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.

“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.

Depot Doings: Athens, TN / Bryson City, NC / Charleston, TN / Danville, KY / Lexington, KY / Niota, TN / Oliver Springs, TN / Sweetwater, TN

Featured Southern Railway depots on the blog this month are those in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee:

  • Sou Rwy Depot – Athens, TN – 1978
  • Sou Rwy Depot – Bryson City, NC – 1978
  • Sou Rwy Depot – Charleston, TN – 1978
  • Sou Rwy Depot – Danville, KY – 1980
  • Sou Rwy Depot – Lexington, KY – 1980
  • Sou Rwy Depot – Niota, TN – 1978
  • Sou Rwy Depot – Oliver Springs, TN – 1980
  • Sou Rwy Depot – Sweetwater, TN – 1981

All photos courtesy of Tom Rock.


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.

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 © 2018, 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: Toccoa, GA / Belmont, NC / Saluda, NC / Tryon, NC / Donalds, SC / Orange, VA

Featured Southern Railway depots on the blog this month are those in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia:

  • Toccoa, GA – 6/22/80
  • Belmont, NC – 7/30/80
  • Saluda, NC – 5/10/80
  • Tryon, NC – 5/10/80
  • Donalds, SC – 2/23/80
  • Orange, VA – 3/13/72

All photos courtesy of Railroad Picture Archives.


Rock on Trains © 2017, 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: Seneca, SC / Warner Robins, GA / Morristown, TN / Black Mountain, NC / Old Fort, NC

southern-railway-logoFeatured Southern Railway depots on the blog for July are those in Seneca, SC, Warner Robins, GA, Morristown, TN, Black Mountain, NC, and Old Fort, NC.

All photos courtesy of http://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.

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

southern-railway-logoFeatured Southern Railway depots on the blog this month are those in Leeds, Alabama; Knoxville, Tennessee; Bessemer, Alabama; and Toccoa Georgia.

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 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 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.


Rock on Trains © 2015, 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.