Among the oldest existing railroad depots in the United States, the Huntsville Depot is the oldest in the state of Alabama. The depot which was completed during 1860 is on the Norfolk Southern Railway that runs through downtown Huntsville. It was the Memphis and Charleston Railroad's division headquarters.
Union Forces occupied Huntsville during the Civil War using the depot as a prison for soldiers in the Confederate Army and as a strategic point in 1862. The graffiti the soldiers wrote is still on the walls. March 30, 1968 the Tennessean was the last scheduled passenger train to go through Huntsville Depot which is now included in the Earlyworks Museum.
Huntsville Depot Museum is located at 320 Church Street Northwest and on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum can be reached by taking the Jefferson Street exit which is number 19 on I-565. The facility is open during the months of March to December from ten in the morning until four in the afternoon. The facility is closed during January, February, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day. The first two weeks of May the facility hours are limited because of Whistlestop.
The depot is a three story brick terminal that allows visitors take tours beginning with a multimedia presentation of Huntsville's history. There is a description of what it was like to work for the Southern Railway during the first of the century given by a robotic ticket agent. There are locomotives outside of the facility that visitors can climb on or they can take a ride on the Depot Express around the grounds of the Huntsville Depot Museum. Visitors can purchase memorabilia from the Train and Trolley Shop.
Tours of the Historic Huntsville Depot Museum are $10 for adults and $8 for those aged fifty-five or older and those below the age of seventeen. A pass for the grounds costs $4. There are interesting facts learned about the depot during the tour.
When Huntsville Depot's lobby was used as a waiting room for the station the windowsills had spikes driven into them to keep people from sitting in them. The depot grounds have Aunt Eunice's Country Kitchen which was once a restaurant preserved as a museum. The restaurant's interior including the tables, covered benches, autographed photographs, coffee pot, chair and cash register have all been moved into the Depot's yellow clapboard house to preserve them.
Huntsville Depot Museum even has the first ladder fire truck the city ever had in the Autohouse in addition with the net that was used to catch jumpers. During 1950 there was a team of German scientists lead by Dr. Werner von Braun that visited the terminal with a number of ideas about the way the changing transportation types would gain publicity on a national level. It was not until 1971 that the National Register of Historic Places included the Huntsville Depot.
Anyone in the Huntsville, Alabama area with an interest in the history of the railroad should make it a point to visit the Huntsville Depot Museum.