Chattanooga's newest 'choo choo,' a 630 steam engine which took 11 years and $600,000 to restore, is now operating as part of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's 50th anniversary celebration.
"Getting to see a steam locomotive in operation is such an overwhelming and exciting experience," said Steve Freer, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum membership and marketing coordinator. "You've got all the sounds, the sights, the smells of a steam locomotive."
Freer said the 630, which was built in 1904 and was last operational in 1989, is better than ever.
"Once you see it, it just really makes an impression on you," he said. "It's almost contagious."
The museum's 50th anniversary celebration will be culminated Sept. 2-5 during a new event called Railfest.
It's an exciting time at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, Freer said. In addition to special excursions, the 55-minute Missionary Ridge local trip from Missionary Ridge to East Chattanooga continues to run five times a day, seven days a week.
"We have the opportunity on a daily basis to allow people to almost get inside a history book," Freer said. "It's not just a museum where you can look in glass cases. You're actually becoming involved and experiencing that way of traveling people have forgotten about or simply didn't know about in the first place."
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's core mission is to keep history alive every day through its trains, and Freer describes the newly restored 630 as a "beautiful piece of living history."
"It's a great way for grandparents, parents and children to bring their kids and grandkids together and remember what riding the train is really about," Robert Pettway, museum marketing consultant, said of the museum.
For more information about the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, excursion listings or to purchase tickets visit tvrail.com.