The Chattanooga Choo Choo

All Aboard! Opened in 1909 as Terminal Station, the train depot welcomed thousands of travelers during the golden age of railroads.

Glenn Miller gave Chattanooga some extra attention when he performed the big-band swing tune “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in 1941 about its rich railroad history.

All Aboard! Opened in 1909 as Terminal Station, the train depot welcomed thousands of travelers during the golden age of railroads. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All Aboard! Opened in 1909 as Terminal Station, the train depot welcomed thousands of travelers during the golden age of railroads. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From 1909 to 1970, all trains to points south passed through Chattanooga’s famous terminal, which was designed by a 24-year-old architectural student from New York. The terminal’s first plans were modified at the behest of the president of the Southern Railway System to emulate the National Park Bank of New York.

Unable to compete with faster modes of travel, trains stopped running in 1970; but the terminal was saved from demolition in 1973 by a group of local investors. The 1909 station, with its magnificent 85-foot free-standing dome, is the focal point of this historical property that features exceptional accommodations, dining venues, family fun, and, of course, the finest in Southern hospitality.

From 1909 to 1970, all trains to points south passed through Chattanooga’s famous terminal, which was designed by a 24-year-old architectural student from New York. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From 1909 to 1970, all trains to points south passed through Chattanooga’s famous terminal, which was designed by a 24-year-old architectural student from New York. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, Terminal Station stands as part of the world famous Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel located in the heart of Chattanooga. The 24-acre complex boasts two hotel buildings, on-site dining, retail shops, tranquil rose gardens, and much more.

Rich in history and southern hospitality, there is something for everyone without ever leaving the complex. Sleep aboard an authentic railcar room or choose from a spacious standard room or luxurious suite.

Following a look-a-round at Chattanooga Choo Choo, we drove up Lookout Mountain making brief stops at Incline Railway, Rock City, and Ruby Falls. Since a heavy smoke and haze hung over the city during our visit last November, we decided against exploring these attractions further.

The terminal’s first plans were modified at the behest of the president of the Southern Railway System to emulate the National Park Bank of New York. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The terminal’s first plans were modified at the behest of the president of the Southern Railway System to emulate the National Park Bank of New York. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Opened in 1895, the Incline Railway transports passengers up the steepest part of the mountain that at its extreme reaches an incline of 72.7 percent, making it one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. The original coal-burning steam engines were replaced by two 100-horsepower motors in 1911, but other than that the railway hasn’t changed much in its more than 120 years of operation.

Leaving Lookout Mountain we stopped at Sugar’s Ribs for take-out. The Carolina style of barbecue is highlighted by a menu full of slow-roasted meats and wood-fired sides. But the restaurant also serves tacos and potato nacho plates, salads and “mini” versions of your favorite main dishes.

Opened in 1895, the Incline Railway transports passengers up the steepest part of the mountain that at its extreme reaches an incline of 72.7 percent, making it one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Opened in 1895, the Incline Railway transports passengers up the steepest part of the mountain that at its extreme reaches an incline of 72.7 percent, making it one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This spot on Missionary Ridge serves up great mountaintop views (on clear days) and tasty smoked spareribs moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The prices are completely fair for the quality and quantity of food you receive. A half-slab of spare ribs was $15.95 with a side.

Also took home tasty pulled pork. We paired the delicious meat with Texas  pintos, turnip greens, miniature cornbread, and a trio of sauces. All the sauces are “Carolina-style” with a vinegar base.

I especially enjoyed the “Hot Lips” sauce with jalapeño, habanero, onion, and garlic. This sauce was not unlike the salsa verde you might find at a Mexican restaurant, but honestly, I didn’t find it hot enough to require a formal request to use it. My favorite of the sauces was the spicy, vinegary “Great Sauce.” Whatever sauce you require, Sugar’s has something you’ll enjoy.

Whatever sauce you require, Sugar's has something you'll enjoy. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whatever sauce you require, Sugar’s has something you’ll enjoy. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Hi there Tex, what you say

Step aside partner, it’s my day
Bend an ear and listen to my version
Of a really solid Tennessee excursion

Pardon me, boy
Is that the Chattanooga choo choo? (yes yes)
Track twenty-nine
Boy, you can gimme a shine
Can you afford To board a Chattanooga choo choo
I’ve got my fare And just a trifle to spare

You leave the Pennsylvania Station ’bout a quarter to four
Read a magazine and then you’re in Baltimore
Dinner in the diner
Nothing could be finer
Then to have your ham an’ eggs in Carolina

Woo, woo, Chattanooga there you are. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Woo, woo, Chattanooga there you are. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you hear the whistle blowin’ eight to the bar
Then you know that Tennessee is not very far
Shovel all the coal in
Gotta keep it rollin’
Woo, woo, Chattanooga there you are

—Songwriters Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, first recorded 1941 by Glenn Miller

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