Steam train adventure aboard Tennessee Valley Railroad with 28 year-old Engineer at the throttle

Jul 20, 2016

Classic steam engine #630 makes another run on the historic Tennessee Valley Railroad line in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Credit Thomas Wilmer

  The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) in Chattanooga, Tennessee offers daily excursions along an historic route that first opened to rail traffic back in 1858.

It was the railroad’s strategic importance that led to the Civil War Battle of Chickamauga that was fought here back in the fall of 1863. 

With the demise of steam engines in the mid 1950s, and the rerouting of Southern Railways tracks that circumvented the old circa-1858 Missionary Ridge tunnel, a group of railroad buffs stepped in to save a unique piece of Tennessee history.

They formed the TVRM in 1961 to preserve, restore and operate historic railroad equipment along the abandoned short line. By 1971 the non-profit group was offering regularly scheduled train trips pulled by ancient steam powered locomotives, and the mission continues today

Join correspondent, Tom Wilmer reporting from TVRM’s Grand Junction Station where we caught up with Tim Andrews, who’s President of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

And then it was time to climb aboard the “Missionary Ridge Special” for a short, but extraordinarily memorable trip back in time in the cab of the classic old Southern Railways’ engine number 630, with 28 year-old engineer, Zach Gilmore at the throttle.

Sitting atop the coal car right behind Zach, it was like being in the innards of a mechanical dragon, especially palpable when the fireman opened the flu and stoked the coals as flames licked at the open door and the articulating metal panels creaked and groaned as the engine literally hissed and huffed and puffed.  

28 year-old engineer, Zach Gilmore at the throttle in the cab of old Tennessee Valley Railroad steam engine
Credit Thomas Wilmer

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