The present train depot is the fourth depot to be built on the land donated to the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad by Rev. James King in 1848. In 1902, John P. Pettyjohn & Company of Lynchburg, Virginia built this depot, then known as the Union Station. George Washington Pettyjohn was the superintendent of construction for the station. The cost was $79,063. Because it was built on a surface of fill, concrete support columns were sunk 20 feet into the ground to a solid rock base.
Early pictures show a large building with a limestone wall and brick upper walls. Intricate plaster on woodwork relief was designed for the tops of several windows. Later a 326 foot tin roof passenger shed was added to run the length of the station from front to back. At one time, the building's main feature was a two-story tower. On the first floor were a newsstand, lunch counter, smoking room and men's toilet. The second story housed railway offices. The long, narrow single story mid-section of the station housed the ticketing and waiting room which was divided into areas for men and women. It had a 36 foot ceiling. The east end of the station was originally partitioned into the baggage and express rooms.
A large grassy sloping bank was on the Front Street side of the depot where an iron fence and sidewalk were added. A roundhouse to turn the trains around and a warehouse were built soon after the construction of the 1902 building.
The depot served Bristol for nearly seventy years. Hauling coal and freight was the main job, but it also provided a widely admired passenger service with clean coaches, sparkling diners, and posh lounge cars. In the 1950's, Norfolk and Western phased out the steam engines, and the 1960's saw a steady decline in all rail service. In 1971 passenger service was discontinued. Bristol continues to serve as a division point and crew change for the merged Norfolk Southern. About a dozen trains a day come and leave Bristol.
The Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission placed the depot on the state landmark register noting that the station "richly deserves this official recognition as one of the Commonwealth's historic resources." It was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.