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 & Tennessee:

All photos courtesy of Tom Rock.


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.

Looking Back: “Crew Change”

The title of my painting, “Crew Change,” was chosen to reflect on the time old honored tradition of the Tennessee train crews changing with the Georgia crews. Being that Cleveland was the last stop for Knoxville Division trains going through Cohutta, Georgia, on their way to Atlanta, the crews had to change at Cleveland.

In 1990 when I decided to paint the station in Cleveland, I headed for the library hoping to find a photo I could use for the layout. After spending several days searching through the library archives for that ideal photo, I finally came to the conclusion that I was going to have to take my own. This option makes painting an historical scene much more difficult because of the fact that the area has changed considerably over the years.

I first took a photo of the station looking south from the Inman Street overpass, which was then enlarged to the size it had to be for the painting. Next, I had to turn this view from 1990 back to 1940 using onion skin overlays, triangles, air brush, old photos, acrylic paint, local area citizens memories and a little help from the Almighty to produce what you are viewing.  I also received priceless historical information from a number of retired Southern operators and agents that worked out of the station — if it were not for the assistance of the following gentlemen, I do not believe I could have put this scene together:

  • Bill Robinson
  • Ronny Phillips
  • Mitchell Lyle
  • Paul Leach
  • Danny Centers

The Cleveland station was officially opened in the spring of 1911 and closed in 1998. It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of Interior and is currently being restored. When the restoration is complete, the station should reflect the image shown in my painting. Included here are several photos that were taken throughout the 385 hours it took to complete the work; I’m also including a couple photos of the station that were taken in 1978 and 2010. Hopefully this 100 year old diamond in the rough will be shining again in the not too distant future for all to see.

With the assistance of Dr. William Snell of Lee College and the Cleveland Public Library’s Historical Branch I was able to obtain the following notable information pertaining to the construction of the Cleveland station:

In 1852, the Chattanooga, Harrison, Georgetown and Charleston Railroad Company was given permission to extend its connection from Chattanooga to Charleston in Bradley County. In 1854, the charter of this line was added to the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad, and by 1858 the line was completed and in operation through Cleveland. Bradley County’s economic fortunes were heightened considerably with the completion of this line, and the line from Dalton, Georgia, to Knoxville.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, the fact that Cleveland was important to the national war effort was made evident by the telegram sent by President Lincoln to General Henry W. Halleck on June 30, 1862: “To take and hold the railroad at or east of Cleveland, Tennessee, I think is as fully as important as the taking and holding of Richmond.”

The fall of 1869 saw the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad merging with the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad until July 7, 1894, when these two railroads were absorbed by the Southern Railway System. With passenger and freight traffic through Cleveland and Bradley County on the rise, the decision was made that a larger depot at Cleveland would definitely have to be constructed.

On September 8, 1910, Division Superintendent R.E. Simpson made the announcement in Knoxville to Agent H.L. Davis, that the Southern Railway would be building a fine passenger station in the city within the next 6 months. In the spring of 1911, the depot in Cleveland was officially opened.

Click here to view/purchase this print at T.D.R. Productions.

“Crew Change” Preliminary Layout

“Crew Change” at 80 hrs development

“Crew Change” at 170 hrs development

“Crew Change” at 240 hrs development

“Crew Change” at 302 hrs development

“Crew Change” at 385 hrs development

Click here to view/purchase this print at T.D.R. Productions.

Artist Tom Rock working on “Crew Change” (1990)

The Cleveland Depot in November 1978 (Credit: Tom Rock)

The Cleveland Depot in December 2010 (Credit: Tom Rock)

Crew Change,” was featured in the January/February 2012 issue of Cleveland Life, a Special Section published by the Cleveland Daily Banner. Click here to download a PDF of the article, “Traveling the Rails.”

Click here to view/purchase this print at T.D.R. Productions.


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.

The Missing Bell

When the Southern Railway retired its steam power on June 17, 1953, the bell from locomotive #6330 by some means disappeared. Upon completion of my painting, “Steam’s Final Hour,” I was quizzed by a number of people regarding the location of the bell, which I had no knowledge of until this summer. The last Southern steam powered train departed Oakdale, TN, so this is where I began my research. After perusing the Oakdale, TN Facebook page, there was the bell! There were also copies of the correspondence between the City of Oakdale and Southern Railway President, Harry DeButts, requesting the bell for the city. Included with this description are photos of the referenced articles and photo of the bell.


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.

Southern Railway Steam Feature for July 2021

Featured Southern Railway steam subjects for this July post include various locations in Alabama, Virginia & Georgia:

All photos courtesy of SOUTHERN Railfan.


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.

Depot Doings: Belton, SC/Conway, SC/Heath Springs, SC/Albertville, AL/Andalusia, AL

Featured depots this month are located in South Carolina & Alabama:

The depot at Belton, SC, was constructed by the Southern Railway around 1910. Due to its location near the town square, it was an important focal point of the area. After the loss of passenger service in the 1960’s and a slowdown in freight shipping, the depot was abandoned by the Southern and acquired by the city. The depot was placed on the National Historic Register on August 13, 1979. Restoration efforts were completed in 1983. Following restoration a portion of the museum housed the Anderson County Library until 2004 when it was relocated. In 2006, the depot became the new home to the Ruth Drake Museum and South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame Museum.

Southern Depot - Belton, SC (Credit: www.panoramio.com)
Southern Depot – Belton, SC (Credit: http://www.panoramio.com)

The depot at Conway, SC, was constructed by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in 1928. It is a long, rectangular, one-story, gable-roofed, frame board-an-batten building. It features wide overhanging eaves. The depot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 18, 1995. The Atlantic Coast Line was eventually absorbed into the Carolina Southern Railroad which is a member of the Carolina Rails system. Excursion trains on the Waccamaw Coast Line occasionally run from Conway.

Atlantic Coast Line Depot - Conway, SC (Credit: www.condrenrails.com)
Atlantic Coast Line Depot – Conway, SC (Credit: http://www.condrenrails.com)

The depot at Heath Springs, SC, was constructed by the Southern Railway in 1903. Its primary use was in the transportation of cotton, cottonseed and cotton oil products from nearby farms and cotton oil mills, textiles and granite from a nearby quarry. The depot served Southern Railway freight and passengers from 1903-1940. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 4, 1990.

Southern Depot - Heath Springs, SC (Credit: www.sciway.net)
Southern Depot – Heath Springs, SC (Credit: http://www.sciway.net)

The depot at Albertville, AL, was constructed by the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway in 1892, one year after the town was incorporated. The building measures 112 ft x 40 ft and is divided into three rooms: two offices and one large warehouse. Passenger service ended in the 1940’s, although the depot remained in use for freight. The depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 20, 1975. The building was renovated for use as a seniors center in the mid-1990’s. A former L&N caboose next to the depot houses the Albertville Museum.

NC&StL Depot - Albertville, AL (Credit: wikipedia.org)
NC&StL Depot – Albertville, AL (Credit: wikipedia.org)

The depot at Andalusia, AL, was constructed by the Central of Georgia Railroad in 1899. It is the oldest and only wooden commercial building in downtown Andalusia. The depot now houses the Three Notch Museum, which includes the depot, several railroad cars, a country store, a log cabin, railroad memorabilia and period items. The restored depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Central of Georgia Depot - Andalusia, AL (Credit: www.flickr.com)
Central of Georgia Depot – Andalusia, AL (Credit: http://www.flickr.com)

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.