Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel

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.[2]

Terminal Station
Inter-city rail
Chattanooga Choo-Choo 02.jpg
General information
Location1400 Market St., Chattanooga, Tennessee
Rebuilt1973, 1989
Terminal Station
Location1400 Market St., Chattanooga, Tennessee
Coordinates35°2′13″N 85°18′25″W / 35.03694°N 85.30694°W / 35.03694; -85.30694Coordinates: 35°2′13″N 85°18′25″W / 35.03694°N 85.30694°W / 35.03694; -85.30694
ArchitectDonn Barber
Architectural styleBeaux-Arts
NRHP reference No.73001778[1]
Added to NRHPFebruary 20, 1973


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.[3]

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.[4]


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 Packages and land shipping became easier to send and the train track locations became outdated.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.])[5] 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.[6]


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.[7] 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.[4]

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. [8] The two back buildings of the hotel were renovated in 2017 and turned into small apartments and renamed Passenger Flats.

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 outdoor ice skating rink during the cold winter months. There are several restaurants, a comedy club and the Gate 11 micro-distillery at Terminal Station, including a restaurant co-owned by actor Norman Reedus. It also once featured the "Dinner in the Diner" dining car 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 cultureEdit

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."[9] Lighting was provided by large brass chandeliers.[3] Terminal Station had fourteen train tracks, that could serve seven different passenger platforms.[10] 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.[11] (However, no such train went from New York, through the Carolinas to Chattanooga.)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "The Chattanooga Choo Choo, St. Louis, a Historic Hotels of America member". Historic Hotels of America. Retrieved January 28, 2014. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ a b "Chattanooga, Tennessee: Train Town - Reading 3". National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
  4. ^ a b "Chattanooga Choo Choo - Terminal Station". Retrieved 2015-10-12.
  5. ^ "Southern Railway, Tables 3, 5 and 6". Official Guide of the Railways. National Railway Publication Company. 99 (7). December 1966.
  6. ^ Strickland, Justin (2009). Chattanooga's Terminal Station. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 93.
  7. ^ Crutchfield, Jennifer (2010). Chattanooga Landmarks: Exploring the History of the Scenic City. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press. ISBN 978-1-61423-231-5.
  8. ^ "Chattanooga Choo Choo". Retrieved 2015-10-12.
  9. ^ "Chattanooga, Tennessee: Train Town--Reading 3". Retrieved 2015-10-12.
  10. ^ Walker, Alan. Railroads of Chattanooga. Great Britain: Arcadia Publishing. p. 63. ISBN 0-7385-1539-6.
  11. ^ "Chattanooga, Tennessee: Train Town". National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-04-14.

External linksEdit