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Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
SOU4501.jpg
Southern Railway 4501, one of six steam locomotives at the museum.
Established 1960 (1960) / 1961 (1961)
Location 4119 Cromwell Rd.
Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (reporting mark TVRM) is a railroad museum and heritage railroad in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum was founded as a chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in 1960 by Paul H. Merriman and Robert M. Soule, Jr., along with a group of local railway preservationists. They wanted to save steam locomotives and railway equipment for future historical display and use. Today the museum offers various tourist excursions from stations in Chattanooga and Etowah, Tennessee.

History

Founded in 1960 and incorporated in 1961, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum originally stored equipment at the Western Union pole yard, which was located adjacent to the Southern Railway classification yard on Holtzclaw Avenue in East Chattanooga. After the termination of passenger service to the Southern Railway's Terminal Station in 1971, additional cars and locomotives were stored at this facility in downtown Chattanooga.

In 1969, the TVRM received a land donation from the Southern Railway, consisting of a property located in East Chattanooga on North Chamberlain Avenue. This donation included the 986-foot (301 m)-long Whiteside Tunnel and about 1 12 miles (2.4 km) of abandoned right-of-way.

In 1970, the museum opened a new permanent facility to the public in East Chattanooga. At the time, it had no structures on site. Volunteers had constructed a railyard for the storage and repair of equipment and had rebuilt the abandoned rail line through the Whiteside Tunnel. The reconstructed line ended at Tunnel Boulevard, as the original bridge over this road had been removed some years earlier.

With the reconstructed rail line, the museum had the ability to produce a small amount of income by operating a heritage railroad. They ran passenger excursion trains through Whiteside Tunnel (commonly referred to as Missionary Ridge Tunnel, because it went through Missionary Ridge).

Additional income was derived from mainline excursions operated biannually via the Southern Railway's Steam Program. The Southern Railway's Steam Program was created by Paul Merriman and TVRM, after Merriman purchased the former Southern Railway 4501 in 1964 from the Kentucky & Tennessee Railway in Stearns, Kentucky for $5,000. By 1966 the 4501 had been restored during a 2-year process, conducted at Lucey Boiler Company in Chattanooga. After many volunteer hours by TVRM members as well as paid Lucey Boiler employee work, the 4501 was operated throughout the Southern Railway System, delighting onlookers and passengers everywhere.

710 edited
NC&StL GP7 710 at the East Chattanooga Yard of the museum

After years of hard work and much financial discipline, in 1977 TVRM finally built the long-needed bridge over Tunnel Boulevard. The Southern Railway donated an additional mile and a half (2.4 km) of abandoned rail line. The next major task of the museum was to build the East Chattanooga Depot. This depot is a reconstruction of a typical small town depot of the 1920s.

The TVRM was named to the National Register of Historic Places on August 6, 1980. That was followed during that decade by expansion of the organization, and acquiring more land donated by Southern Railway. During the 1980s, the TVRM gradually added more track and buildings. The Grand Junction Depot, the TVRM Administration Building, and the National Model Railroad Association were starting to take shape during the decade, as well. At the East Chattanooga facility, a repair shop and a turntable were added to provide facilities for locomotive repair and maintenance. Beginning in the 1990s, TVRM started running trains to the Chattanooga Choo Choo (called the Downtown Arrow, now discontinued) and excursions to Summerville, Georgia on the Chattooga and Chickamauga Railway.

In 2004, TVRM and the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association partnered in acquiring part of the former L&N Hook and Eye line between Etowah (Gee Creek, Tennessee) and Copperhill. Since then, the new Hiwassee River Rail Adventures have been a popular addition to the railroad. With the success of the Hiwassee trips, TVRM created two distinct operating divisions: the Chattanooga and Hiwassee divisions. Crews and sometimes equipment are often switched between the two.

The museum celebrated 50 years during the Labor Day weekend of 2011. Norfolk Southern Railway also debuted their new steam train program during the event.

Current operations

Today, TVRM continues to run trains, showing people what it was like in the golden age of railroading. It has also started local freight service. Visitors can take a one-hour 6-mile (9.7 km) round-trip ride, which is often pulled by a steam locomotive. In addition, most weekends from April until November offers excursion trains, at times pulled by steam locomotives.

