Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, one of the sacred places of American railway preservation, recently celebrated its 60th anniversary with special operations of legendary Southern Railway steam locomotives Nos. 4501 and 630 and night photo sessions.
Sol S. Tucker photographed the activities for Trains the weekend of Oct. 23 and 24. Nos. 4501 and 630 pulled Missionary Ridge local trains. Night photos featured Tennessee Alabama & Georgia GP38 No. 80, Southern GP30 No. 2594, Southern GP38-2 No. 5000, and Southern E8 No. 6914.
The organization began with two friends in Chattanooga.
Paul Merriman and Robert Soule spent their free time in the early 1960s chasing after the last of steam short lines of the South. They acquired locomotives and shared their plans with like-minded friends, leading to the formation of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in 1961. The museum gained a solid foothold a few years later when Southern 2-8-2 No. 4501 headed mainline excursions on Southern Railway, and has grown to become one of the finest operating museums in the country. No. 4501 and Southern Railway 2-8-0 No. 630 steam on a 3-mile ride over former Southern Railway trackage.
Tennessee Valley also debuted its new exhibit building near the Grand Junction depot with a history of the museum. This building, along with rolling stock displays at Grand Junction, will keep the museum open for visitors even on days when the trains are not running.
Museum President Tim Andrews say the events “are the start of 12 months of celebrations at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, with special events each month until a grand culmination in September 2022.” Future plans include getting much of the collection under roofs, he said. “We can’t wait to see what the next 60 years bring!”
For additional information and schedules, visit the museum website. — Sol S. Tucker, Kevin Gilliam, and Jim Wrinn