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The First 55 Years

Celebrating the first 55 years of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga, highlighting its dedication to preserving and sharing railway history.

I remember the day that steam locomotive 630 rolled out of the shop for test runs in the spring of 2011. Shop Foreman George Walker had the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis wooden caboose hooked up behind 630 so that employees could go for a ride behind the newly-restored steam engine. I was sitting in the cupola waiting to depart when a green suburban rolled up the driveway. I had been around long enough to know that vehicle, and I had seen pictures many times of Bob Soule sitting in it. Penelope, Soule’s daughter, stepped out from behind the wheel, her camera in hand. Her mother, Joyce Soule, waited calmly in the front passenger seat while Penelope took pictures of the 630 under steam.

As Penelope came near the cupola I leaned out to speak to her. ” Your dad would be proud,” I said as I grinned. She smiled back and agreed. I looked again at Mrs. Soule sitting quietly in the front seat. “Doesn’t your mom want to get out and see this?” Penelope looked up at me and smiled again. “This is the engine they went to see on their honeymoon. She’s seen it.” We both laughed, yet again.

I never met Mr. Soule, but I know him by reputation, and more so by his passion for TVRM and railroad preservation. That moment sitting in the caboose made me keenly aware of that passion, one so many of us share.

The group of rail enthusiasts that came together in 1961 to form the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum included Bob and Joyce Soule, along with Paul Merriman, the Museum’s first president, and other like-minded people wanting to preserve an important but quickly-disappearing part of America’s past. TVRM’s preservation accomplishments are apparent as one visits the museum today. The coaches, diesels, steam engines, depots, shops and the railroad itself are all the result of years of passion and hard work.

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