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Time running out for Town to relocate Chuckey train station

Jonesborough has until the end of the week to relocate a Chuckey train station or Norfolk Southern will demolish it.
“Trains are an integral part of anyone who grew up in East Tennessee, and we can still hear the whistle,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said during the Dec. 13 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Wolfe said Jimmy Rhein approached him with the opportunity for Tennessee’s Oldest Town to become the owner of one of the last original train depots in the area.
The Chuckey train depot is a passenger station built more than 100 years ago on Norfolk Southern property in Greene County, but now privately owned by a family who prefers to remain anonymous.
Members of that family received a letter notifying them of the railroad’s need for that section of property and its plans to raze the station, should the family choose not to move it. Norfolk Southern operates approximately 21,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia.
Rhein learned of the dilemma from friends at the Watauga Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.
“It’s a small, but very lovely depot, and it’s in great shape to be over 100 years old,” Rhein said.
But relocating it won’t be easy.
It’s impossible to transport the depot in one piece, according to Rhein.
“We’ve looked at all of the ways to do it, and based on the size and the way it’s built, our only option is to disassemble and reassemble it,” he said.
However, time is running out.
“The railroad wants the depot out of its hands by Dec. 31, and we are working toward that deadline,” Rhein said.
Watauga Valley NRHS has contacted Norfolk Southern and requested the railroad hold off on any action.
Rhein has been working with Town Administrator Bob Browning to request help from the State of Tennessee Carter County Work Camp in Roan Mountain.
“The Carter County work crew and sergeant have indicated they want to work with us, but weather has prevented a trip to the site,” Browning said.
The 10-member crew could have the depot disassembled within three weeks, Browning estimates.
“They have done work in Jonesborough before,” he said, referring to the pavilion and bathrooms constructed at Stage Road Park, the bathrooms constructed at Mill Spring Park, and the work completed at The Wetlands on Persimmon Ridge Road.
Browning said officials planned to visit the station two weeks ago, but several inches of snow prevented their trip. Transportation of inmates for the project must also be considered, he said.
“We are trying to get a commitment by Dec. 31 that we could take to Norfolk Southern and request a delay,” Browning said.
Rhein said preserving the Chuckey Train Station is a way to honor a critical part of the past.
“Railroads used to be the only source of supplies to mountain communities like ours, and this would tie in beautifully with the great work that has been done during the last 25 years,” he said. “Our biggest hold-up is the weather.”