I have enjoyed reading the railroad series, but am saddened that it is all in reference to the past.
It is a shame that Chattanooga, known as the Choo Choo city, with such a rich railroad history, has no trains running to and from the city, or any cross-town commuter rails. all we have left are museums and memories.
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Aw come on, John Fricke, you sound so gloomy and depressing. Why not take a ride on the trains at the Railroad Museum, or visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the old Southern Railway terminal, and book a night with your significant other on those Pullman sleeper cars, browse all the great artworks for sale, buy some Civil War antiques and curios in the little shops, admire the great architecture, have a great dinner of barbeque ribs with all the fixings at the Station House, as you listen to the house band serenade ya....with the nostalgic history of a time gone by. Glenn Miller's band playing the Chattanooga Shoe Shine boy....on the Ponce de Leon train, pulling into the station, from Cincinnati, Ohio.
I would hate to think those old coal- burning smokers were still running with regularity today, like they were in the past, with all the problems we got with smog and my COPD in today's modern world.
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Mr. Wood, your COPD is regrettable, but I totally agree with John Fricke. In a city where the local airport must be subsidized by the city, where Chattanooga is a hub for some of the largest trucking companies in the country, and having grown up riding the country on Pullman cars I also think it is a pity Chattanooga has no passenger rail service. This is not nostalgia waxing but an honest curiosity as to why. The coal-fired power plant(s) that supply Knoxville with the majority of your electricity have more to do with your COPD that a few dozen trains departing Chattanooga. And modern locomotives have kept pace with air pollution standards unlike the 20-year-old beater likely in your garage.
The cost-per-mile in trains exceeds most other forms of transportation. The comfort is only surpassed by cruise ships. The only thing missing is the rush to get where you’re going and I’m not certain that is such a bad thing. I am unsure if Amtrak is still subsidized by the Feds, but if Chickamauga Dam’s new lock can be subsidized, getting a few feeder rails installed in Chattanooga shouldn’t be that big of a deal. By the way, Mr. Wood, the air quality inside a passenger train will far exceed that inside any closed-ventilation system aboard a modern jet or at any airport I can think of.
David D. Fihn
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I agree. I have often wondered why a city so ubiquitously associated with trains has no commuter rail lines to/from the city. My mother has memories of picking passengers up at the station when she was a child and I can only imagine what that must have been like.
I would love to see Chattanooga with an Amtrak station like other cities in the Southeast have (Atlanta, Birmingham, etc). I am currently planning a group trip to New Orleans in August and we are taking the train from Birmingham because it is cost-effective (less than $100 per person round-trip). Everyone thinks it will be fun, and is less of a hassle than driving or flying.
I only wish we could leave from Chattanooga instead of Birmingham. That would simplify the process even further.
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It has been a pleasure to read the "Chattanooga Railroad Series" on Chattanoogan.com, and a breathe of fresh air that Chattanooga's rich railroad heritage is so publicly being displayed via an online outlet.
As author of the book 'Chattanooga's Terminal Station', and spending years researching Chattanooga's legacy of passenger service, I wish I had a better answer to your questions in regards as to why Chattanooga does not have intercity passenger service.
First, the regional planning agency is currently putting together a 2040 Transportation Plan which includes light and heavy rail as a local transportation solution. However, the community needs to get behind initiatives to bring rails back within our communities, such as trolley, tram or streetcar service, before we can delve into an intercity solution.
On several occasions I have brought forth the idea of bringing streetcar service back to Chattanooga, who at one time had nearly 300 miles of streetcars which served locations as distant as Chickamauga Battlefield and the Signal Mountain Inn. In 1991, when the electric shuttle service was put into place, the only reasons we didn't rebuild the streetcar system was because we weren't 100 percent certain how downtown was going to be developed... thus the need to shift the route if needed. This is no longer the case, so let's build a permanent solution to downtown transit... streetcars.
Chattanooga would be a fantastic destination for Amtrak should a Florida-Midwest route take shape. However, the freight only routes coming into Chattanooga are at or near capacity... in other words... Chattanooga already has as many trains as the physical plant can handle. The only solution is to build a second track where there's currently only one set of rails (at a cost of one million per mile in materials alone), and rebuild the current lines to handle passenger trains speeds. In the 1970s, as passenger routes were being eliminated, freight railroads 'downgraded' their tracks as to handle longer, heavier freight trains at slower speeds.
In short... I would be the first person in line to purchase a ticket from Chattanooga to Florida... but after years of witnessing apathy towards having streetcar service back to Chattanooga... I don't see a bright future for intercity rail travel in southeast Tennessee.
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The article on the history of Chattanooga trains was well received by several of my friends and has given us a discussion topic. John Fricke mentioned our cross town excursions and museums which both are great for visitors and hometown people as well. David Fihn mentioned the pollution in airports and inside the cabins of jetliners which are both viable concerns. Now, Donald Woods of Knoxville had a more dismal look concerning trains and had a few tongue in cheek sort of quips about the trains.
I, like Mr. Fihn am sorry for Mr. Woods respiratory problems, I feel for him as I've witnessed how bad people can suffer with it. I have had a couple of cousins with COPD and both were huge smokers for most of their lives and both suffered down the stretch.
However, I would like to point out to Mr. Woods that if you listened to Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy you would be listening to the late Red Foley. Mr. Woods was close as The Glenn Miller recorded The Chattanooga Choo-Choo. I can remember how bummed out I was when Red Foley's song knocked Bing Crosby's Dear Hearts And Gentle people off the number one spot of Your Hit Parade which my family gathered around the radio and listened every Saturday night. Bing Crosby's song was my first favorite song.
Robert F. Richey
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For those who are new to the city or those who may have forgotten, the old Southern Railway terminal was rescued by Allen Casey and developed into the Chattanooga Choo Choo as we know it today. We owe Mr. Casey our gratitude for his foresight and the class service he provided for many years. I enjoyed my visits there often, especially when a group of barber shop singers were elevated above the diners in the main hall and entertained us after we dined on luscious fare.
Wouldn't it be nice if the city of Chattanooga (and River City that often thinks it is Chattanooga) would show a little respect for all the tax dollars Mr. Casey generated for the city rather than jumping on the damnation train and condemning his efforts to bring his vision of a floating restaurant to the North Shore. I wish I had a million bucks to help get that barge afloat after major flooding. After all, we interested citizens got our paddlewheeler cleared to remain at the riverfront for the time being in spite of the efforts of the mayor and other big names to run it out of town.
Congress can get things done. It's all in having the facts, who you know, and how you approach them. Thank you, members of The House of Representatives. You did a good deed for so many people here.