In search of GE’s, hot chicken and the Eclipse

posted in: Food, Photography, Tourism, Travel, United States | 0

It’s been awhile since I’ve taken off time to do anything locally but the plan was too perfect to pass up. My good friend Joseph Darby who works with the Nashville Steam Preservation Society which is working to restore NC&STL steam locomotive 576 to operation had a board meeting for the organization Friday and Nashville would be right in the path of totality on Monday, since we had a free place to stay thanks to one of Joe’s fraternity members now living there it would be an easy and cheap mini vacation. In addition in all the trips to Nashville I had made previously I had yet to sample the cities famous hot chicken or its popular downtown attractions, something that would have to be remedied this trip. 

Friday 8-18-17

After arriving in Nashville at midnight the night before I was in no mood to get up at 5 AM but after snoozing the alarm till 5:45 I decided the possibility of photographing the long sought after West Tennessee Railroad would be worth it. After dropping off Joe at his meeting site along Ashland City highway I headed down I-40 towards Jackson, TN as fast as possible knowing that the WTNN crew was on duty at 0700 and hoping that they would take a long time to get going today. The highway was clear and I arrived at the former GM&O Iselin yard at 0845 to find that one of the two trains had already departed but the other had not and would be using two GE B23-7’s instead of the regular B40-8W’s, the early morning drive had paid off and I had a great day chasing the matched GE -7’s through rural Tennessee. The weather was unseasonably perfect with hardly a cloud in the sky all day on the account of a storm system clearing the night and the train ran at a perfect time to avoid the dreaded high sun hours. It was another long and boring drive back to Nashville in the evening but its hard to complain after such a successful day! 

 

For the full WTNN trip report click here (Coming soon!) 

Saturday 8-19-17:

Recovery was the name of the game Saturday morning as both of us had had very little sleep the night before and were dead tired from our separate exhausting days in the mid summer heat. After eventually waking up we were then determined to cross off our collective goal of trying the famous Nashville hot chicken. We settled on Prince’s Hot Chicken , this small establishment in a nondescript north Nashville shopping mall is known as the original hot chicken restaurant in Nashville and is frequently listed as THE place to go for authentic hot chicken. We forgot to check the opening time and ended up arriving 45 minutes before opening time but this turned out to be a smart move as we were the first in line, which by the time the resteraunt opened its doors at 12:15 stretched all the way down the side of the building.  

 

 

 

 

The chicken comes in 5 varieties from mild which barely has any spice to XXXHot which was too hot to eat more than a few bites. The restaurant is very good value for the money and I got a 1/2 chicken (Hot), a leg Quarter (XXXHot just to say I tried it), a side of Potato salad and a bottled lemonade for just under $20. In addition there are a variety of homebaked deserts for sale for $3 each, definitely worth getting if for nothing else but a palate cleanse after the fiery meal, I got the Chess Pie which was very good and served its purpose. During our time in line we had made acquaintances with two guys from New Orleans who were far more experienced foodies and had come to Nashville for the food and the eclipse, they had the foresight to save one of the very scarce tables inside, something that you must to as soon as the doors open, the booths are small and it was a squeeze to fit 5 people but people further back in line had no hope of getting a seat. Someone could do good business just providing more seating in an adjacent building! 

True to other reviews Nashville hot chicken is a 24 hour experience and unless you have an exceptionally high spice tolerance you will be feeling the effects the rest of the day as we did. I still highly recommend trying it once, for me the hot had the right amount of spice to get the full effect but not be virtually inedible like the XXXHot. 

 

Sunday 8-20-17

It was my birthday so I decided some morning railfanning was in order, unfortunately that would prove harder than planned as CSX seemed to run trains at all the wrong moments so we abandoned railfanning after spending a few fruitless hours at Union Station. For lunch we tried a restaurant recommend by a friend who used to live in Nashville, The Pharmacy a German style Beer Garden known for their local beer selection and their burgers made from locally sourced Kentucky beef. The menu is constantly changing and I tried the daily special burger, The Old Smokey a barbeque themed burger with a limited edition Total Eclipse breakfast stout made especially for the eclipse by Maumee Bay Brewing Company and a Bearded Iris IPA. This restaurant is quite popular so expect to find a line during lunch hour though nothing compared to the famous Hot Chicken spots. 

