The Southern Belle Riverboat and The Chattanooga Choo Choo!
The Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel
The Terminal Station seemed destined for the similar fate of Union Station (parts of which were built before the Civil War) at the center of town, which was demolished in 1973. But Terminal Station was saved from the wrecking ball by a group of local businessmen who were inspired by the theme of the “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” They invested $4 million before its new grand opening on April 11, 1973, and the beautiful Terminal Station once again opened its doors to welcome visitors to Chattanooga – this time as a unique vacation complex. With its listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, the Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel is considered one of the city’s first historic preservation projects.
In 1989, a group of Chattanooga investors, known as Choo Choo Partners, Ltd., brought new management and invested another $4 million+ dollars in renovations to the complex. In the summer of 2014, the Chattanooga Choo Choo began a redevelopment of the entire hotel property, including new and vibrant restaurants, exciting music venues, and an on-site apartment conversion. The Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel, famous in history and song, is becoming the ultimate district for entertainment in the region. Today there is again the bustle that was so familiar in the railroad days.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo Train
The first Chattanooga Choo Choo Train was Cincinnati Southern Railroad’s small wood burning steam locomotive that started its journey through history from Cincinnati, Ohio on March 5, 1880. Nearly all trains traveling to the South passed through Chattanooga. The wood-burning “Choo Choo” was the first to provide non-stop service.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo train engine now on display at Terminal Station is the same kind of wood-burner used on that first run from Cincinnati to Chattanooga in 1880. Built at that time by Baldwin, it was last used in service by the Smoky Mountain Railroad between Knoxville and the Smoky Mountains in the 1940’s. Completely refurbished, she is the only engine of her kind now in the city. Two similar engines – The “General” of Civil War fame, and the “Best Friend of Charleston” – were for many years in Chattanooga but were put on display elsewhere by their owning railroad companies.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo Song
A newspaper reporter dubbed the huffing and puffing little steam locomotive the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Although the Chattanooga’s Terminal Station was significant in its role of the train era with its “Track 29”, little was known about the first Chattanooga Choo Choo. Only after Glenn Miller’s orchestra made the catchy song popular in the late 1940’s did the name become world famous. Introduced in 1941 by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the song was featured in the movie “Sun Valley Serenade” and performed by Tex Beneke and the Modernaires. Harry Warren wrote the original music score, while Mack Gordon takes credit for the rhythmic words. The Chattanooga Choo Choo song traveled fast throughout the circles of Europe during World War II, and today it is an international favorite.