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.

Tennessee Central Railway Steam Feature for April 2022

Tennessee Central HeraldThe Tennessee Central Railroad began in 1892 to haul coal, iron, and lumber in Tennessee. The line ran from Harriman, TN west 163.5 miles to Nashville, then another 83.5 miles to Hopkinsville, KY, passing through Clarksville, TN. Along the line, there were several small branches. At Harriman, the TC connected with the Southern Railway.

In 1968, the TC was liquidated and parts of it were purchased by the IC, L&N, and Southern Railway. The Tennessee Central endured for over 80 years in the face of very tough odds, and played a considerable part in the economic development of its service region.

Tennessee Central Track Plan

Tennessee Central Track Plan

Featured Tennessee Central Railway steam subjects this month include various locations in Tennessee:

All photos courtesy of Mr. Bud Laws / Ron Kohlin Collection.

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: 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.

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.

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 © 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.