Memphis, TN (MEM)
Following an extensive renovation in the late 1990s, Central Station now contains transportation, commercial and residential uses and also anchors the popular South Main District.
545 South Main Street
Memphis, TN 38103
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 72,127
- Facility Ownership: City of Memphis, Memphis Area Transit Authority
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Memphis, Memphis Area Transit Authority
- Platform Ownership: City of Memphis, Memphis Area Transit Authority
- Track Ownership: Canadian National Illinois Central Railroad
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Memphis’ Central Station, called Grand Central Station until 1944, was built in 1914 by the Illinois Central Railroad (IC). For its first 52 years, Central Station shared Memphis passenger terminal duties with its larger, older sister station on Calhoun Street–Memphis Union Station–until it was permanently abandoned in 1968 and subsequently demolished the next year to make way for a postal facility.
Central Station survived the next three decades, but not without suffering a steady and noticeable structural and cosmetic decline. Finally, in 1998, after acquiring ownership of the property, the Memphis Area Transportation Authority (MATA) broke ground on an ambitious $23.2 million campaign to completely renovate and restore Central Station as a premier transportation, commercial and residential center; work was completed in 1999. Federal contributions amounted to $17 million, with the remainder coming through private resources.
In addition to an Amtrak facility, the station also 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. On the Main Street side of the station is the Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum. It houses various exhibits including a history of the railroad bridges over the Mississippi River at Memphis, a look at the past and present city trolley system and a 1/8 scale live steam model of IC Hudson type locomotive No. 2499.
During the 20th century, Memphis became a major railroad hub, playing host to a number of regional and national railroad companies. Central Station has hosted passenger trains running under the Illinois Central (last station occupant prior to Amtrak), Yazoo and Mississippi Valley, Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, St. Louis-San Francisco and Amtrak flags.
Today, Central Station is served daily by the City of New Orleans, with connections to taxi services, city buses, and the historic Memphis trolley system. The once dilapidated station’s renovation not only rejuvenated the structure itself, but the surrounding neighborhood as well. What was once a deserted, depressed area of Memphis now has a new lease on life thanks to Central Station’s proud story.
Across South Main Street is the famous Arcade Restaurant, considered the city’s oldest. Founded in 1919 by Greek immigrant Speros Zepatos, the diner has been featured in numerous movies such as The Client, The Firm andWalk the Line. The neighborhood is also home to the National Civil Rights Museum, the South Main Farmer’s Market and various shops and galleries.
As of 2016, Central Station and 17 adjacent acres are the focus of a new $53 million redevelopment plan led by the Henry Turley Company and Community Capital. The partners will transform an old powerhouse next to the station into a movie theater, convert the station into a hotel, construct up to 200 apartments on the southern end of the property, outfit commercial space and redesign public areas. MATA will use federal grant monies to implement improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists, including a new tunnel connecting Main and Front Streets. The state of Tennessee has also contributed approximately $2.4 million to the project.
Memphis was first inhabited by the Mississippian Culture, a mound-building Native American people, prior to approximately 1450 AD; the region was thereafter inhabited by the Chikasaw Indian Tribe and was an exploration port of call for European explorers such as Spaniard Hernando de Soto and Frenchman René Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle.
Andrew Jackson, John Overton and James Winchester founded Memphis, named for Egypt’s ancient capital, in 1819. By 1857, Memphis was a major stop along the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, the South’s only long distance east-west railroad, linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. By the time Civil War broke out in 1861, the railroad became a strategic asset of the South and Memphis became a Confederate stronghold; the city fell under Union control following the Battle of Memphis on June 6, 1862, however and remained in that state until the conclusion of the war.
Memphis has made a significant impact on modern American culture, particularly music. It has been the place where several genres were established: Blues, Gospel, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and “rockabilly” Country music. Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and B. B. King all got their starts in Memphis in the 1950s. They are respectively dubbed the “Kings” of Country, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Blues.
During the Big Band era of the 20th century, however, the rooftop Skyway lounge of the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis was the place to be. The ballroom was one of only a handful of sites in America that CBS broadcast live from weekly. Regular headliners included Tommy Dorsey and the Andrews Sisters. Originally built in 1869 by Robert Campbell Brinkley, the hotel was named after noted philanthropist and entrepreneur, George Peabody. The original Peabody Hotel closed in 1923. The current Peabody Hotel building, on Union Avenue, was built in 1925 on the previous site of the Fransioli Hotel to look just like the original Peabody Hotel. Chicago architect Walter W. Ahlschlager designed the Italian Renaissance styled building. It has been said that the Mississippi Delta “begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg”.
The Peabody is also known for its daily Parade of Ducks, which dates back to the 1930s, and began with a prank by the then-General Manager, Frank Schutt, who put his live decoy ducks in the hotel’s interior lobby fountain. In 1940, Edward Pembroke, a bellman, volunteered to care for the ducks. Pembroke was given the position of Duckmaster and served in that position until 1991. As a former circus animal trainer, he taught the ducks to march into the hotel lobby, which initiated the famous Peabody Duck March, which takes place daily at 11:00 AM, where they are escorted to musical accompaniment to the lobby via elevator. The ducks live on the hotel’s roof in a small but lavish replica of the hotel, to which they ceremoniously return at 5:00 PM.
Graceland, which was home to Elvis Presley, sits in the Whitehaven community about 12 miles from downtown Memphis. It was opened to the public in 1982 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and declared a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006. Graceland was originally owned by S. E. Toof, publisher of the Memphis newspaper, the Memphis Daily Appeal, and named for his daughter, Grace, who later inherited the property. Elvis purchased the house for $100,000 in 1957 and lived there until his death on August 16, 1977. The house is well known for its extensive modifications and egregious decor, which have been faithfully preserved, as well as being a shrine to a beloved popular icon.
Amtrak provides ticketing and baggage services at this facility, which is served by two daily trains.
Station Building (with waiting room)
- 100 Short Term Parking Spaces
Number of spaces available for Amtrak passengers to park for the day only, not overnight. Parking fees may apply.
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
Accessible platform is a barrier-free path from the drop-off area outside the station to the station platform.
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Baggage Storage
Baggage storage is an area where passengers may store their bags, equivalent to "left luggage" in Europe. A storage fee may apply.
- Bike Boxes
- Checked Baggage
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- High Platform
A high platform is a platform at the level of the vestibule of the train, with the exception of Superliners.
Self-service lockers are available in select stations for passenger baggage storage.
- Long-term Parking Spaces
Number of spaces available for Amtrak passengers to park overnight. Parking fees may apply.
- Parking Attendant
- Pay Phones
- Shipping Boxes
- Ski Bags
- Wheelchair Lift
Wheelchair lift is a platform-mounted lift for loading passengers from low platforms onto trains that do not have onboard ramps.
For passengers who cannot walk far or at all, we offer a wheelchair to move the passengers around within the station. At some stations this may be a battery-powered people mover. The wheelchair or other types of movers must not leave the station or be moved onto the train.