The city's second notable terminal was Central Depot located at Market Street and Union Streets (now West 13th Street). It opened in 1888 and served trains of the Cincinnati Southern, East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia, Memphis & Charleston, and Alabama Great Southern. As traffic and rail travel grew into the early 20th century the Southern realized it needed a much larger terminal. The Stanton House property at Market and 14th Streets, which the Chattanooga Choo Choo currently occupies was purchased by the railroad in 1904 for around $71,000. The railroad quickly demolished the building and cleared the ground for construction of its new station in 1906. It was designed in the Beaux Arts design (modeled after the National Park Bank in New York City) and an American, Don Barber, would be the architect. Barber hailed from Paris's Beaux Arts Institute and the Southern's president of the time was so impressed with his design that Barber was actually requested in person for a face-to-face meeting.
The Construction Of Terminal Station
Terminal Station opened for service on December 1, 1909 at a cost of $1.5 million. The interior featured a grand concourse highlighted by a beautiful arched dome (something which was actually rather common for the large stations of the time). The dome spanned the entire length of the concourse, which was 68 feet wide by 82 feet high and featured four beautiful brass chandeliers adorning the ceiling above. The facility hosted fourteen staging tracks and accompanying platforms. It was situated slightly west of the Southern's main line on the eastern side of the Tennessee River via a stub-end layout (meaning trains had to back into and out of the terminal) and covered 24 acres altogether, including tracks and head house. Many of the railroad's most prominent trains stopped at Terminal Station including the Birmingham Special (Washington - Birmingham), Florida Sunbeam (Cincinnati - Florida), Pelican (New York-New Orleans), Ponce de Leon (Cincinnati - Jacksonville), Queen & Crescent (Cincinnati-New Orleans), Royal Palm (Cincinnati-Jacksonville), and Tennessean (Washington-Memphis).
During its peak years it hosted nearly 50 trains every day and thousands of daily passengers. Alas, despite Southern's high class service and strong earnings potential, passenger traffic wanted after World War II as the public abandoned trains for automobiles and airliners. By the 1960s the Southern dispatched only a few trains through Chattanooga until and by 1970 only trains #17 and #18 still called, the southbound and northbound Birmingham Special. The train made its last run on August 11th and not long after the Southern closed the facility. Luckily, a group of local investors saw an opportunity in the old building and purchased it, spending nearly $4 million on the complex to restore it to its former glory. Named after the song made famous by the Glenn Miller Orchestra the Chattanooga Choo Choo reopened to the public on April 11, 1973 as the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hilton and Entertainment Complex.
The building was then placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and went through new ownership in 1989 at which an additional $4 million was spent on a second restoration. Over the years the Chattanooga Choo Choo has become one of the city's top attractions with three hotel buildings, five restaurants, retail shops, rose gardens, an antique trolley ride, model railroad museum/display among its notable features. For instance, there is the "Dinner in the Diner" previously mentioned, housed in a restored streamlined diner car from the 1950s. Then there is the coffee shop which also carries a train theme. Today, the building is a far cry from when it was nearly demolished in the early 1970s. While the exterior looks very good all by itself since its restoration at night it truly comes alive with a massive neon steam locomotive adorning the roof and lights decorating the windows and roof.
If you are interested in spending the night at the station they have
more restored streamlined rail cars on the premises, which have been
fully restored and feature exquisite accommodations. Additionally, you
can also ride the nearby trolley, which operates every day of the week
taking visitors on a short ride along the property. Overall, the
Chattanooga Choo Choo offers a unique experience catering to both the
contemporary with their wide array of things to see and do as well as the historian
and train enthusiast who are perhaps more interested in touring the
grounds and learning about its history. There are not many other such
attractions to be found around the country. To visit the Choo Choo's official website please click here.
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Stations And Depots
Terminal Station/Chattanooga Choo Choo