Afterwards we scoped out a few more railfan locations before heading to Corsair Brewstillary, another recommended Nashville location. The combination Brewery Distillery is located in the Marathon Motor Works, a former automobile manufacturing plant that produced automobiles for just a few short years between 1907 and 1914. The property has been slowly renovated from 1988 on and is unique in that it maintains a run down industrial look on the outside but has been beautifully renovated inside. Unfortunately tours were booked for the day but we stopped by the bar to sample the beer selection. For railfans this location is right next to the CSX mainline at the west end of the 8th Avenue wye and at the Nashville & Western interchange. 

 

Afterwards we once again tried to photograph some trains but again were met with limited luck either unable to get ahead of trains through the maze of city streets or no trains showing up when we decided to wait it out. We decided again trains were an unproductive way to spend the day and headed to Broadway to meet up with several more friends from Georgia Tech who had come up earlier in the day for the eclipse. It is exceedingly difficult to find free parking in downtown Nashville but we managed to find a spot along Hermitage Avenue and walked along the Riverfront to Broadway to meet up with the rest of the group. While waiting on the riverfront we were treated to the passage of two river barges, one in each direction. After several hours downtown we came to the conclusion that Nashville was the world’s number one destination for impulsive drunk boot purchases….

  

Monday 8-21-17

The big day finally arrived and it was almost time for the solar eclipse that millions across the country had been eagerly waiting for. Our original plan was to drive to the center of totality at Silver Point lake, however by the time we had all woken up the traffic maps were showing that the roads to and in the park were already getting congested. We decided as was standard this weekend to do things the easy and lazy way and watch the eclipse from our friends driveway as we were still near the path of totality (and there were snacks and beer!). The weather looked excellent where we were but we could see a large amount of clouds towards Nashville and to either side so this seemed just a good a spot as any. 

Its amazing we can predict eclipses down to the minute but sure enough the partial eclipse began exactly at 11:58 as the moon slowly slid over the sun. While watching the sun slowly being eclipsed was a fascinating spectacle it was just as interesting watching the lighting change as the day took on a dimmer and desaturated look. Right on time the surreal moment of totality arrived and the whole landscape went dark, the sky took on the reddish hue of dusk in the middle of the afternoon. Just as soon as it began it was over as the sun peaked back around the moon and daylight slowly returned. Words nor photos can describe what an amazing experience this was to see in person, if you missed this one make sure to see the next one in 2024! I hope to see one somewhere in the world before then! 

Click here for more eclipse photos

Monday 8-21-17

To avoid the mass of traffic in after the eclipse we decided to stay an extra night in Nashville and spend the day hopefully photographing the Nashville & Eastern before returning home. I wanted to photograph Nashville’s Music City Star so we devised a plan where I would ride the 0700 service from Mount Juliet to Nashville and Joe would follow in the car. The plan went along smoothly despite some problems getting tickets and I was able to photograph the outbound 0745 service as well as the 0815 arrival and 0825 depatures with the skyline in the background. 

Click here for more on the Music City Star (Coming soon!) 

Unfortunately it seemed it used all my railfan luck on the West Tennessee on Friday and the rest of the morning was fruitless as N&E’s road train did not leave the yard till early afternoon by which time I had given up and attempted to find the Nashville & Western which we found tied down at the end of the line in Ashland City. Both lines have a plethora of great photo opportunities but I will need to make another trip to get them in operation. We made a quick stop to take a look at the 576 in Centennial Park, significant work has been done to restore individual components and half the money needed to move the locomotive has been raised, to donate to the project visit Nashville Steams website here. While at Centennial Park we ate lunch at Hog Heaven, a small BBQ spot featuring a simple counter and outdoor picnic table seating. This spot has been made several lists of must try Nashville BBQ but in truth was not exceptional and was rather average. However if visiting Centennial Park its a cheap and easy spot to get some food. 

 

After lunch it was back to Atlanta, I made a short diversion to try to find the Caney Fork & Western but to no avail as they had already finished for the day. A southbound CSX Q029 provided some entertainment and we followed it from Tullahoma down to Cowan and then over to lake Nickajack where it was the third in a parade of southbounds. We met up with fellow rail enthusiast and member of the 576 project Justin Strickland who took us to a real hidden gem, the Look Out Winery perched on a hillside above the lake. In addition to wine the restaurant serves amazing pizza and breadsticks which can be enjoyed on the patio overlooking Lake Nickajack, one can even see trains skirt the edge of the lake in the distance. We finally arrived back to Atlanta at 2300 ready to go to bed after the long day. Despite the limited luck with trains in Nashville just seeing the eclipse was worth the trip and checking off the West Tennessee Railroad from my list was worth a nice bonus.

 

 

 

 

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