The southwest corner of South Main and G.E. Patterson (formerly Calhoun Ave.) has been continuously occupied by railroad stations for almost 150 years.
The first depot was constructed by the Mississippi & Tennessee Railroad sometime around 1855, when the M&T began laying track between Memphis and Grenada, MS. The first engine was delivered to the M&T on May 5, 1855, and by 1861, the track reached Grenada where it made connections with the Mississippi Central, providing service beyond to Jackson, MS and New Orleans. The Illinois Central would later use the M&T to reach Memphis and would eventually absorb the M&T. The M&T was the second railroad to serve Memphis, the first being the Memphis and LaGrange which was subsequently aquired by the Memphis and Charleston in 1851.
An ornate two story station was constructed by the Illinois Central around 1888. The single story portion that extended along the tracks was originally part of the Mississippi and Tennessee shop complex and was built around 1874. This station was variously known as Calhoun Street Station, Central Station and Union Station. The sign over the arched doorway in this 1907 photo says “Union Depot”. This station was closed for a time when the IC began using the Poplar Street Station, but was reopened for use by the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad in December, 1899. The Choctaw and Memphis Railroad had begun using the bridge over the Mississippi River instead of a ferry from Hopefield Point, Arkansas and was in need of a station in Memphis. (Photo courtesy shorpy.com)
Actual operations at the present Central Station began on October 4, 1914. Later, on October 21st, a formal “Grand Opening” ceremony was held. The original lines using the station were the Illinois Central,Y&MV, Rock Island and Frisco. The Rock Island and Frisco remained tenants until they discontinued passenger service in the 1960’s. On May 1, 1971, Amtrak assumed operation of America’s rail passenger service and continued operation of one of the IC’s two remaining passenger trains, the Panama Limited, later renamed the City of New Orleans. Even though still used by Amtrak, Central Station fell into disrepair following the abandonment by the Illinois Central as a divisional headquarters. Acquired by MATA,the building underwent a $23.2 million dollar redevelopment and was reopened on September 24, 1999, with apartments occupying the former office space.
For a story on the construction of Central Station from the February 1915 Illinois Central Magazine – CLICK HERE