For more information about the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, including train departure times and a monthly calendar, go to www.tvrail.com
A shiny black steam engine spat black puffs of smoke into the air as Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum officials celebrated its 50th anniversary.
"It's not often you get opportunity to celebrate 50 years," said Bob Doak, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Doak was among more than a dozen visitors gathered at the museum Wednesday for the 50th anniversary of the largest operating historic railroad in the Southeast.
The museum grew from a seasonal hobby club that started in 1961 to a multimillion dollar enterprise that operates year-round, said museum President Tim Andrews.
Everyone wants to ride a train, said Jim Bambrey, general manager of the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, who attended the event.
"People come to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and they want to know where is the train," Bambrey said. "We have trains, but they don't move, so we do our best to get them out here to TVRM."
Elizabeth Byerley, of Chattanooga, said her 4-year-old son Jackson loves trains so much that they bought a year-round pass to the railroad museum so he could ride whenever he wanted.
And 6-year-old Chelsea Meyer and her family visited the museum for the first time Wednesday during the celebration. The family came to Chattanooga from Macon, Ga., for a vacation.
"It's fun to imagine what it used to be like when people used to get on trains to get places," said Chelsea's mother, Sherry Meyer.
After Meyer finished speaking, the gold bell on the black steam engine rang, the whistle blew and the small smoke puffs increased to a constant stream as the conductor boarded the train and circled around the building to load passengers.
The Southern Railway 630 locomotive, built in 1903, is the latest addition to the railroad's operating fleet. After coming to the railroad in 1974, it was used in excursions until 1989 when it had to be taken out of service. Eleven years, a lot of work by the museum's maintenance facility on Chamberlain Avenue and $600,000 later, the engine is operating again, said Andrews.
"A fine example of what our hard-working folks at our East Chattanooga shop do every day," he said. "They bring history to life for us to enjoy."
Contact Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.