This small town train depot packs a lot of fun and information into a relatively small space adjacent to the tracks in downtown Toccoa, seat of government for Stephens County. Within its walls are the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce, the Welcome Center, The Stephens County Historical Society and the Currahee Military Museum. A train car houses a rail museum behind the depot.
Nobody is positive when the Depot was built, although the date of 1915 (what the museum uses) may be correct. Much, however, is known about the adjacent railroad line. Built as the Atlanta & Richmond Air-Line Railway it reach Toccoa, the last stop in Georgia in 1873, then Habersham County. In 1877 the railroad was renamed Atlanta & Charlotte Air-Line Railway and in 1894 became the Southern Railroad, which still operates the line today.
Probably the most famous event occurring at the depot was a brief speech given by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936 from his special train while on his way to relax at Warm Springs. Today only the Southern Crescent (now the Amtrak Crescent) makes regular stops (for Crescent service the line was dubbed the Piedmont Air Line).
The hit ten-part HBO miniseries produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg details the life of Easy Company in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 101st Airborne. On September 1, 2001, the historical drama accurately portrayed life at the Army training camp outside Toccoa although the episode was filmed in North Carolina. According to both the movie and the Steven Ambrose book, the unit adopted "Currahee" (a mountain on the outskirts of Toccoa) as their call. The camp was near the mountain.
Once inside the depot, restored to its appearance in 1940, the Chamber and Historical Society have offices and a welcome desk. From here guests enter the Historical Society Museum that is actually divided into two parts by the center display. Normally guests view one-half on the way to the Currahee Military and the other side on the way back, but for continuity we have included both halves in this section.
Within this section is the story of Toccoa, including its industrial roots, and that of Stephens County, one of the last counties created in Georgia. Largest of the industrial companies to call the city home was Coats and Clarke, a thread company known throughout the world. The museum displays a number of artifacts from the original factory near downtown. Especially interesting was an old fashion switchboard, or manual exchange, common in companies before 1960.
Olympic strongman/powerlifer Paul Anderson is also featured in the museum, as is music icon James Brown. Anderson shocked the world when he lifted 402.5 pounds during a Russian competition in 1955 and gained the world record. During the 1956 Olympics Anderson won a gold medal in Melbourne, Australia. Although he could not compete in the 1960 Olympics, when his record was broken by a Russian lifter. The Paul Anderson Youth Home near Vidalia is his lasting legacy.
James Brown, the self-proclaimed "Godfather of Soul," began his singing career in Toccoa although in later statements he would claim he began in Macon because of that city's ties to music. Brown, who came out of a local troubled youth facility, worked as a janitor in the local high school and sang on the weekend. The museum has contemporary newspaper articles, advertisements, and pictures of Brown on the singers time in the city.
In the center island the spirit of the railroad depot is captured with photographs and artifacts including lanterns, luggage, and an early scale.
The lives and experiences of the boys who trained for parachute combat missions at Camp Toccoa are faithfully recreated in the Currahee Military Museum in the Toccoa Depot. The museum is introduced with a massive green silk parachute hanging from the ceiling, and used by the men to land behind enemy lines. Landing large airborne forces had only been considered possible for two years when the camp opened in 1942. In 1940 the Germans began using paratroopers in the attack on Norway and in securing The Hague, a city in the Netherlands.
As you first see the parachute a stable-like structure looms behind and beyond the chute. These are the actual barracks used by the troops after they moved to Aldbourne, England. Located on a farm, the owner heard of the museum and offered the barracks to the museum for free. The Historical Society could only afford to transport a portion of the housing.
When the housing arrived at Toccoa, the people were surprised to find a number of personal items that had been stored in the barracks and not found until they were disassembled. Immediately the Historical Society planned to include at least a portion of these items in the display. Each room in the barrack contains displays about the men that were stationed their, and on the missions undertaken by the men trained at Camp Toccoa.
Toccoa Railroad Depot,
N Alexander St.
Toccoa, Georgia 30577
Take I-985 North (Exit 113 off I-85) to Toccoa (about 58 miles). The road becomes GA 365 after Gainesville. Turn left on W. Currahee (Dicks Hill Pkwy) and travel 3.2 miles to Broad St. Turn left (Shell Station), pass under a railroad bridge and turn right on Doyle St. then a left on N. Alexander.