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.

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

Enjoy this month’s featured Depot Doings photos courtesy of Mr. John Dziobko at www.godfatherrails.com.


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.

NEW! Southern Steam Feature

southern-railway-logoA new photo feature here at Rock on Trains will feature various types of steam locomotives from such railroads as the Southern, Louisville & Nashville, NC&StL and Central of Georgia. April’s Southern Steam subjects are on the Southern Railway at various locations:

  • Sou Rwy No. 1341 – Saluda Grade – 1946
  • Sou Rwy No. 1380 – Atlanta, GA – 7/47
  • Sou Rwy No. 1459 – Saluda Grade – 7/49
  • Sou Rwy No. 1479 – Location Unknown – 1946


Photos courtesy of www.railarchive.net.

  • Sou Rwy No. 4834 – Greenville, SC – 7/53
  • Sou Rwy No. 4885 – Charlotte, NC – 5/6/46
  • Sou Rwy No. 1205 – E. St. Louis, IL – 7/38
  • Sou Rwy Steam Enroute to Scrappers – Kidsville, NC – 11/3/52


Photos courtesy of www.rr-fallenflags.org.


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.

Depot Doings: Opp, AL / Cullman, AL / Dothan, AL / Eufaula, AL / Lafayette, AL / Enterprise, AL

February’s featured depots include the L&N Railway at Opp, AL (2004), and Cullman, AL (2007), along with the Atlantic Coast Line Railway at Dothan, AL (2004), the Central of Georgia Railway at Eufaula, AL (2008) and Lafayette, AL (2008), and the Alabama Midland Railway at Enterprise, AL (2009).

The L&N depot at Opp, AL was constructed in 1928 and is currently owned by the Alabama and Florida Railway.

The L&N depot at Cullman, AL was built in 1913. The CSX Railroad section crews used the depot until March 23, 1990, when the City of Cullman purchased it for restoration. It currently houses offices of the Cullman County United Way.

The ACL depot at Dothan, AL was constructed in 1907. The railroad used this station until 1985 when it was closed. It laid dormant until the City of Dothan purchased it in 1989 from CSX to prevent its demolition. In 2007 and 2008, Wiregrass Transit Authority restored the building to serve as its headquarters.

The C of G Freight depot at Eufaula, AL was constructed in 1889. The Freight depot remained in service until the late 1980’s when it was acquired by the City of Eufaula. It was restored in 1999 and now houses the Eufaula Chamber of Commerce.

The C of G depot at Lafayette, AL was constructed in 1908 and now houses the Chambers County Museum.

The Alabama Midland Railway depot at Enterprise, AL was erected in 1903. In 1974 the Pea River Historical Society purchased the depot and began operation as a museum.

Images courtesy of Dale Burns (alabamarailpics.com).


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.