The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
Hop aboard a vintage train at the Tennessee Valley Railroad in Chattanooga for an experience straight from the past. Listen to a steam locomotive hissing and snorting away as it departs from the station and don’t forget the lonesome wail of a whistle echoing through the ridges. The Tennessee Valley Railroad offers daily rides using restored vintage rail coaches pulled by a steam locomotive or a WWII-era diesel locomotive. Each round trip passes twice through pre-Civil War Missionary Ridge tunnel, which was built by hand between 1856 and 1858.
Back in 1961, several Chattanooga residents joined together to form the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, hoping to preserve a sampling of both steam locomotives and passenger trains. Miraculously they succeeded through perseverance and determination. One of the founding members purchased a recently surplused steam locomotive from the Kentucky & Tennessee Railway in Stearns, Kentucky. It was promptly rebuilt by TVRM members and leased to the Southern Railway which immediately began running the engine on excursion trips throughout the southeast region.
The Southern Railway also lent an encouraging hand by donating surplus land in East Chattanooga to the fledgling railroad museum. The property happened to include Southern’s abandoned mainline through Missionary Ridge via a 986-foot, pre-Civil War tunnel. TVRM personnel began rebuilding the line, eventually constructing a new span across Tunnel Boulevard, allowing a complete railroad of three miles from terminus to terminus. Events accelerated in the early 1980’s as construction of the East Chattanooga Depot and Grand Junction Station was completed. A turntable was installed at one end of the line and a wye track at the other so trains could always operate with the locomotive facing forward. A large restoration shop was also erected to refurbish and maintain the priceless rolling stock.
Through many years of equipment acquisition and effort, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum has become the “Largest Operating Historic Railroad in the State” and a popular tourist attraction hosting up to 70,000 visitors annually. Where else can you hear a conductor announce “All Aboard?” Plan a trip to the Tennessee Valley Railroad in Chattanooga where you can see the “Rebuilding of Yesterday for Tomorrow.” Trains run daily mid-March through October (weekends only in November), offering a six-mile roundtrip, which takes just under an hour. Special events include extended length Dixie Land excursions throughout the year, featuring the 40th annual Autumn Leaf Special trips complete with a dining car luncheon onboard the train. North Pole Limited and Christmas trains run in November and December. “Chickamauga Turn” service to Chickamauga, Georgia operates on summer Saturdays from May 17 through September 20.
The past lies just ahead at the Tennessee Valley Railroad, and it is all conveniently located at 4119 Cromwell Road in Chattanooga. From Interstate 75 take exit 4, Highway 153 North to the Jersey Pike exit and follow signs 1/3 mile to the Grand Junction Station.
Don’t miss Chattanooga’s “Trademark Attraction”!