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What is the Chattanooga Choo Choo?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Chattanooga Choo Choo is a historical train and popular American tourist attraction as well as a hotel. Its railroad museum is located in the hotel; guests can choose to bed down in the train's sleeping cars or in rooms in buildings on the property. Staying at the hotel isn't necessary to see the train museum though. Located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, this antique train represents a memorable part of American history.

The train line that later became known as the Chattanooga Choo Choo became the northernmost destination, or terminal, for a passenger trip that connected with the southern United States. The terminal was built in 1808 at 1400 Market Street in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was designed by American architect Don Barber, who studied at the Institute des Beaux Arts in Paris, France. The Chattanooga Terminal's red brick exterior features a large, arched window above the entrance.

Owned and operated by the Southern Railway, the train wasn't known as the Chattanooga Choo Choo until a newspaper reporter first used the term to describe the sound as it chugged along. The catchy name for the terminal stuck and a song called "Chattanooga Choo Choo" was introduced by the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1941. The last stop for the train was 11 August 1970. The area had become so heavy with smog that the health of Chattanooga's residents became an issue.

Public outcry and protest halted plans for the Chattanooga Terminal's destruction. Investors grouped together to rescue and restore the property. Hotel accommodation and three luxury restaurants were established as well as a museum honoring the United States' history of the Chattanooga Choo Choo. The tourist attraction is found on the National Register of Historic Places.

By 1990, Chattanooga had cleaned up its formerly smoggy air, making it an even more popular place for travelers to visit. Limiting car emissions as well as creating an electric bus system helped Chattanooga achieve its goal of environmental health. Tourists visiting the Chattanooga Choo Choo often enjoy riding the city's electric bus to other nearby attractions such as The Tennessee Aquarium.

The Chattanooga Choo Choo's large expanse of property includes three swimming pools and landscaped gardens. Visitors can walk through the gardens; as for hotel guests, the staff is known to take them around the property in golf carts. Horse drawn carriage rides may be available at certain times of the year; people interested in this activity should contact the Chattanooga Choo Choo attraction ahead of their visit. Indoor activities include an arcade and gift shops.

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Discussion Comments
By lovealot — On Nov 02, 2011

If the Chattanooga Choo Choo train and station hadn't become a site of historical significance, we would be missing a whole chunk of history and culture. The song of the 1940s, Chattanooga Choo Choo is a happy memory for a lot of people.

And the name we use with children - a choo choo train - when referring to toy trains or real trains is great fun. The sound "choo choo" is fun for kids to say.

Just to be able to visit this place and learn about our rich history of trains in this country is priceless.

By Esther11 — On Nov 01, 2011

I'm so glad that enough money was raised and the Chattanooga Choo Choo station and train was prevented from being demolished. Some of our cherished historical sites have been saved so generations to come can enjoy them and learn how things were in the old days.

It takes a lot of public support and funds to save an historical site. Sadly, there are lots of historical sites in the U.S. that have been destroyed and there's probably a Fred Meyer or something where it once stood.

I'm hoping to get to Tennessee and sleep in one of those old sleeping cars on the Chattanooga Choo Choo Train.

By stl156 — On Oct 31, 2011

I have visited Chattanooga Tennessee and I have to say that I noticed immediately despite knowing nothing of the Chattanooga Choo Choo that they take great pride in their train history.

I noticed when I went to a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football game and noticed that their mascot was a big shrieking crow that was dressed as a train engineer. Also all the train whistles going off gave me an indication that trains were a big part of the local area culture and the Chattanooga Choo Choo symbolizes the legacy of the town.

Because of their emphasis on trains when I think of the Chattanooga Choo Choo I think of the Buster Keaton movie "The General" in which a Southern train engineer sabotages the Union Army. During the Civil War Chattanooga was a big railway station and the South took great pride in their trains and what tracks they controlled. The railway station was a great strategic point for the Confederate Army and established the importance of the railway station for the South.

By matthewc23 — On Oct 30, 2011

I remember hearing a song by Glenn Miller entitled Chattanooga Choo Choo. I have always remembered this song when I think of 1940's band swing music with a good old timey type of feel to it.

As music person I really like to hear music from that era and have always noticed that it is not at all uncommon for the song writers of that era to mention things that are popular in pop culture, like a famous choo choo train.

I have also heard that they wrote this song because the people of Chattanooga take great pride in the history of their trains, so this song only made the legacy of the Chattanooga Choo Choo more known on a national level.

By Izzy78 — On Oct 29, 2011

I have heard that the Chattanooga Choo Choo in Tennessee is almost like a Mecca for train enthusiasts. My neighbor is a big time train enthusiast and he tried to educate me once on the Chattanooga Choo Choo train as to what type of train it was, its engine, its historical significance and pretty much any information he could think about concerning that train.

I was interested in the historical significance of the train, being a history buff myself, but him being a train buff he was more interested in the train itself and even planned a trip four hundred miles to Tennessee to go see it.

By JimmyT — On Oct 29, 2011

I have never heard of the Chattanooga Choo Choo except for a football play that we ran when I was in college. This play is kind of difficult to put into words but it involved a lot of blockers forming a line like a Choo Choo train.

I have always thought that it was simply a name of a play with a clever name, but now that I have heard that the Chattanooga Choo Choo train is a real thing I would like to go see it. I have always been interested in seeing historical things and this particular train may be right up my alley next time I visit Tennessee.

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