The Tennessee Railroad Valley in Chattanooga is a moving museum that offers an interactive experience where guests can experience full sized, historical train rides on vintage trains aboard the Tennessee Valley Railroad. The first rail lines to arrive in Chattanooga were the Western and Atlantic Railroads in the 1850’s. These lines were joined in 1858 by the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroads quickly making Chattanooga a railway hub and corridor for transportation and industry.
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Passengers train operations mostly ended halfway through the 20th century and freight hauling was replaced by trucks traveling over highways prompting the formation of railroad museums to preserve the history of the railways that were falling into disrepair from discontinued use.
In 1961, The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum was founded by local residents who had begun purchasing the steam engines in Chattanooga that would otherwise be scrapped. The organization began the process of restoring and returning the authentic railway equipment to operating standards. Many railways such as the Southern Railway made donations of equipment and rail cars, including ordinal roadbeds that the TVRM could use to operate their working steam engines on.
Today, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum’s passenger trains run on the Missionary Ridge Tunnel Route which was completed in 1858 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a three-mile section of the Southern Railway that is no longer in operation to the public. This museum is not a brick and mortar location, rather it is a moving museum comprised of steam engines, offering rides and experiences rather than exhibits.
There are two stations from which passengers can board the historic steam engines.
Grand Junction Station is in Chattanooga. Most of the train rides board from this station.
L & N Depot, is in Etowah, Tennessee and operates the Hiwassee River Rail Adventure and other special events that go through the Cherokee National Forest. This depot is hosted by the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association. The trains operating out of this station are diesel operated, with most being built in the mid-20th century.
All trains operate regardless of weather conditions, unless those conditions are severe. Train cards and coaches are covered and are heated and cooled. Because the trained operated by TRVM are historic, there are not ADA accessible and are exempt from the Americans with disability act.
Rail Baron’s Bash- This annual fundraising event includes live jazz music, hors d’oeuvres and behind the scenes tours and exhibits at the Grand Junction Depot and Office Car 98.
Missionary Ridge Local- This train operates daily in season, crosses four bridges and passes through missionary ridge tunnel before touring the railroad restoration shop.
Railfest Chattanooga- This festival is held annually in September and features live music, trains on display, petting zoos and lots of family activities.
Hiwassee Loop- A long ride of 50 miles through the Cherokee Forest and Hiwassee River gorge, this 3.5-hour trip goes up the mountain.
Copperhill Special- 94 miles round trip, this is the perfect day trip from Tennessee to Georgia and includes a stop for lunch.
Chickamauga Turn- This half day trip includes historic sites of the Civil War era and food options available on board.
Summerville Steam Special- An all-day trip that takes passengers into Georgia to visit the National Military Park and several historic cities in Tennessee.
North Pole Limited- The most popular annual event, this family tradition sees steam engines decked out in Christmas lights and the railway turned into a Winter wonderland.
Santa’s Hiwassee Holiday Train- Santa boards the trains on the Hiwassee loop with refreshments, Storytime and carols.
Summerville Santa Special- Santa heads to Summerville with passengers on this one-hour trip with refreshments, carols, and Christmas stories.
Christmas Special Dinner Train- A four course Christmas dinner is served in a 1924 dining car that travels through Chattanooga.
Valentine Dinner Train- Enjoy a romantic four course dinner as passengers travel through Chattanooga in the 1924 dining car.
New Year’s Eve Dinner Train- A three course meal is served on the 1924 restored dining car with excursions through east Chattanooga. Private or groups meals can be accommodated.
Halloween Eerie Express Train Ride- A train ride over the bridges, through the tunnel and an off-train fun house excursion are offered on this ride that featured autumn and Halloween fun for families. Children are encouraged to wear costumes.
Dinner on the Diner- Most Saturdays during seasonal months diners can eat aboard the restored dining cars while taking a short ride through east Chattanooga.
Hop Aboard the Bunny Train- Take a train ride to locations where passengers disembark to go on egg hunts, storytelling and other family activities for Easter.
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum offers Railroad Summer Camps for children age 7-17. Most programs are designed for teenagers however and educate on the preservation and engineering of the railroad and locomotives. Details, dress codes, and registration information is available online.
4119 Cromwell Road, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Phone: 423-894-8028