In 2004, TVRM began providing half-day excursion trains to the Hiwassee Loop, a corkscrew route around Bald Mountain near Farner, Tennessee. These trips run out of the station in downtown Etowah, Tennessee (about an hour's drive (63 miles (101 km)) northeast of Chattanooga). Since this is along the CSX mainline, which is heavily used for freight, a bus takes travelers a short ride south to Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park to transfer. The 50-mile (80 km) excursion goes east along the Hiwassee River and through the Hiwassee Gorge to Farner, just short of the North Carolina state line. Full-day trips turn south, stopping at lunchtime in the twin towns of Copperhill, Tennessee and McCaysville, Georgia, and returning in the afternoon.

This route is that of the former Atlanta, Knoxville and Northern Railway and is also called the Hiwassee Route. The remainder of the AK&N (later L&N and then CSX) line in Georgia is operated by the Georgia Northeastern Railroad, with subsidiary Blue Ridge Scenic Railway operating another heritage railroad from McCaysville to Blue Ridge, Georgia, and GNRR freight running south of there.

TVRM also handles freight. On TVRM's Chattanooga Division, there is one industry, Allied Metals. TVRM handles switching operations, under the wholly owned subsidiary Tyner Terminal Railway Company, at Enterprise South Industrial Park (ESIP), location of the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant. Even though there are no major industries along the Hiwassee Division, TVRM has the capability to store several hundred cars at the Copperhill yard for other railroads.

Restoration work

TVRM has a full working locomotive and car repair shop complex, Soule Shops (named after co-founder, Robert M. Soule, Jr.), capable of handling even the heaviest repairs. In March 2011, TVRM completed restoring Southern Railway Ks-1 class 2-8-0 630 to operational status. In September 2014, TVRM completed the second restoration of Southern Railway Ms class 2-8-2 4501 for another excursion career with Norfolk Southern's 21st Century Steam Excursion Program. At present, 3 passenger cars are undergoing restoration. One is No. 1877, a former Chessie / Chesapeake and Ohio, later Denver & Rio Grande Western round end dome-lounge-observation, being restored from long static condition. Another is 1917 Pullman built office car No 98. The 98 was built for Baltimore & Ohio President Daniel Willard and after leaving B&O ownership in the 1960s came to TVRM in 1977, having been a fixture ever since, hence the need for a thorough restoration after decades of service. Next is Southern Railway 832, a 52-seat passenger coach built in 1949 by the Budd Company. Along with the 3 passenger cars, 1953 built EMD E8, Southern Railway 6914, is undergoing restoration as well. Other projects move in and out of the shop as needed as well as routine inspections on the museum’s steam locomotives. 630's 10-year-long restoration was the most extensive restoration ever performed at TVRM, as well as one of the most extensive steam locomotive repairs in the United States since the end of steam on the railroads.

