Clarksville Forever Linked to Railroads

The historic bridge over the Cumberland River in Clarksville, Tennessee. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

Davy Jones, the lead singer of the 1960s group, The Monkees, died recently. Thanks to The Monkees, Clarksville‘s name will forever be linked with railroads.

“Take the last train to Clarksville, and I’ll meet you at the station,” the group sang on their 1966 single, “Last Train to Clarksville.”

On the surface, it might seem as though the group was singing about the decline of the city’s railroad transportation. But the song is a Vietnam War protest song and the Clarksville mentioned in the song may not even be Clarksville, Tenn., even though the city is located near Fort Campbell, Ky., and the song is from the vantage point of a soldier who has just been drafted.

“We were just looking for a name that sounded good,” Bobby Hart, who co-wrote the song with Tommy Boyce, said, according to

For railfans, “The Gateway to the New South” is rich in railroad history. Although passenger trains no longer pass through the city, freights trains still pass through the area.

The city of Clarksville grew up around the Cumberland River as much as it did around the railroad. Tracks were first laid through Clarksville and Montgomery County on the eve of the Civil War, but fell into disarray during the conflict. They were revitalized after the war, but again fell into disarray in the latter half of the 20th century. Time and time again the tracks were rebuilt.

As they did elsewhere in the nation, railroads fell into disfavor in the 1950s. Passenger service declined, as automobiles became the favored mode of transportation by millions of Americans. The “last train to Clarksville” operated on Feb. 28, 1968.

The old depot, known by locals as the L&N; Station, still stands, but it no longer serves weary travelers stepping off a train from Louisville, or passenger ready to go on a trip. The historic structure dates to September 1881 when workers broke ground, but it has been refurbished a number of times over the years, according to the Montgomery County Historical Society.

A swing bridge over the Cumberland River dates to 1859. Originally built by Irish stone masons, the 678-foot-long bridge is normally more than 50 feet above the river. The structure, which can swing to allow taller ships to pass through, originally served the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

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About Todd DeFeo 356 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and The Travel Trolley.