Chattooga & Chickamauga Railway's passenger train service set to make return

Chattooga & Chickamauga Railway's passenger train service set to make return

September 12th, 2011 By Jimmy Espy in News

Three-year-old Gavin McDaniel looks out the window of the train Saturday at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Chattooga and Chickamauga Railway

Dowdy Park Events


• Oct. 8: Pets in the Parks

• Oct. 15: Sequoya Arts, Crafts and Antiques Show

• Oct. 22: Steamin' Hot Stew and Chili Cook Off

• Oct. 29: Down Home Day

• Nov. 5: Rattling Gourd Arts Festival

Passenger train service on the Chattooga & Chickamauga Railway will make its return to Summerville, Ga., on Oct. 8, just in time to boost the town's business tourism season.

The railway was badly damaged in September 2009 by heavy flooding. The line quickly was fixed to allow freight to be shipped as far south as Mount Vernon Mills in Trion, Ga., but passenger service, which requires a higher standard of track, was not approved then.

Officials said, however, that work should be completed soon.

Among the repairs was the placement of more than 17,000 new cross ties between Chattanooga and Lyerly, Ga., seven miles southwest of Summerville.

Completion of the project is particularly good news for Summerville, which has gone two years without the extra tourism generated by the steam-powered train excursions from Chattanooga.

The steam train is operated by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga. Train excursions now are planned for every Saturday from Oct. 8 to Nov. 5, in conjunction with a series of weekend events held at Dowdy Park. The train is set to arrive at 12:45 p.m. each Saturday.

The railway's large turntable is next to Dowdy Park, and many of the train's passengers are expected to take the 90 minutes or so of turnaround time to explore events at the park or eat at local restaurants.

"I'm very excited to have the train coming back," said Sylvia-Lee Keziah, Better Hometown program manager for Chattooga County and the city of Summerville.

"People love to see them. I know for a fact there are people who will come in to Summerville from all over the area just to see the train arrive and see it turned on the turntable," she said.

For many visitors it will be their first time in Chattooga County.

In fact, for some it will be their first time in Georgia, according to Chattooga County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director David Tidmore.

"I know there is a tour group from Ohio that will be in Chattanooga, and they have booked about 50 tickets to ride the train on Oct. 22," he said. "They've already contacted us about restaurants which will be open when they're here."

Tidmore acknowledged the immediate effect visitors can have on the local economy, but said he also hopes for a more long-term impact.

"Hopefully it will be like the kids who went to camp up on the mountain and then came back years later and bought a summer house up there," he said. "Maybe some of these people will fall in love with what they see and come back."

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Jimmy Espy is based in Dalton. Contact him at hoodcsa@aol.com.