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The Art of Preservation: Restoring TAG #80 to Original Glory

At the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, history isn’t just stored — it’s revived. One of our latest endeavors, the restoration of TAG 80, is a testament to that mission. This isn’t just any locomotive; it’s the first production GP38 ever made by EMD. Understanding the historical significance of #80, as the sole surviving locomotive of the Tennessee, Alabama, & Georgia Railway (TAG), we embarked on a meticulous restoration to its original livery.

The TAG #80 was born in the workshops of General Motors Electro-Motive Division in 1968, emerging as a powerhouse with 2,000 horsepower under its hood. It was a crowning achievement for TAG, proudly named “The John A. Chambliss” in tribute to the company’s esteemed vice president on his 80th birthday.

Its journey through rail history saw it transition from the TAG to the Southern Railway as #2879, and later into the hands of Norfolk Southern as #2879. The locomotive’s odyssey didn’t end there; in 2001, it was auctioned and acquired by the Chambliss Family, who generously donated it to TVRM.

Between 2015 and 2016, TAG #80 underwent an extensive restoration that not only addressed mechanical and electrical needs but also restored its cosmetic appearance. March 2017 marked its triumphant return to service, proudly displaying its original number and paint scheme.

Content and photos by Ryan Miller (@backshopboss on Instagram)