Recognized in the National Register of Historic Places, The Historic Depot in downtown Newbern serves as both a railroad museum and an Amtrak station, one of only two in the state of Tennessee.
The Newbern Depot stands as a reminder to Newbern's past as well an example of how such a building can be used in the present. The structure today is a museum, Amtrak stop, and a public entertainment venue, hosting plays, children's events, and more in its large freight room.
The depot was built by the Illinois Central Railroad in 1920 following a fire that destroyed the one-and-a-half story building on the same site in October 1919. Since the railroad company was in the middle of a massive system-wide refit, Newbern's new depot was built out of brick rather than wood, as all other area depots were. This choice of material allowed for the great preservation we see today.
The building is 144 feet long and about 40 feet wide. It is known as a "combination depot," meaning that both freight and passenger service for Newbern utilized the same building. Waiting areas and an office were located in the middle and south ends of the building, while the north side was occupied by a large freight room. From this room, a multitude of goods for Newbern businesses and citizens flowed through, with its prosperity booming in the 1930s and 1940s.
By the 1950s, however, truck transport began to take its toll on small-town depots. As a result, by the early 1960s, freight and passenger traffic was significantly reduced. The last known passenger train from the Illinois Central area stopped coming to Newbern in 1963, and freight traffic didn't last much longer. The building was then used as a field office and storage area by the railroad.
By 1989, the building was on the city's condemned list because of its poor interior condition. The brick exterior was the only thing keeping it from not being torn down. In that year, Newbern Mayor Haskins Ridens began the process of purchasing the depot from the railroad. The structure was sold to the city for only $15,000.
In 1990, the city government of Newbern and its citizens began a two-year restoration effort to restore the building. This project included moving the Amtrak passenger train stop from Dyersburg to Newbern. The depot at Dyersburg had been torn down in 1980, and only a metal bench under a cover served as a passenger train stop.
On April 6, 1992, the first Amtrak train of the City of New Orleans made its very first stop at Newbern. In that same year, the first annual Depot Days festival was held, with proceeds going to support the depot. And in 1993, the structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since 2011, the depot's museum has been upgraded with model trains for kids to see as well as historical items from both the railroad days and Newbern's past.
Today, the Newbern Depot continues to be a window to the past and a place that will serve the town's future.
The station currently sees two passenger stops daily, one on a Northbound route to Chicago and the other going Southbound to New Orleans, with a stop in Memphis. View Amtrak's schedule or book tickets here.
Directions: From US Hwy. 51, take the Newbern exit. Travel on Hwy. 77 for approximately 1 mile. Take a right on Washington Street, and go approximately 1.5 miles until you enter the downtown area. The Depot is on left, located at 108 Jefferson St., Newbern, TN 38059.
If you would like to learn more about the railroad depot, call us at (731) 627-3221 today.