Several “I Grew up on a Farm in Virginia” posts make reference to the railroad that crossed the road to the house, specifically (My First Night with the Car). From as far back as I can remember I could hear the distant train’s whistle and the rapid, powerful “chuga-chuga” of the heavy steam engine pulling more than 100 loaded coal cars on its way to Norfolk, Virginia. (For railroad buffs, one of the engines may have been the 600-ton Allegheny that pulled Chesapeake & Ohio coal trains out of West Virginia.)
I do not qualify as a hardcore railroad enthusiast, but I do make a point of visiting railroad museum whenever the opportunity arises.
I discovered the Bridgeport Depot Museum on one of my trips to Hog Jaw Valley, Alabama, just across the river from Bridgeport (see A Trip back to Hog Jaw Valley – Parts 1 and 2).
The museum is not only a repository of regional history but also a piece of that history. The interior of the museum retains the layout and “feel” of a train depot, and there are many pieces of railroad equipment and documents to keep the railroad enthusiast happy for hours. This is, however, far more than a railroad museum; its collections include local family, business, and regional records that go back to 1807; Bridgeport News issues back to 1891; Post Office records; tax records; business charge account ledgers; Civil War records, and much more.
The current depot, built in 1917, is the fourth depot on this site. The first depot and the nearby railroad bridge were destroyed in 1863 by Confederate forces trying to delay Union forces that threatened Chattanooga. The Spanish Mission style of the depot makes it look as if it was transplanted from the southwest.
For me, the most interesting parts of its collection are outside. Near the museum are old train parts, an engine and a caboose.
A little farther away there sidings filled with old engines of all kinds for all uses—switch engines to powerful long-haul engines as well as various rail cars. The area is open, and while I can see hazards to climbing on old trains, there is nothing to stop the adventurous, except that access doors to the interiors are secured.
The depot is on the active railroad between Nashville and Chattanooga and freight trains are common. The depot is near the Tennessee River. Just to the east is a long bridge crossing the west channel of the river. There were earlier bridges, including the one destroyed during the Civil War.
The bridge continues across Long Island and then the east channel of the river, which is actually the deeper shipping channel. There the trains pass over the Long Island Creek-Hog Jaw Valley draw bridge .
The supports for one of earlier bridges were used to build a pedestrian walk all the way across the river, parallel to, level with and right next to the active railroad bridge. The pedestrian bridge provides an excellent view up and down the river as well as a chance to get a close look at trains crossing the bridge
About Entry/Contents Sentry
The Bridgeport Depot Museum is not only a retired historic train depot but also the repository of vast amounts of historic information of the area.