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

A Cherished Moment: A Tribute to Bob Soule and the TVRM Legacy

I vividly recall that day in the spring of 2011 when the steam locomotive 630 made its first test run after a comprehensive restoration. Our Shop Foreman, George Walker, had coupled the vintage Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis wooden caboose behind the newly revitalized engine, offering us employees a unique ride that day. As I perched in the cupola, awaiting departure, I noticed a familiar green suburban pulling up the driveway.

Emanating from the suburban was Penelope, the daughter of the revered Bob Soule, with her camera ready to capture the 630’s maiden journey. Sitting calmly in the front passenger seat was Joyce Soule, Bob’s wife. As Penelope neared the cupola, I leaned out, saying, “Your dad would be proud.” Her smile in agreement was priceless.

I glanced back at Mrs. Soule, serenely taking in the sight. When I asked Penelope if her mother would like to come out and join us, she shared a profound memory. The 630 was the engine that Bob and Joyce had gone to see on their honeymoon. Her response humbled us into laughter, “She’s seen it.”

Even though I never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Soule personally, his reputation and passion for the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) and railroad preservation are legendary within our circles. That moment in the caboose reminded me of the shared passion that binds us all.

TVRM was the brainchild of a group of railroad enthusiasts, which included Bob and Joyce Soule, Paul Merriman, the Museum’s first president, and other like-minded individuals. Together, they founded TVRM in 1961 with a unified vision of preserving a significant but swiftly disappearing part of America’s history.

The fruits of their labour are evident throughout the museum today. The coaches, diesel and steam engines, depots, workshops, and the railroad itself, all stand as testaments to the relentless passion and hard work invested by these individuals. As we carry their torch forward, their dedication continues to inspire and guide us in our preservation efforts.