Southern Railway, in its present form, came into existence on 14th April 1951 through the merger of the three state railways namely Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway, the South Indian Railway, and the Mysore state railway. Southern Railway’s present network extends over a large area of India’s Southern Peninsula, covering the states of Tamilnadu, Kerala, Pondicherry,and a small portion of Andhra Pradesh. Serving these naturally plentiful and culturally rich southern states, the SR extends from Mangalore on the west coast and Kanniyakumari in the south to Renigunta in the North West and Gudur in the North East.
The Southern Railway Station of Knoxville was built in 1903-1904, and was designed by the architect, Frank P. Milburn, for the Southern Railway Company. Records of the time note an initial construction estimate of $40,000. The budget was later increased to $80,000 and in 1901 a notice indicated that the contract had been awarded to Nicholoas Ittner of Atlanta for $100,000.
Originally, the lower level of the Southern Railway Station contained the mail, express, telegraph, and dining rooms and the baggage area. The upper level consisted of segregated waiting rooms, which opened to the ticket office. These waiting areas each contained a smoking room, ladies’ parlor and restrooms. Interesting architectural features of the Southern Railway Station include fireplaces feating inscriptions by Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, and coffered ceilings in the former two passenger waiting rooms and the former restaurant on the ground level. New paint colors matching the original brick and stone have been used as well as the composition roof, which creates an illusion matching the original slate roof. Both buildings exhibit Neoclassical Revival with Jacobean/Dutch Colonial influence on the exterior, featuring corbel-stepped gables and windows of a new-classical palladia motif. The construction is a combination of brick, wood, and cast iron.
At its apex, the station served more than 30 daily passenger trains. Among these were numerous locals that serve the man lines radiating out of Knoxville into ever rural area of East Tennessee. It was largely these local trains that helped Knoxville to become and maintain the position of a commercial center for the entire region in the days before the automobile. The station saw two world wars and following the great upsurge and strain of traffic from World War II, the unavoidable decline due to the rise of the automobile, the improvement of highways, and the coming of accessible airline transportion.