for the phone company before deeding it to the City of Foley. In 1995, the depot was returned to Foley and placed back in its original location.

The City has since turned the depot into a museum. Here, you will find pictures and artifacts that depict the culture of South Baldwin County, especially the City of Foley. The Museum is open Monday through Friday from 10am – 4pm.

Information courtesy of Foley Railroad Museum.

NASHVILLE, TN – This National Historic Landmark symbolizes the power of railroad companies, specifically the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) Railroad, over the transportation and economy of turn-of-the-century Tennessee. Built between 1898 and 1900, and designed by L&N company engineer Richard Montfort, the building is a significant Tennessee example of Richardsonian Romanesque style. The magnificent passenger train shed, which measured 250 by 500 feet with a clear span of 200 feet, was an engineering marvel for its time. In 1900 it was the longest single-span, gable roof structure in the country. After a fire damaged the shed, and no viable preservation alternatives were identified, the shed was razed in late 2000.

For seven decades, Union Station served Nashville passengers as a massive stone gateway to the metropolitan corridor represented by the national rail system. In 1975 the station was condemned and closed; Amtrak continued to use the shed for passenger traffic until 1979. Metropolitan Nashville officials acquired the rapidly deteriorating structure in 1985; by the following year, Union Station had been restored as a hotel and restaurant. It has served that function ever since and once again is a prominent Nashville architectural and historical landmark.

Information courtesy of Carroll Van West, The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.

All photos courtesy of www.rr-fallenflags.org/.


Rock on Trains © 2016, 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, Saturday 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!


mikeharrisonI 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 © 2014, 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: Tate, GA / Ellijay, GA / Evergreen, AL / Milton, FL / Pascagoula, MS / Hopkinsville, KY

LN-logoFeatured Louisville & Nashville depots on the blog this month are those in Tate, GA; Ellijay, GA; Evergreen, AL; Milton, FL; Pascagoula, MS; and Hopkinsville, KY.

The depot at Tate, GA was built in 1916 and is now owned by the Georgia Northeastern Railroad where it is currently used as a crew base for the yard and business office.

The depot at Ellijay, GA was built in 1912. It is a picturesque wood-frame structure similar to others along the “Hook and Eye” line. No longer in railroad use, it currently houses a local business.

The depot at Evergreen, AL was built in 1907. The building has been totally restored even though it was threatened by demolition in the 1970s. It currently houses the Evergreen-Conech County Chamber of Commerce.

The depot at Milton, FL was built in 1909 on the site of the former Pensacola and Atlantic depot, built in 1882, which burned down in 1907. In 1973, the station was closed, but partially restored with a 1976 Bicentennial grant. Today the building is owned by the Santa Rosa Historical Society.

The depot at Pascagoula, MS was built in 1904. It was restored during the 1970s and converted into an Amtrak station. In addition, the the station serves as an art gallery owned by the Singing River Art Association.

The depot at Hopkinsville, KY was built in 1892. It is a single story framed building with a slate roof. During its operation, it was the only L&N station between Evansville, IN and Nashville, TN where it was legal to drink alcohol, thus giving Hopkinsville the nickname, “Hop Town”. It currently houses the Pennyrile Arts Council.


Rock on Trains © 2014, 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 July 2013

LN-logoFeatured Louisville & Nashville Railroad steam subjects for this July post: various locations in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee:

  • L&N # 416 – Corbin, KY
  • L&N # 1500 – Louisville, KY
  • L&N # 1513 – Evansville, IN
  • L&N # 1529 – Louisville, KY
  • L&N # 1587 – Nashville, TN
  • L&N # 1760 – Evansville, IN

Images courtesy of the Frank Ardrey Collection.


Rock on Trains © 2013, 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.

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; and 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 a Limited Edition proof or decorator print of Tom Rock’s classic railroad painting, “Joint Effort.”  Click here to view/purchase this print at Rock on Trains.


Rock on Trains © 2012, 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.