Bristol Trainstation

History of the Bristol Trainstation

by Lewis Loflin

The Bristol Trainstation has been central to much local history Indeed, local historian Bud Phillips believes "there would have been no Bristol had it not been for the coming of the railroad."

The railroad was the venue through which Bristol received goods, news, mail and new residents. It was also a conduit for local goods to be transported to other markets.

Local residents fondly remember shaking hands with President Hoover, meeting friends and family-in one case even a future husband-and taking vacations or business trips on Number 42 to New York City College students came to Bristol or left for university by rail.

The Trainstation has been the site of much happiness and also sadness. Many soldiers left Bristol for foreign soil and never returned.

Many Bristolians went to seek their fortunes elsewhere and never returned. But, many new people stepped off the plat- form to visit and chose to stay.

For decades, the Trainstation was the center of Bristol's community beginning with the arrival of the first passenger train on Oct. 1, 1856. The first train arrived at Bristol's original depot. The existing depot was not erected until 1902 and is actually Bristol's fourth depot.

In 1848, when the route of the Virginia and Tennessee became certain, Rev. James King donated a large tract of land for a depot. This land included the location of the present depot.

James Fields, a master builder from Abingdon, constructed the first depot, which was brick and stood further north, directly east of the present intersection of Cumberland Street and Randall Street Expressway It was to this depot that the first train into Bristol came on Oct. 1, 1856.

This depot was burned during Stoneman's raid on Dec. 14, 1864. After the Civil War ended, a freight car was set up as a depot. In late 1865 and early 1866, a new depot was built for Bristol, Virginia.

By 1881, Bristol had grown and the old depot was insufficient for the needs of the burgeoning city Instead of remodeling, the city officials elected to build a new structure.

First they erected a passenger shed, 326 feet long, that was richly embellished with Victorian ginger- bread and had a brilliant green roof. Once this part of the construction was finished, they built a temporary office at the southern end of the passenger shed and demolished the old depot.

The new depot, built by either William H. Smith or John M. Crowell, was completed by January 1882. It stood a little nearer to the state line than had its predecessor.

By 1889, a totally new depot had been designed. While it was never built, the present depot, erected in 1902, bears a striking resemblance to the drawing of the projected structure.

John P Pettyjohn and Company of Lynchburg, Virginia, built the present depot.

The architecture is a fine example of early 20th Century eclecticism combining Romanesque with various European vernacular modes.

The exterior brick work was done by the master bricklayer of Bristol, John 1. Fowler, on a subcontract from the Pettyjohn Company.

After passenger service from Bristol was stopped, the Trainstation was used for shopping and dining and then left empty In 1999 the Bristol Trainstation Foundation purchased the building with the intentions of renovating it to its former glory, as a working train station and a centerpiece of downtown revitalization.


The restoration of the Bristol Trainstation is moving at full steam. The initial phases of the fund raising campaign have received a very positive response from our community and now we are ready to take it to the next level

We need the support of everyone in the community. it is just as important for individuals to contribute and be recognized as it is for our local corporations to participate. Whether it's $5 or $500,000. we need you to bring the Bristol Trainstation back to a functioning part of downtown Bristol residents beautifully restored building that not only serves as the center- piece for revitalization but also serves as a working transportation center as well.

There are a variety of ways to be a part of the restoration of the Bristol Trainstation. Many are listed here but don't think this listing is by any means complete. if you have an idea that will add to our efforts, do not hesitate to let us know. We need you to come aboard!

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