By Sutton Shults and Megan Seals
If one would like to experience a place with a rich history and meet people with one-of-a-kind stories about railroads and the importance of the railroad system to Jackson, head down to the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Depot and Railroad Museum.
The museum is a restored turn-of-the-century railway depot. The city of Jackson has restored the depot into a local history railroad museum. It is a lasting mark of respect to the influence of railroads on the expansion of Jackson and Madison County.
The museum’s lasting collection includes photographs, artifacts and related memorabilia associated with the 14 railroads that have been in Jackson over the years.
Located on the grounds are a Florida East Coast dining car and two cabooses open for view. An elaborate, working- scale model of a train, built by the Jackson Model Railroad Club, is also open for touring.
The depot is an excellent source of history in Jackson. Trains played a major part in shaping Jackson and putting it on the map. It started off as a steamboat settlement before it was changed into a railroad town. The Mobile and Ohio was the first railroad system in Jackson in 1857.
“Jackson was a railroad hub,” said David Falk, director of the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Depot and Railroad Museum. “Jackson used to be a riverboat town. When it got its first passenger train service in 1858, this town started to boom.”
In 1888, the biggest service yet came to Jackson and the town would never be the same. The Tennessee Midland opened service from Jackson to Memphis. This created many jobs, bringing more people and making Jackson a depot.
A depot was like a community center, where people would come to sit and socialize. The depot had many surrounding attractions, including Landcaster Park.
The park had a well that people said had “healing powers.” This caused individuals to stop in Jackson just to drink the water and hopefully be healed.
“If you did not have a river or a railroad, you were not going to last,” Falk said.
This is what trains meant to Jackson, when it comes down to it. The chances of Jackson being what it is today without the railroad systems are slim.
Since the main type of transportation in Jackson was the railroad, it brought more jobs to the area. More jobs brought in more people and put Jackson on the map in the South.
“The interstates are what took the railroads away,” Falk said. “People had the freedom to go wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted.”
Falk said the railroad industry did not reach the west until the year 1879.
“(The railroad) opened up the country from one side to the other, it was the main way of transportation,” he said.
Falk said that railroading is not only what built up the city of Jackson, but the country as a whole.
“Railroading is America’s history; it’s what built America,” Falk said.
The depot is located at 582 S. Royal St. in Jackson. For more information, visit www.cityofjackson.net