Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Tennessee Valley Railroad News


A Family Ride on Coach 390: Honoring Papa Lee

When History Comes Full Circle: Honoring the Legacy of William James ‘Papa Lee’ Lee

At the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, we cherish moments when history comes alive in the most personal ways. Recently, we had the honor of hosting Nicholas, Liz, and Nolan—descendants of William James ‘Papa Lee’ Lee, a revered engineer of the famous Nancy Hanks. This visit was particularly poignant as Nicholas and his family rode on coach 390, a car that was once part of the train his grandfather piloted.

The Legacy of The Nancy Hanks

The Nancy Hanks was more than just a train; it was an icon of Southern rail travel, named after the racehorse of the same name. Operating between Atlanta, Georgia, and Savannah, the train was a symbol of speed and reliability. William James ‘Papa Lee’ Lee played a crucial role in maintaining this reputation, guiding the train with skill and dedication. His legacy is a testament to the era of steam and the pivotal role railroads played in the growth and development of the American South.

A Special Ride on Coach 390

Riding on coach 390 was a touching moment for Nicholas and his family. This coach, once part of the Nancy Hanks, served countless passengers under the watchful eye of ‘Papa Lee’. Today, it stands as a moving tribute to those who worked tirelessly to keep the wheels turning. For Nicholas, Liz, and Nolan, the ride was not just a journey through Chattanooga but a passage through their own family history.

Connecting Generations through Railways

The visit of Nicholas and his family highlights the unique way railroads connect generations. As they traveled in coach 390, they not only followed in the footsteps of their grandfather but also embraced a broader narrative of technological progress and personal dedication. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum plays a vital role in preserving these connections, offering experiences that bring the past to life for visitors of all ages.

Reader Questions:

  1. What made The Nancy Hanks a significant train in Southern rail history?
    • The Nancy Hanks was renowned for its speed and efficiency, connecting major cities in Georgia and enhancing travel and commerce in the region. Its name and reputation became synonymous with reliable and rapid service during its operation.
  2. Why is coach 390 important in the context of The Nancy Hanks?
    • Coach 390 is a tangible link to the legacy of The Nancy Hanks and its crew. It provides a physical connection to the train’s storied past and the people who made it legendary, such as William James ‘Papa Lee’ Lee.
  3. How does the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum preserve and honor these historical connections?
    • The museum preserves historic railroad equipment, like those from The Nancy Hanks, and hosts events that allow descendants and enthusiasts to experience their legacy firsthand. It serves as a living history museum, educating the public about the importance of railroads in American history.

References for Further Information:

Support the Legacy of Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum: Your donation today can make a world of difference in preserving the rich heritage and continued success of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM). Donate now and be a part of our journey as we steam ahead into a promising future.