Southern Bills: Our Georgia & Tennessee Trip
June 24-29, 2004
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.
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
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.