Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (reporting mark TVRM)[1] is a railroad museum and heritage railroad in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
Southern Railway 4501, one of six steam locomotives at the museum.
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is located in Tennessee
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
Location of TVRM within Tennessee
Established1960 (1960) / 1961 (1961)
Location4119 Cromwell Rd.
Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States
Coordinates35°04′00″N 85°12′23″W / 35.066667°N 85.206389°W / 35.066667; -85.206389
PresidentTim Andrews

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 who were concerned with saving steam locomotives and railway equipment for future historical display and use. Today the museum offers various tourist excursions based out of stations in Chattanooga and Etowah, Tennessee.


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 also 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 in East Chattanooga to the public. At the time of its opening, there were no structures on site, although 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 operating a heritage railroad by running passenger excursion trains through Whiteside Tunnel (commonly referred to as Missionary Ridge Tunnel).

Additional income was derived from mainline excursions operated biannually via the Southern Railway's Steam Program. The birth of the Southern Railway's Steam Program was brought about by Paul Merriman and TVRM, when, in 1964, Merriman purchased the former Southern Railway 4501 from the Kentucky & Tennessee Railway in Stearns, Kentucky for $5,000. The program began in 1966 when the freshly restored 4501 emerged from a 2 years long restoration which had been done at Lucey Boiler Company in Chattanooga. After many volunteer hours by TVRM members as well as paid Lucey Boiler employee work, the 4501 began roaming all over the Southern Railway System delighting onlookers and passengers everywhere.

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 then donated an additional mile and a half (2.4 km) of abandoned rail line. The next major task undertaken was to build the East Chattanooga Depot. This depot is a reconstruction of a typical small town depot of the 1920s. The 1980s saw TVRM named to the National Register of Historic Places on August 6, 1980, expansion of the organization, and more land donated by Southern Railway. During the 1980s, more track and buildings were gradually added. 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 down to Summerville, Georgia on the Chattooga and Chickamauga Railway.

In 2004, TVRM and the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association partnered up in acquiring part of the former L&N Hook and Eye line between Etowah, Tennessee (Gee Creek, Tennessee) and Copperhill, Tennessee. Since then, despite skipping the 2005 season, the new Hiwassee River Rail Adventures have been a popular addition to the railroad. With the success of the Hiwassee trips, TVRM split into two distinct operating divisions: the Chattanooga and Hiwassee Divisions, though crews and sometimes equipment often switch 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.[2]

Current operationsEdit

Today, TVRM continues to run trains, showing people what it was like in the golden age of railroading, and has 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), but since it is along the main CSX mainline 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, ending at lunchtime in the twin towns of Copperhill, Tennessee and McCaysville, Georgia, and then 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 also handles switching operations, under the wholly owned subsidiary Tyner Terminal Railway Company,[3] 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 workEdit

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, 2 passenger cars are undergoing restoration: the LINOMA, a former Chesapeake and Ohio, later Denver & Rio Grande Western round end dome-lounge-observation, being restored from long static condition. The other 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. 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 rosterEdit

(current Steam Locomotives)

*Southern Ms class 2-8-2 #4501: Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in October 1911. 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 - 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.

*Southern Ks-1 2-8-0 #630: Built by the American Locomotive Company in February 1904. 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.[4]

*Kentucky & Tennessee Railway 2-8-2 #10: Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in May 1920. 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 awaiting restoration at the East Chattanooga shops.

*Central of Georgia 4-4-0 #349: 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.[5]

*U.S. Army #610: Built by Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton in 1952 and 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.

*Canadian National 4-6-2 #5288: Built by Montreal Locomotive Works in 1919. Retired in 1961 and sold to F. Nelson Blount. Arrived at TVRM in 1999. Currently on static display.

(previous Steam Locomotives)

*Gainesville Midland 2-10-0 #203: 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.[6] 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.

*Southern Wood Company 0-4-0ST #3 (now on display at the Age of Steam Roundhouse, Sugarcreek, Ohio). 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.

*Louisiana & Arkansas 4-6-0 #509: 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.

*U.S. Army S160 2-8-0 #611: 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.

*Brimstone Railroad 3-truck-shays #35 and 36: (#35 sent to a heritage railway in Australia (2014), #36 is at the Cass Scenic Railroad). Built by Lima Locomotive Works in 1910 (#35) and 1916 (#36)

*Medford Power Company 0-6-0T 'Flying Duchess': (number unknown) 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.

*Southern Ks-1 2-8-0 #722: 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.

(Diesel Locomotives)

(On lease)

TVRM in the moviesEdit

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:[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Railinc, Search MARKs, accessed September 2009
  2. ^ "'21st Century Steam' Launches Labor Day Weekend". PR Newswire. August 19, 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  3. ^ Smoke & Cinders, Quarterly Publication of TVRM, Vol. 52, No. 2, 2nd Qtr, 2013, Page 1 (ISSN 1083-1606)
  4. ^ "News & Updates". Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Archived from the original on May 26, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  5. ^ "Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum loans historic locomotive to Children's Hospital". The Cleveland Daily Banner. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  6. ^ https://www.facebook.com/groups/1166077943472361/permalink/2918013034945501/
  7. ^ a b "In the Movies". Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  8. ^ Fool's Parade on IMDb
  9. ^ Eleanor & Franklin on IMDb
  10. ^ Last Days of Frank and Jesse James on IMDb
  11. ^ Fled on IMDb
  12. ^ Mama Flora's Family on IMDb
  13. ^ October Sky on IMDb
  14. ^ The Adventures of Ociee Nash on IMDb
  15. ^ Warm Springs on IMDb
  16. ^ Heaven's Fall on IMDb
  17. ^ Leatherheads on IMDb
  18. ^ Water for Elephants on IMDb

External linksEdit