The Chattanooga Choo-Choo barreled down the tracks from Cincinnati yesterday on a commemorative run marking the 100th anniversary of the first north-south passenger rail link.
A 1980s version of the Choo-Choo left Cincinnati at 8:30 a.m. on the 300-mile, 7 1/2-hour trip to a Chattanooga welcome complete with a band.
A dance, a black tie dinner and a concert also were highlights of what Gov. Lamar Alexander proclaimed as Chattanooga Choo-Choo Day.
The Choo-Choo was given its name by a reporter who was aboard on its maiden run on March 5, 1880. The name stuck and was made famous in a swinging 1941 tune played by legendary Glenn Miller and his band.
The train, which was called the Cincinnati-Southern, provided the first north-south passenger rail link in America. It was discontinued in 1970.
The train ride was engineered by an enterprising group called the Chattanooga Choo-Choo Corp., which has parlayed the song and an old railroad terminal into a tourist attraction that last drew 2 million visitors.
The Choo-choo complex is a 24-acre site around Chattanooga's old terminal station and includes a hotel, three restaurants and numerous gift shops.
The hotel includes 48 renovated railroad cars.
"They go for $55 a night and are extremely popular among honeymooners," said a hotel official.
Allan Casey, one of the planners behind the celebration, said organizers felt they "were preserving a bit of history."
Planners had hoped to have Harry Warren at the cermonies, but the 86-year-old composer, who teamed with the late Mack Gordon in writing "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," was hospitalized in Beverly Hills, Calif., and unable to attend.