Locomotive roster

Main units

Number Builder Type Build date Status Notes
4501 Baldwin Locomotive Works Steam 1911 Operational This 2-8-2 Mikado was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in October 1911 for the Southern Railway. Sold to the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway in October 1948 and renumbered to 12. Retired February 1964. Sold to Paul Merriman for $5,000. Restored in 1966 and starred in the Southern Steam Program from 1966 to 1994 in the Southern's green and gold paint scheme. Painted back to black in October 1996. Taken out of service in September 1998. Restored to operation on September 5, 2014.
630 American Locomotive Company Steam 1904 Operational This 2-8-0 Consolidation was built by the American Locomotive Company in February 1904 for the Southern Railway. Sold to the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad in 1952 as their #207. Retired December 1967 and sold to the Southern Railroad to take part in the steam program. Arrived at TVRM in 1978. Taken out of service in 1989. Officially donated to TVRM by Norfolk Southern in 1999. Restored to operation on March 14, 2011.
610 Baldwin Locomotive Works Steam 1952 In storage; awaiting overhaul This 2-8-0 Consolidation was built by Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton in 1952 for the United States Army, and was based at the Fort Eustis Military Railroad. Retired in 1972 and sold to the Wiregrass Heritage Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in Dothan, Alabama. Arrived at TVRM in 1978. Restored in 1991. Taken out for 1,472 inspection in 2011. Currently awaiting overhaul.
10 Baldwin Locomotive Works Steam 1920 In storage This 2-8-2 Mikado was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in May 1920 for the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway. Retired February 1964 and later sold to TVRM the following year. It was then painted up as Southern #6910 and ran a few excursions from Chattanooga to Cleveland, Tennessee and back. Taken out of service after the excursion due to a leaky boiler. Currently stored at East Chattanooga shops. TVRM plans to eventually cosmetically restore the locomotive, and put it on static display.
349 Baldwin Locomotive Works Steam 1891 Display This 4-4-0 American was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in June 1891 as Savannah & Western Railroad #557. Later became Central of Georgia Railway #1587, later 1581, and finally to #349 in 1936. Leased to the Talbotton Railroad in 1950. Sent back to the CofG in 1954. Instead of being scrapped, the locomotive was used as a yard goat and stand-by service until 1961. Sold to the Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad in 1963. Arrived at TVRM in 1987. It is currently on display at the Children's Hospital at Erlanger.
5288 Montreal Locomotive Works Steam 1919 Display This 4-6-2 Pacific was built by Montreal Locomotive Works in 1919 for the Canadian National Railway. Retired in 1961 and sold to F. Nelson Blount. Arrived at TVRM in 1999. Currently on static display.
5044 General Motors Diesel 1973 Operational An EMD GP38-2 built for the Southern Railway in 1973. Acquired from an auction in 2016. Currently in operation at the Hiwassee River Railroad in Etowah, Tennessee.
5109 General Motors Diesel 1974 Operational An EMD GP38-2 built for the Southern Railway in 1973. Acquired from an auction in 2017. Currently operational in freight service at the Enterprise South Industrial Park.
5000 Electro-Motive Diesel Diesel 1972 Operational A EMD GP38-2 built in 1972 for the Southern Railway. Acquired from an auction in 2016. Restored to its original Southern Railway paint scheme. Currently operational in passenger and freight service at TVRM.
3170 Baldwin Locomotive Works Diesel 1971 Inoperable; awaiting repairs This EMD SD40 was originally built in 1971 for the Southern Railway. Currently on static display.
27 Baldwin Locomotive Works Diesel 1945 Display Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in February 1945. On static display
36 Baldwin Locomotive Works Diesel 1943 Display This VO-1000 was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in August 1943. On static display
710 Electro-Motive Division Diesel 1950 Operational The 710 was originally built as an EMD GP7 in September 1950 for the Nasvhille, Chattanooga, & St. Louis Railroad. It was later sold to Amtrak and upgraded to a GP-9. Currently restored to its original NC&St.L apperance, and in passenger and freight service at TVRM.
2594 Electro-Motive Division Diesel 1962 Operational This EMD GP-30 was originally built in 1962 for the Southern Railway. Currently On loan from the Southeastern Railway Museum, and in passenger service at TVRM.
1824 Electro-Motive Division Diesel 1951 In Storage This EMD GP-7L was built in 1951 for the United States Army. TVRM purchased this locomotive as Army surplus for $250. Currently in storage at East Chattanooga.
1829 Electro-Motive Division Diesel 1951 Operational This EMD GP-7L was built in 1951 for the United States Army. TVRM purchased this locomotive as Army surplus for $250. Currently in passenger and freight service at TVRM.
6914 Electro-Motive Division Diesel 1953 Undergoing restoration This EMD E8 was built in December 1953 for the Southern Railway. Currently undergoing restoration, after which it will be placed in passenger servic at TVRM.
8669 American Locomotive Company Diesel 1945 Display This ALCO RSD-1 was built in December 1945 for the United States Army. Previously in passenger service at TVRM, the locomotive is currently on static display.
8677 American Locomotive Company Diesel 1945 In Storage Originally built as a ALCO RSD-1 in December 1945.
606 General Motors Diesel Diesel 1954 Operational Originally built as a EMD SW1200 for the Milwaukee Road in 1954. Currently in passenger and freight service at TVRM.
80 Electro-Motive Division Diesel 1968 Operational Originally built as a EMD GP38 for the Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia Railway in February 1968. it was named "The John A. Chambliss" in honor of the railroad's vice president and was dedicated on his 80th birthday. Currently in passenger and freight service at TVRM.
913 American Locomotive Company Diesel 1950 Display Originally built as a ALCO RS-1 for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad in February 1950. Currently on static display.
109 American Locomotive Company Diesel 1950 In Storage Originally built as a ALCO RS-3 for the Central of Georgia Railway in September 1950. Currently in storage at East Chattanooga.
814 Electro-Motive Division Diesel 1949 In storage; privately owned Originally built as a EMD F7A for the NC&StL in April 1949.

