Leave The Choo Choo Alone - And Response

  • Wednesday, May 31, 2023

It was with utter disbelief that I read that the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel is being renamed. For over 60 years (before settling here to raise our family 40 years ago), my family always made Chattanooga our stop from Indiana to Florida. We always made our visit complete with a visit to the Choo Choo. The terminal has been a part of Chattanooga’s history since the 1850’s.

Now some person with money wants to come in and change the name and its relationship with Chattanooga that exemplifies this city at its best. This hotel, its history and name draw thousands of people to Chattanooga every year.

Honestly, it truly seems in this upside down world this is just one more step toward trying to erase history. And before anyone starts throwing stones, my great-great-grandfather left his family in Indiana to fight for the freedom he believed every man, woman and child deserved and died at the foot of Lookout Mountain. So I want to shout loudly, “Leave the Choo Choo alone, especially it’s name and history!" It’s part of who we all are-those who came before, are here now and those to come.

Sharon Anderson

* * *

I understand Ms. Anderson’s concern regarding the name change of the Chattanooga Choo Choo to a name with the word “Chalet” in it. While Chattanooga is known to offer an abundance of outdoor and indoor activities, I don’t believe we are at the top of any list for skiing. Further, our gentle mountains, while exquisite and welcoming, don’t host any ski runs (except for the maximum five hours on the mountain golf courses, when it rarely snows).

I have a particular fondness for the Choo Choo as that is where my beautiful older sister departed for a Homecoming Weekend at the University of Virginia. I cried and cried when the train left the station bound for Charlottesville. And, of course, one of the Porters on board sang “The Chattanooga Choo Choo”.

Further, while at City High School a dear friend of mine and I established the “Hysterical Historic Society”. He and I spent a lot of time blackballing prospective members (who didn’t know they were being considered), none of which voiced the least interest in joining. He had a cute little red Sprite (I think, or maybe an MG) and we would drive along Missionary Ridge trying to read the historical markers without getting killed.

The ultimate event of the Society was watching the last train leave the station. Once again my sister (and another fine scholar who will remain anonymous so as not to embarrass him these many years later) were all delighted when the conductor offered us free rides to Cleveland, Tn. We left at 10 p.m. and arrived in Cleveland at a little after 11 p.m. Sadly, we never addressed how to get home. My newly married (and still beautiful sister) called her groom and asked him to come get us. Let’s say he was miffed and said if we got ourselves up there we could get ourselves back. Our rather downtrodden group walked down a street and were picked up by the Cleveland Police. We explained our situation and the polite officers seem to agree with my brother-in-law.

They were kind enough to take us to a diner and asked the patrons if anyone was going to Chattanooga. Luckily two gentlemen were on their way to Florida and would give us a lift back to the Chattanooga Train Station where our cars were.

I know there are other train aficionadoes who have their own experiences. Let’s hope the new owners revisit their proposed name change and keep the grand Chattanooga Choo Choo in place.

Leah Geraghty

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