Chattanooga Railroad Series: Historic Dalton Depots

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - by John Wilson

Dalton, Ga., is fortunate to still have two historic train depots.

A depot that was begun in the fall of 1852 by the Western and Atlantic Railroad track is now in use as a restaurant. It is at 110 Depot St. The contractor was Eugene LeHardy, chief engineer of the railroad. LeHardy also was involved in the construction of the Union Station in Chattanooga, and some of his descendants settled in Chattanooga. The W&A depot was acquired by the city of Dalton in 1978.

Just down the street is the Southern Railway Freight Depot that dates to the early 1900s. It is at 305 Depot St. After standing idle for many years, it was restored in 2009 and put into use as the Dalton Visitor Center.

Since the freight depot is right beside the main line to Atlanta, this is now a prime viewing area for train buffs - with 50-55 trains per day passing by. There is a covered viewing platform. An ATCS monitor is set up so that it is possible to tell the location of approaching trains. There is also a live audio feed from train radios.

Train lovers oversee the dual tracks of the CSX and Norfolk Southern Railroads as they pass the "Dalton Diamond," a 45-degree rail crossing directly in front of the viewing platform. This is one of the few places where the two main railroads cross each other at grade.

A 1949 Southern "Crescent City" Pullman car was installed next to the freight depot.

Just north of the two depots above East Waugh Street is the junction of the old W&A line and the track that came in to Dalton from Cleveland. The East Tennessee line was first built from Knoxville to Cleveland and on to Dalton. Chattanooga became an after thought. The East Tennessee (later Southern Railway) line from Dalton continued on to Calhoun, Rome and eventually Atlanta.

A separate depot stood south of the W&A passenger station at the end of Crawford Street from the early 1920s to the early 1970s. It was a small wooden station that had an overhang to protect travelers from the weather.

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