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Terminal Station
Inter-city rail
Chattanooga Choo-Choo 02.jpg
Location 1400 Market St., Chattanooga, Tennessee
Line(s) CS, CNO&TP, SOU, AGS
Opened 1909
Closed 1970
Rebuilt 1973, 1989
Terminal Station
Location 1400 Market St., Chattanooga, Tennessee
Built 1908
Architect Donn Barber
Architectural style Beaux-Arts
NRHP reference No. 73001778
Added to NRHP February 20, 1973

The Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel (formerly known as Terminal Station) in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a former railroad station once owned and operated by the Southern Railway. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the station is currently operated as a hotel, and is a member of Historic Hotels of America, part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Chattanooga Choo-Choo 01
Main entrance

The original Chattanooga Union Station was built in 1858 (demolished in 1973). Plans for a new station originally called for a smaller facility to handle supplies and small packages. Instead, it was decided to build a grand station to handle passengers as well. Construction on this Terminal Station began in 1906; it was opened in 1909 at the total cost of $1.5 million.

The Terminal Station was the first train station in the South to help open a pathway to connect the north from the south, connecting the city of Cincinnati to Chattanooga. Eventually, the Terminal Station was serving some fifty passenger trains per day plus some freight and package service.

It even greeted presidents such as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Theodore Roosevelt.


American railroad passenger traffic declined after World War II; the Southern's express Detroit-Cincinnati-Florida Florida Sunbeam ended service in 1949. Traffic fell even more so in the 1950s and 1960s, due to competition from better cars and interstate systems, along with airplanes becoming a more popular way to travel and ship items. Packages and land shipping became easier to send and the train track locations became outdated.

Terminal Station hosted its last passenger train to visit and serve the station, the Southern Railway's Birmingham Special, from New York City to Birmingham, and this train left Terminal Station in 1970, which is the same year the doors of Terminal Station finally closed to the public. (Other noteworthy trains serving the station in its last years were the Southern Railway's Pelican [New York-New Orleans], Ponce de Leon [Cincinnati-Jacksonville, FL], Royal Palm [Cincinnati-Miami] and Tennessean [Memphis-Washington, D.C.]) In the years before, as the passenger traffic declined, most of the platforms started to become storage before the station eventually got changed into a hotel and one by one, each track ultimately became obsolete.


Chattanooga Choo-Choo train
A restored passenger railway car at the Choo-Choo

In April 1973, after nearly being demolished, Terminal Station was reopened by a group of business people seeking to trade on the "Chattanooga Choo Choo" song and its enduring popularity. They renamed Terminal Station "Chattanooga Choo Choo Hilton and Entertainment Complex". Investors poured more than $4 million into the renovation project. In 1989, another group of business people invested another $4 million to refurbish and renovate the hotel and to bring in and hire new management and staff. They renamed it The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel.

The 24-acre (97,000 m2) complex is a convention center, hotel and resort with restaurants and shops. Hotel guests can stay in restored passenger railway cars.

The train tracks have mostly been removed to accommodate the growth of the city. The modern Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel is adorned with a bright neon miniature sign version of the trains that once visited. The hotel is surrounded and fenced in by rose gardens and includes an additional area for educational historic trolley rides as well as an ice skating rink. It also once featured the "Dinner in the Diner" restaurant, which is no longer operating. Some parts of the complex were connected by a heritage streetcar line, operated by a 1924-built ex-New Orleans Perley Thomas trolley car; this has been discontinued.

Architecture and pop culture

Chattanooga ChooChoo Locomotive
Representative old steam locomotive on display at Terminal Station.

The Beaux-Arts-style station designed by Donn Barber was one of the grandest buildings in Chattanooga, featuring an arched main entrance. The building also has an 82-foot (25 m) high ceiling dome with a skylight in the center section. The station included a main waiting room, bathrooms, ticket offices, and other services ready to help potential passengers. The original Terminal Station was merely one story in height, so the aforementioned dome and skylight made this area look gargantuan in juxtaposition to other similar buildings, while the arched main entrance was said to be the "largest arch in the world." Lighting was provided by large brass chandeliers. Terminal Station had fourteen train tracks, that could serve seven different passenger platforms. The then president of the Southern Railway System, William Finley, wanted the architecture to follow the example of and imitate the looks of the National Park Bank of New York, and the high dome-like skylight was the main emulation of the National Park Bank.

The 1941 Glenn Miller song "Chattanooga Choo Choo" told the story of a train trip from Track 29 at Pennsylvania Station in New York City through Baltimore, North and South Carolina, and finishing the trip, or terminating at Terminal Station. (However, no such train went from New York, through the Carolinas to Chattanooga.)

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