Chattanooga became a household name in 1941 when the Chattanooga Choo Choo song topped the record charts. The first train to be called the Chattanooga Choo Choo went from Cincinnati to Chattanooga in 1880. It strikes me as vaguely appropriate that both the Choo Choo and I came from Ohio, although I started my journey 2 hours further North.
What surprises me, however, is that the train that made Chattanooga so famous is no longer in operation. I guess it’s not too much of a surprise–after all, most passenger trains have gone by the wayside in the US. In fact, I looked into what were the options for taking a train to Portland, Oregon from Chattanooga. The closest train starts in Atlanta, goes up the East coast, across the Northern US through Chicago, up to Glacier National Park in Montana, and over to the West coast, going through Spokane, Washington and heading down to Portland via Seattle.
Pat and I took the train from Portland to Glacier a couple years ago. It took about 14 hours. To get all the way from Atlanta to Portland takes about 8 days. As fun as traveling across the country by train sounds, 8 days of travel pretty much eats up an entire vacation.
It’s a bummer that we don’t have better public transportation here–the trains are one of the things that makes traveling around Europe so easy. But, our penchant for driving seems to have made a passenger railway unsustainable.
As for the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the last train left the terminal in 1970. The Chattanooga Choo Choo ran for 90 years from 1880 to 1970. 61 years after its first run, it was made famous by a WWII era song that was so famous, even I know the song in spite of the fact that I was born 26 years after the song hit the charts. Even today, 72 years after the song made the train famous, I meet people from halfway around the world who are 20 years younger than me who have also heard the song. The song was apparently easier to sustain than the train.
In spite of the demise of the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the former train station remains an attraction for visitors to the area. I’ve stopped in there once, but some day I’ll get over there with my DSLR and do a blog post on the resort and museum that’s been erected there.
In the meantime, the best I have to offer are some iPhone shots of some of the vestigial tracks in the neighborhood. There are still many active tracks in the area–the trains still serve industry–but in the downtown area, the tracks are left only as reminders of the past.
Tisen and Twiggy enjoyed their walk around the tracks–especially when they discovered a cat hiding out under the shrubs. The building is an office building now–I don’t know the history of it, but I appreciated the azaleas.