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Trip Report

Southern Bills: Our Georgia & Tennessee Trip

June 24-29, 2004
Section 3 of 4

Photos by Alan Burden and Kevin Korell

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Chapter 4.2.1: Chattanooga Choo Choo Model Railroad Museum

As part of Bill's ongoing history lesson, he took us inside the Chattanooga Choo Choo Model Railroad Museum. While it has a large working model railroad, most importantly for our purposes it is also a scale model of the old Chattanooga, from when the Choo Choo was one of two live railroad stations with trains serving points throughout the Southeast and the nation. It gave us a good perspective of the city and its railroad past.

Model Railroad Musem depicts better days in Chattanooga.

The Choo Choo also has a New Orleans Streetcar ride through the complex, complete with a catenary wire. We decided we would ride this at 4 PM, after our return from the tourist train trip.

Now it was time to go wait for our tourist train. We were told that we should wait in Building One of the Holiday Inn complex for our train, operated by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

Chapter 4.3: Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM)

Chattanooga's Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) is one of the city's major tourist attractions. They have two sites in the city. Their main location, where equipment in their collection is displayed and from where most of their tourist trains depart, is Grand Junction. They also have a secondary site at East Chattanooga, where their shops and storage tracks are.

Our plans called for us to take the once-a-day weekend-only round trip that is offered from the Chattanooga Choo Choo, so that we would not have to drive north of the city to take the one of the more frequent tourist runs from Grand Junction.

Chapter 4.3.1: TVRM Excursion: DOWNTOWN ARROW, Chattanooga Choo Choo to Grand Junction Station

TVRM excursion train Downtown Arrow at the Choo Choo stop.

The DOWNTOWN ARROW is the TVRM's weekend-only longer-distance diesel train that runs beyond the TVRM's properties at Grand Junction and East Chattanooga and serves a stop at the Chattanooga Choo Choo attraction. While it makes two round trips out of Grand Junction, one round trip is possible by boarding the return run of the first trip and going back to the Choo Choo on the outbound run of the second trip. The tourist train adds a nice touch to the rail-oriented theme of the Choo Choo.

We waited in the lobby of one of the Holiday Inn buildings until the train was about due to arrive. It came into the complex in reverse, having been wyed before it arrived. As we boarded we were given a voucher that allowed us to ride one way without a ticket. We would purchase our round-trip ticket upon arrival at Grand Junction.

We departed the Choo Choo on time, and proceeded out to a CSX mainline track. We had to cross over all of the mainline tracks, and then took what appeared to be a siding track. This track that at first looked like a siding was instead a mainline track. We moved slowly on this track by many unsignalized intersections, as well as a few with signals. Additionally, we went through some residential and industrial areas. After a while, we passed the TVRM's East Chattanooga facility, and then ascended up a hill onto their track, which is used for the more frequent MISSIONARY RIDGE LOCAL steam trains. We continued towards Grand Junction, passing through a short tunnel on the way.

We got some unexpected good news before we got to Grand Junction. Our crew told us that we would be able to ride the steam train, the MISSIONARY RIDGE LOCAL, back from Grand Junction to East Chattanooga, and then the DOWNTOWN ARROW would pick us up there and take us back to the Choo Choo. From the literature and website we were not aware of this privilege, so we were all happy we would be able to ride behind steam.

When we arrived at Grand Junction, the steam-hauled MISSIONARY RIDGE LOCAL was in the station, facing towards us, preparing for its next trip. We went onto a wye track in the parking area, and then the steam train rolled out of the station. Our train completed its wye and then arrived at the station where the steam train had just been a few minutes before. As we detrained, passengers were told what time to be ready to depart on either train.

Chapter 4.3.2: Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum Exhibits

Our first activity at the museum's main site was to purchase our round trip tickets. Once that was done, we had our lunch. The Depot Deli is located within the main station building.

After lunch, and in a steady rain, we toured the equipment display. We saw an NC&StL lightweight streamlined pullman called "Chickamauga Pine", which is Bill's favorite since it had been on one of the trains he rode as a child. We also saw a rebuilt observation car with the same livery. There was also an ACL stainless steel diner "Greenville", an office car, some mail cars, two Columbus & Greenville cars, and some other passenger cars that were rebuilt and repainted with Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum on the side. We were very surprised to see two RDC's, one with purple MBTA livery on the side.

TVRM collection comes from all over, including Boston & Long Island. Missionary Ridge Local arrives at Grand Junction station.

While we were there, the MISSIONARY RIDGE LOCAL returned to Grand Junction, and then the process we had witnessed earlier was reversed. The steam train entered the wye, and the diesel DOWNTOWN ARROW then departed (albeit a bit early! Most, if not all, passengers most likely opted for the steam train -- who wouldn't?). Once the ARROW was gone, the steam train took its place at the station. When passengers were allowed to board, the train had no problems accommodating what amounted to two trainloads: the LOCAL's regular passengers plus those who were taking the ARROW but wanted the short ride behind steam.

Chapter 4.3.3: TVRM Excursion: MISSIONARY RIDGE LOCAL, Grand Junction Station to East Chattanooga

We enjoyed this unexpected pleasure of riding behind steam. For six miles we retraced our previous trip while hearing our locomotive's whistle. The MISSIONARY RIDGE LOCAL then arrived at the TVRM's East Chattanooga site, where they store and maintain their equipment. For those taking just the round trip on this train out of Grand Junction, they were welcome to not only view the their locomotive being turned on a turntable, but also to walk around and see the railroad's shops.

