Cleveland, Tenn., railroad depot now a bus center

Cleveland, Tenn., railroad depot now a bus center

June 29th, 2012 by Randall Higgins in News

A crowd gathers outside the historic Cleveland, Tenn., train depot Thursday while the mayor and others spoke about its restoration. A ceremonial reopening of the 1908 train depot in downtown Cleveland was held Thursday. The facility will serve as the new city bus service headquarters.

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The century-old railroad depot here became the hub of the city's bus service Thursday.

Before the crowd attending the dedication and ribbon-cutting could disperse, some regular Cleveland Urban Area Transit Service riders already were inside waiting for their bus.

"People can come inside and wait where it's cool or wait when it's raining," said John Felts.

He combines the bus service, operated by the Southeast Tennessee Human Resources Agency, with his own pedal power. Buses have bicycle holders, Felts said. He uses his bike around town when he doesn't need a bus or for short trips from his bus drop-off point.

Ray Evans, in his next-to-last day here before retiring as SETHRA director, said the agency's rural transportation service and its maintenance department will remain at the Cleveland/Bradley Industrial Park south of town.

"There were many days, even years, when we thought this would never happen," Evans said.

From first attempts to acquire the property to Thursday's finish, the project took six years.

For Martha Cooper, the depot is a familiar place. The 99-year-old woman remembers taking trains from Cleveland to visit relatives in Virginia and Alabama when she was 8 or 9 years old. For her, the ticket was free because her father worked for the railroad.

"It was a big adventure for me," she said.

Mayor Tom Rowland noted the original 1908 construction cost $17,400 with another $1,700 in 1910 for stoves and more space. The federally funded renovation cost just short of $1 million.

"This has been the dream of many people," Rowland told the dedication crowd.

He said the depot has been a stop for several presidents and first ladies.

The mayor said he is an advocate for the return of passenger rail service, but that remains a dream.