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Town races to acquire train depot

With Tennessee’s governor considering ways to cut costs, the Town of Jonesborough is trying to complete its Chuckey train station project before a program funding its potential workforce is canceled.
The Chuckey train depot, now privately owned, is a passenger station built more than 100 years ago on Norfolk Southern property in Greene County.
Owners Paul Johnson and Linda Babb received a letter near the end of last year notifying them of the railroad’s need for that section of property and its plans to demolish the station unless it was moved.
A short time later, Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe was approached by longtime town resident Jimmy Rhein regarding the Town of Jonesborough’s possible interest in becoming the owner of the structure — one of the last original train depots in the area.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen decided during its December 2010 meeting that Tennessee’s oldest town should take advantage of the opportunity to own the depot, and plans are now in the works to relocate it.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to transport the depot in one piece, which means it must be disassembled.
Town Administrator Bob Browning requested help from the State of Tennessee Carter County Work Camp in Roan Mountain, whose workers — inmates serving time at the prison there — have completed several construction projects for Jonesborough.
Though a tentative commitment was made, bad weather and logistical issues have prevented the start of what Browning estimates should be a three-week project.
But with Gov. Bill Haslam now talking about shutting down the work camp crew as a cost-savings measure, the town is racing the get the project underway before the shutdown goes into effect.
“We have sent letters of support for the (work) program,” Browning said.
Tearing down the building would not begin until the new fiscal year, which starts in July, but the town is already looking for a place to store the pieces until it can be rebuilt, Browning said.
During the BMA’s May 9 meeting, Town Attorney Jim Wheeler presented two requests from the depot’s current owners.
BMA members were asked to make a formal commitment to keep the structure’s name, Chuckey Depot, in addition to posting recognition at the new site for the Johnson family’s purchasing and saving the depot.
Alderman Chuck Vest made a motion to approve both requests, which was seconded by Mary Gearhart and passed with a unanimous vote.
The Town of Jonesborough will purchase the depot for $1.