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Memphis Central Station Marks 100 Years of Service

By October 2, 2014 No Comments
Memphis Central Station

Soaring Memphis Central Station is a landmark in the South Main District.

MEMPHIS, TENN.—From October 2-5, 2014, the people of Memphis gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Central Station, a city landmark and anchor of the revitalizing South Main District. The event was organized by the Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum, whose space within the station features displays tracing the history of the city’s rail and trolley systems.

The three-day celebration included museum tours, a sale of railroad collectable and model trains, kids’ activities and the opportunity to explore railroad equipment brought in for the occasion. The latter included locomotives from Norfolk Southern, BNSF, CSX, Canadian National and Union Pacific, as well as the Norfolk Southern Exhibit Car and the Amtrak Exhibit Train.

Saturday’s opening ceremony included remarks from city and regional leaders such as Congressman Steve Cohen, Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton and Ron Garrison, president and general manager of the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA), which owns Central Station. Following the speeches, a crowd gathered to cut a large cake.

Although the Illinois Central Railroad opened Central Station in 1914, it shared passenger terminal duties with the larger, older Memphis Union Station until the 1960s. In the 20th century, Central Station hosted passenger trains running under the Illinois Central, Yazoo and Mississippi Valley, Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, St. Louis-San Francisco and Amtrak flags. After Union Station was permanently abandoned in 1968 and subsequently demolished, Central Station became the city’s primary passenger rail facility.

Crowds at station

Crowds explore displays during the event.

By the 1990s, the building had sustained a noticeable structural and cosmetic decline, along with the adjacent  neighborhood. Revitalization began in 1998, after MATA purchased the station and broke ground on an ambitious $23.2 million campaign to completely renovate and restore it as a premier transportation, commercial and residential center. In addition to an Amtrak waiting room on the track level, the station contains apartments, a full service police precinct and commercial space. The former grand waiting room has been transformed into a first class ballroom available for rent.

Central Station subsequently became a hub for renewal along South Main Street, which links the area with downtown Memphis just a mile to the north. Through the efforts of MATA, the city and various community groups, historic warehouse and commercial buildings have been renovated to house restaurants, entertainment venues, galleries, shops and residences. The neighborhood is also home to the National Civil Rights Museum and the popular South Main Farmer’s Market.

In Fiscal Year 2013, more than 76,000 people began or ended their journey at Central Station, which is served twice a day by the City of New Orleans (Chicago-Memphis-New Orleans).