For the real train enthusiast, there are few things as thrilling as seeing an old locomotive blow steam.
At least that seemed to be true Friday when recently restored Southern Railway No. 630 departed for its first long trip through Chattanooga.
Dozens of people, cameras in hand, raced in their cars along nearby roads, trying to catch the perfect shot in the sun.
Seeing the heaps of black coal, the billowing gray smoke and rows of gleaming railroad tracks, Robert Duncan could barely hold in his excitement.
"I grew up chasing steam locomotives. I love it," said Duncan, who works for the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and was along for the ride. "My wife says it perfectly: I'm the little kid that never grew up."
Norfolk Southern arranged the ride for local business leaders, customers and public officials in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. It will be the first in a series of rides in cities that Norfolk Southern serves, with the aim of bolstering awareness of the railroads' role in the economy and rich history.
Top Norfolk Southern executives were on hand to hobnob with officials from Volkswagen, U.S. Xpress, Kimberly-Clark and Smoky Mountain Coal.
And Wick Moorman, Norfolk Southern's chief executive officer, said he wanted to talk about the railroad's relevance, especially with the growth of intermodal business.
Trains are considered a more cost-effective and energy-efficient mode of moving freight across the country than trucks, and for several years companies like Norfolk Southern have been shaving business from trucking companies.
Some trucking companies, in turn, work with the railroads and have shifted their focus to short-haul freight from the rail yards to businesses.
Last year, Moorman said Norfolk Southern's intermodal business increased 19 percent and is set to jump again this year by double digits.
"We are moving freight off the highways," said Moorman. "Public officials love these concepts."