September marks the 25th Anniversary of Depot Days and this year marks the 160th Anniversary of the City of Newbern.
Twenty-five years ago, the Newbern Illinois Central Depot was dedicated after the restoration was completed. It took many years of hard work, thousands of dollars and hours of labor donated by the citizens of Newbern. It is completely restored to it’s original condition. The photo to the right is a postcard showing the depot in 1928. This was Newbern’s 3rd Train Depot. To our knowledge, the two prior depots were in the same location.
The second depot shown in the adjacent lower photo was destroyed by fire. Newspaper articles state it was caused by a fire from inside the depot. The fire was so large and massive, the Station Master actually ran and stayed under the water tower shown on the right of the photo. It was also reported several boxcars and other articles around the depot were completely consumed.
The first depot built in Newbern was located within the shadow of these two buildings show. The first depot was also destroyed by fire. However this one was robbed, the Express Agent was killed and the villain set fire to cover up any connections to him. He was later captured in Memphis in 1884. He was identified as a Mr. Joe Brown.
Today, Newbern’s Depot is a tourist attraction for our community and county. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is recognized by the Tennessee Historical Commission. Newbern and Memphis are the only two Amtrak Stations in the State of Tennessee. Newbern boards approximately 4000 riders annually. The station provides long and short term parking as well as waiting areas and security during the boarding and debarking of passengers. The building also houses a railroad and local history museum displaying articles and artifacts about Newbern and our railroad history.
Along the Northern portion of the property is a pavilion which is used for musical and entertainment events, relaxation and meditation. The use of the pavilion is free, but must be scheduled to use for events. This facility was once the very center of activity in Newbern. Thousands of chickens, hogs, cattle, horses and crops were shipped from this location to destinations all around the world. Just across the railroad tracks was Newbern Sales. This business bought and sold any type of animal you could imagine and were kept in pens and corals awaiting shipment.