Central Station Celebrates 100 Years 

Memphis Rail & Trolley Museum will host three-day celebration honoring Central Station.

Downtown's Central Station may not be the passenger hub it was in the heyday of train travel, but it's still chugging along.

This weekend, October 3rd through 5th, the Memphis Railroad & Trolley Museum, located inside Central Station, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the station's 1914 grand opening with live music, a train memorabilia sale, special exhibits, and more.

"We want the younger generation to have an experience that shows them what it might have been like to be alive in Memphis in the 1900s," said Joe Oliver, founding director of the museum. "Rail transport and travel is a big part of the Memphis story, part of our history, and our heritage is in danger of being lost because it isn't as easy to see as it once was."

On Thursday, October 2nd, the celebration will kick off with a show by country band the Grahams at 7:30 p.m.

On Friday, October 3rd, two train exhibit cars will pull into the station — one displaying the history of Amtrak and another displaying that of Norfolk Southern. Both will be open for tours from noon to

5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

click to enlarge Central Station in 1914 - MEMPHIS RAIL & TROLLEY MUSEUM
  • Memphis Rail & Trolley Museum
  • Central Station in 1914

"The Norfolk Southern car will have a locomotive simulator. You're the engineer. You'll see the countryside pass and the tracks as you're rolling down. You'll have to blow the horn when you approach streets," said Bill Strong, director of the Memphis Railroad & Trolley Museum.

On Saturday, October 4th, the official anniversary of the station, the Memphis Rail & Trolley Museum will be open for free. Guest lecturer Milton Winter will talk about the history of Central Station. A train show and sale will be set up in the building's boardroom, peddling all sorts of rail artifacts and collectibles.

Double J Bar-B-Q will be served in the Amtrak parking lot from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can also board a bus headed to the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) trolley barn on North Main for a tour.

Central Station was constructed for around $1.5 million at the corner of Main and Calhoun (now G.E. Patterson) to replace another train station at that same location. In the station's heyday, numerous rail lines operated passenger trains there.

By the 1960s, many rail lines began discontinuing passenger trains. On

May 1, 1971, Amtrak took over all inter-city passenger train service. Illinois Central, which was headquartered here, moved their offices out of the station by 1989.

"After Illinois Central moved out, the station became a hull. It was at one time referred to as the worst Amtrak station in America," Strong said. "People were scared of the neighborhood, and there were drunks passed out in the street."

In the 1990s, the station was remodeled, and the once-sleazy South Main area was transformed into a thriving arts district.

"In 1991, the Illinois Central railroad sold the station and all the property to the city of Memphis for $10. And the city said, 'MATA, you're going to run this building," Strong said.

Today, Central Station still serves as the Amtrak hub, and it's home to the Memphis Rail & Trolley Museum. The former Illinois Central office space on the upper floors is now apartments, and parts of the bottom floor is rented out for special events.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • MEMernet

      A round-up of Memphis on the World Wide Web.
    • Bag Ban Blocked

      Plastic bags can flow freely, thanks to state lawmakers.

The Latest

Food & Wine

A.M. Alt: The Perils of Day-Drinking

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster

From My Seat

Redbirds Rewind: Five Highlights from a Mostly Meh Season

Hungry Memphis

Pickle Fest 2019 to be held at Hollywood Cafe

Politics Feature

Money Talk: A Look at Council Race Funding

Film Features

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Dispatch War Rocket Ajax to Time Warp Drive-In's FUTURECOOL

We Saw You

Elvis is Everywhere!


More by Bianca Phillips

Readers also liked…

  • Art Dollars

    Q&A with Lauren Kennedy, executive director of the UrbanArt Commission
    • Jan 4, 2018
  • Moving Water

    Leaders plunge into water issues for the present and the future.
    • Jan 25, 2018
  • TVA Land

    Groups hit agency on pricing and water tests.
    • Feb 8, 2018
© 1996-2019

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation