The Chattanooga Choo Choo is the name of an actual train which ran from Cincinnati to Chattanooga, beginning in 1880, offering the first through passenger service to the South. This little steam engine was dubbed the Chattanooga Choo Choo by a newspaper reporter and later made famous by a 1941 Glenn Miller song, which became the music industry's first ever gold record. Alas, the last passenger train pulled out of the magnificant old Chattanooga Terminal Station on August 11, 1970. Today the Chattanooga Choo Choo, is a 24-acre vacation complex with restaurants, shops, gardens, a Model Railroad Museum, trolly rides and more. The entrance to the old Terminal Station, with its impressive free-standing 85-foot dome, is now the lobby of a Holiday Inn.
Every time I visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo, and I have done so dozens of times, I find myself remembering the wide-eyed excitement of coming here as a little boy. It was a bustling terminal then, with up to 68 trains arriving and departing daily. I came with my parents to pick up Grandmother Minor who often traveled by train from Decatur, Alabama to visit us. It was a noisy beehive of activity then, with hissing steam engines and clamoring crowds of people coming and going.
The Choo Choo is quieter now, but it can still be a lively place, and one that every visitor to Chattanooga should experience.