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Doubleheading at TVRM

If there’s anything more exciting than a train powered by a steam locomotive, it’s a train powered by two steam locomotives. Some of our most popular excursions include TVRM’s Summerville Steam Specials, when Southern 630 and 4501 are on the point. While these trips provide a lot of sensory stimulation, a more sober-minded observer might ask: do TVRM’s doubleheaders accurately reflect regional history – the way Southern Railway deployed its locomotives back in the day – or does TVRM just want to sell more tickets? Yes to the second question; the answer to the first is a bit more nuanced. For the sake of our discussion, let’s look at the Southern from, say, the 1930s until dieselization in the early-1950s between Knoxville and Chattanooga, when all trains to/from the east operated over what is now TVRM’s main line.

Southern Railway, similar to other railroads in the South, operated its trains with one steam locomotive and 40 to 60 freight cars, or a dozen or so passenger cars. The length of trains was limited by the steepness of grades, the power of the standard locomotives, the length of passing sidings, the amount of time a train needed to complete its assignment (i.e., its schedule), or all of the above.

Experience the thrill of a bygone era as we delve into the intricacies of Tennessee’s rail history. This blog post explores doubleheading practices at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM), detailing the fascinating interplay of different train engines and how freight, passenger, and mixed-use trains navigated the diverse landscape. From the powerful 5200-class “Santa Fe”-type 2-10-2’s hauling 50-car freight trains, to the distinct passenger trains powered by Ts- and Ts1class “Mountain” type 4-8-2’s, this article offers a unique look into the mechanics of train operation in the mid-20th century. You’ll learn about iconic trains such as the Tennessean streamliner and the Birmingham Special, while also getting a sense of how schedules and loads dictated the use of doubleheaded trains. Immerse yourself in this captivating journey through history and discover the nuances of railroading as you’ve never seen before.

S&C 3rd QTR 2018