Chapter 4.3.4: TVRM at East Chattanooga

We got off the train in the heavy rain at the East Chattanooga site, where we were treated to the turntable display. The steam engine that had hauled the MISSIONARY RIDGE LOCAL from Grand Junction was quickly uncoupled from the train, and driven onto the turntable. It was then turned 180 degrees on the turntable, and then driven off. It pulled onto a siding, the same one on which the DOWNTOWN ARROW was sitting.

More of TVRM's collection at East Chattanooga facility. Turntable demonstration as steam engine 610 is turned. Turn of steam engine is complete.

Then, those who had been on the DOWNTOWN ARROW were told to board that train, and we did so behind the last car of the steam train. Once the ARROW departed, the steam engine would be run to the opposite end of the train it had just hauled from Grand Junction, in order to pull it back there.

Chapter 4.3.5: TVRM Excursion: DOWNTOWN ARROW, East Chattanooga to Chattanooga Choo Choo

New Orleans-style streetcar runs hourly excursions.

The DOWNTOWN ARROW backed out of the East Chattanooga complex and then proceeded forward onto the connecting track that we had previously traversed on our earlier trip. We then returned slowly back towards the Choo Choo. This time, our train had to wye on the mainline tracks in order to back into the Choo Choo. We lost a little bit of time here waiting from clearance from CSX to make this maneuver. Once we did so, we backed into the Choo Choo complex, and came to a stop adjacent to the Holiday Inn, from where we had departed three hours earlier. We detrained here, while many passengers who had originated at Grand Junction remained on board for the train's final trip of the day to the museum grounds.

It was still raining when we got off at the Choo Choo. To our dismay, we found that the streetcar was not running, although nobody was there to explain that fact to us or give us a reason why.

We had originally planned to spend the rest of our afternoon in Chattanooga touring the city on foot. Because of the weather, Bill suggested we instead take the free Electric Shuttle bus, from which we would be able to see all of the downtown sites while remaining dry.

Chapter 4.4: Electric Shuttle tour of Chattanooga

In addition to the Incline and its regular revenue bus runs, CARTA runs the Electric Shuttle around the city, stopping at major tourist points and hotels.

We boarded at the Shuttle's southern terminal, next to the Chattanooga Choo Choo. We got to see everything this compact downtown had to offer. When the Shuttle reached its northern terminal near the Aquarium, we remained on board for the return trip to the Choo Choo.

After our bus ride, we returned to Bill's car and set out to find dinner. On the way, Bill showed us a typical dam built by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Near the dam was a picturesque Norfolk Southern railroad bridge that has been well-documented by published photos taken by railfans.

Chapter 4.5: Dinner at Golden Corral

After driving about ten minutes, we came upon a Golden Corral restaurant. Like Krystal, this chain is prevalent in the south. It's a place we've always hit at least once on our annual Florida trips. They offer a delicious buffet that caters to all tastes. It was a fitting last meal in Chattanooga, and we left there very satisfied.

Chapter 4.6: Another exciting day concludes

After we left the Golden Corral, we headed back to our Hampton Inn. We went our separate ways and agreed to meet the next morning in the lobby to check out and then move on to our next focal point, Blue Ridge, GA.

Chapter 5: Monday, June 28, 2004

This day would feature two road trips, a ride on our last tourist railroad, another dinner in Atlanta, and our saying "Ciao" to Chattanooga, "Bye" to Bill Haithcoat, our host, and "Au Revoir" to the Oldsmobile.

Chapter 5.1: Road Trip #2: Chattanooga, TN to Blue Ridge, GA

Perhaps one of this adventure's biggest unknowns was our drive from Chattanooga to Blue Ridge. We knew that there is no direct road from one to the other, so we would have to take a route either predominantly through southeastern Tennessee, or a more southerly route through northwestern Georgia. Bill Purdy had recommended the northerly route, which involved driving north out of Chattanooga on I-75 to a point near Cleveland, TN, and then east on U.S. 64 for the bulk of our trip, before heading south into Georgia and approaching Blue Ridge parallel to the railroad we were coming there to ride.

The big unknown was the time. Our excursion would be leaving Blue Ridge at 11:00 AM, but we knew we should be there sooner to get our tickets and board before then. We did not know whether we would encounter any bad weather, slow vehicles, or other obstacles that would make us miss our train. We agreed to get going a little before 8:00 AM, giving us roughly 2-1/2 hours to get there.

We met in the hotel lobby to check out and have our small continental breakfast. Then we all piled into the Olds (with Alan behind the wheel) for our trip through the mountains. Our departure time was 7:50 AM, so we got out as early as we had planned.

The trip went well. Together we found our way there, as Bill Purdy's directions were excellent. We ended up coming into town at about 10 AM, having made the trip in a little over two hours. We stopped at a McDonald's in Blue Ridge for a rest room stop. Alan and Bill also got a quick bite to eat. Then we headed into downtown Blue Ridge, and had no trouble finding the depot and a place to park near it.

Chapter 5.2: Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

The crew of the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is made up of volunteers, all of whom obviously enjoy what they do. The crew members take turns in various roles. Bill Purdy had arranged to be the Conductor for this day's journey, knowing we were coming. We chatted with him on the ground before the crew began to board passengers.

Georgia National RR engine #7562 was power on southbound return trip. Bangor & Aroostook RR cars run on the Blue Ridge Scenic Blue Ridge Scenic's own passenger coach
Continued in next section

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