Tennessee has a few major cities -- Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville -- but only one of them is served by Amtrak. The nationwide passenger rail system doesn't go statewide in the Volunteer State, so Amtrak travelers have limited options. You can stop in one major city and one small town, and that's it, but the train and rail line you'll be traveling on is the stuff of legend.
The City of New Orleans
Amtrak's only train running through Tennessee is called the City of New Orleans. It's the train made famous in song by Willie Nelson and Arlo Guthrie, who each had hits with the Steve Goodman penned tune. The City of New Orleans runs between Chicago and, well, the city of New Orleans. The route through Tennessee takes it close to the Mississippi River along the western border of the state, making two stops along the way.
In the northern part of western Tennessee, the City of New Orleans makes a stop in the small town of Newbern. The station here also serves the nearby larger town of Dyersburg. The Newbern Illinois Central Depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features a railroad museum along with the Amtrak station. The depot is the main point of interest for tourists in this tiny, rural town, and it's also the site of the annual Depot Days Festival each September.
Central Station in Memphis
Memphis is the only other place in Tennessee where an Amtrak train stops besides Newbern, at Central Station on South Main Street. The station is south of the main downtown business district, which is too far for most people to walk. The Memphis Area Transit Authority does have a trolley service connecting Central Station to the rest of the downtown area, including its riverfront, for a small fee.
Make a Pilgrimage
Many leisure travelers visit Memphis for one reason: its rich musical heritage. For fans of rock, soul and the blues, a pilgrimage to the city is a must. Lively and historic Beale Street is filled with blues clubs old and new. Sun Studio on Union Avenue is where such legends as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis made their first recordings. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, housed in the old recording studios of Stax Records, tells a similiar story about the icons that came through its doors, including Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. And, of course, there's Graceland south of town, the home and final resting place of the King.