The Bristol Train Station, long the center of the community in its early days, welcomed rail service on October 1, 1856, effectively giving birth to the city.
This scene features the historic train station, which stands just off State Street, as an early Norfolk & Western diesel engine roars down the track. The right of way ended at the Tennessee-Virginia state line, which meant that Norfolk & Western and Southern Railroads had to visit the roundhouse to return to either Tennessee or Virginia. Still, you could catch a train at 7 p.m. in Bristol and be in New York City by 7 p.m., so it was definitely the best way to travel in those days!
Bristol’s original depot was burned during Stoneman’s Raid on December 14, 1864. After the Civil War ended, a freight car was set up as a depot, and in late 1865 and early 1866, a new depot was built for Bristol.
In 1881, Bristol had outgrown the depot, and it was replaced with a new building in January 1882. By 1889, however, a new depot was designed. While that depot was never built, the present Train Station, finished in 1902, bears a striking resemblance to that 1889 design.
The train station welcomed mail cars, where you could see men inside sorting mail as the train went by and freight as Railway Express received and distributed products.
After passenger service from Bristol was stopped in 1971, the Train Station was used for shopping and dining. In 1999, the Bristol Train Station Foundation purchased the building, and in 2008, it was renovated, including the waiting room, which was restored to its early grandeur.
Now a gorgeous meeting and event facility, the Train Station continues to welcome freight trains – and if you stand just outside the East wall under the eaves, you can almost feel yourself step back in time as you await the next train to New York.