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.


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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 It superseded previous, smaller, railroad depots located in Louisville, most notably one located at Tenth and Maple in 1868-1869, and another L&N station built in 1858.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.

Depot Doings: Bridgeport, AL / Blue Ridge, GA / Chatsworth, GA / Murphy, NC / Decherd, TN / Tullahoma, TN

Featured L&N Railway depots this month include various locations in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee:

All photos courtesy of Tom Rock.


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.

Louisville & Nashville Steam Feature for June 2021

Featured L&N Railway steam subjects for this June’s post include various locations in Tennessee and Kentucky:

All photos courtesy of RailPictures.Net.


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.

My Train Recollections: Mike Harrison

Mr. Mike Harrison, retired 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!


mikeharrison“I 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 © 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.