Former units

Number Builder Type Build date Notes
203 Baldwin Locomotive Works Steam 1928 Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in January 1928 at Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad #402. Sold to the Gainesville Midland Railroad in 1946 and renumbered to 203. Retired in 1959 and later donated to the Atlanta Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society in 1961. Arrived at TVRM on January 8, 1964. It was to be repaired and used for excursions but paperwork supporting its transfer to TVRM was never completed. It remained on static display for over 25 years until being sent back to Atlanta. It is currently on static display at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Georgia.
3 American Locomotive Company Steam 1924 Built by the American Locomotive Company in 1924 for the Southern Wood Company in Chattanooga. Retired 1961 and sold to Paul Merriman. Sold to the Age of Steam Roundhouse in Sugarcreek, Ohio in 1994. Currently on static display.
509 Baldwin Locomotive Works Steam 1913 Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in April 1913 as Louisiana and Arkansas Railroad #403, later renumbered to 509. Sold to the Louisiana Midland Railroad in 1950 where it was later involved in a collision with an L&A 2-8-2 in 1952. Sold to the Rapides Gravel Company and hauled gravel there until retirement in 1966. Sold to a railfan named John Thompson in 1968 who later sold it to the Whitewater Valley Railroad in 1974. Arrived at TVRM in 1982. Sold to the Cookeville Depot Museum in 2002. Currently on display, disguised as Tennessee Central Railway #509
611 Baldwin Locomotive Works Steam 1943 Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1943 as U.S. Army #2628. Later renumbered to 611 in 1951. Sold to the Texas State Railroad in the 1970s. Arrived at TVRM in 1991. Sold off to Bill Miller Equipment Sales in 2010.
35 Lima Locomotive Works Steam 1910 Built by Lima Locomotive Works in 1910, it was sent to a heritage railway in Australia in 2014.
36 Lima Locomotive Works Steam 1916 Built by Lima Locomotive Works in 1910, it now operates at the Cass Scenic Railroad.
Flying Duchess Robert Stephenson and Company Steam 1953 Built by Robert Stephenson and Company of England in 1953 for the Meaford Power Company in Staffordshire, England. Later sold to the Boyne City Railroad in Boyne City, Michigan 1976. Arrived at TVRM in 1981. Sold to the Ohio Valley Railroad Historical Society in 2000. Currently undergoing cosmetic restoration.
722 Baldwin Locomotive Works Steam 1904 Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in September 1904. Sold to the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad in 1952 and renumbered to 208. Retired in December 1967 and sold to the Southern to participate in the steam program. Leased and operated at TVRM from 1980 - 1985, put on static display due to a cracked firebox. Transferred to the Asheville Chapter NRHS in 1992. Sold to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City, North Carolina in December 2000, currently awaiting restoration.

TVRM in the movies

TVRM has been a prime movie spot since the early 1970s. Several of the rail cars that TVRM owns have been used in movies, i.e. the collection holds the Pullman sleeping car "Clover Colony" that was used in the Marilyn Monroe movie Some Like it Hot, which was filmed in 1959, two years before TVRM started.

A partial list of movies and music videos shot with TVRM equipment follows:

  • Fool's Parade (1971) (Southern 4501 as B&O 4501)
  • Eleanor & Franklin (1976), starring Jane Alexander and Edward Herrmann
  • The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James (1986)
  • Fled (1996) (shot on the TVRM mainline)
  • Mama Flora's Family (1998)
  • October Sky (1999) (Southern 4501 appearing as N&W 4501 with O. Winston Link being the engineer)
  • The Adventures of Ociee Nash (2003)
  • Warm Springs (2005) (shot in Summerville, Georgia, using TVRM equipment)
  • Heaven's Fall (2007)
  • Leatherheads (2008), starring George Clooney and Renée Zellweger (TVRM 610 disguised as a Chicago and North Western Railway locomotive)
  • Water for Elephants (2011), starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson (TVRM 610 disguised as a Southern Pacific locomotive)
  • The music video for Josh Turner's 2003 country music hit single "Long Black Train" was shot on TVRM property as well.
  • The music video for Eric Church song "Creepin'" (2012) was filmed on TVRM property.
  • 42 (film) (2013), starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford Jackie Robinson leaves for the Montreal Royals, a minor league single-A division club under the ownership of the Brooklyn Dodgers, from the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's main station. Southern 630 also made an appearance in this movie but with a different number.
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