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About Us

Our Mission

The mission of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) is to collect for preservation, operation, interpretation, and display railroad artifacts in an authentic setting to educate the public concerning the role of railroads in the history and development of our region.

About the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

Chattanooga welcomed its first rail line with the arrival of the Western and Atlantic Railroad in 1850. A few years later, in 1858, the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad also arrived in Chattanooga. The city quickly became a railroad hub with industries springing up in the area to take advantage of the new transportation corridors.

During the Civil War, confederate and union leaders recognized Chattanooga’s strategic advantage because of its railroads, and in subsequent decades, the city’s railroad reputation gave rise to the iconic song “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

By the late 1950s, railroads were waning as interstates and airlines made travel faster and more personal.  With automobiles, Americans could choose their own schedule and stop as little or much as they wished. Passenger operations all but ended in the 1960s, and freight operations suffered as big trucks hauled much of the freight across the country.

During this period, railroad museums formed to save some of the histories of this most iconic mode of American transportation.

In Chattanooga, as steam made its last appearances on the country’s major railroads, a few railroad fans began buying steam engines and passenger cars that the railroads would otherwise have scrapped.  This small collection was the beginning of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, which was founded in 1961 by a small group of local residents who were intent on trying to save some American history by preserving, restoring, and operating authentic railway equipment from the “Golden Age of Railroading.”

Railroads like the Southern Railway also made generous donations of obsolete rail cars to museums like TVRM, expanding their collections and the story the museum could tell. In addition, Southern Railway donated the original East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia roadbed (absorbed into the Southern Railway System in 1894) on which TVRM could operate.

TVRM’s passenger trains run on the historic route, which includes Missionary Ridge Tunnel, completed in 1858 and on the National Register of Historic Places.  The tunnel is the primary reason TVRM runs on the 3-mile section of the former Southern Railway. As railroad equipment grew too large to pass through and the single-track tunnel became a traffic jam for an otherwise double-track railroad, Southern Railway abandoned the 3-mile portion of the line and built a new section around the end of Missionary Ridge, avoiding the tunnel altogether.

Today, TVRM preserves railroad equipment not only to preserve machines but to preserve an experience as well. In providing this historical experience, TVRM hopes to educate our visitors about the importance of this industry and how it helped create the modern world in which we live.

Discover Tennessee's Fall Colors on a Train Adventure!
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is a great place to visit if you're in the Chattanooga area. They have a number of different locomotives and rail cars on display, as well as a working turntable. My favorite part of the museum is the Missionary Ridge Local Southern 630 crossing over one of our four bridges.
Chug into Halloween Festivities with the Eerie Express Vintage Journey!

A JOURNEY THROUGH THE TENNESSEE VALLEY RAILROAD MUSEUM'S HISTORY

Locomotive Restoration Updates

Reviving History: Locomotive Restorations at TVRM

Follow our dedicated team as they breathe new life into historic locomotives, ensuring their stories are preserved for future generations.

Upcoming Events at TVRM

TVRM Events: Seasonal Rides & Celebrations Ahead

Stay updated with our exciting calendar of events – from seasonal train rides to special celebrations, there’s always something happening at TVRM.

Railroad History and Heritage

Tracing Railroads: From Origins to Modern Impact

Dive into the rich history of the railroad industry and the essential role it played in shaping our nation, from early development to modern times.

Historic Preservation

TVRM: Reviving Railroad Legacy for Future Generations

Explore living history at TVRM: restored locomotives and railcars narrate the story of rail’s impact, keeping the past alive for future generations.

Featured Exhibits

Discover TVRM's Exhibits: A Journey Through Rail History

Explore the fascinating exhibits at TVRM, each one offering unique insights into different aspects of railway technology, history, and culture.

Behind-the-Scenes at TVRM

Inside TVRM: Unveiling Railroading's Hidden World

Explore railroading at TVRM with exclusive behind-the-scenes content. Discover updates, staff insights, and the preservation of railway history.

LATEST NEWS & UPDATES

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

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June 9, 2024

NS Days June 8: Engines 4501 and 630 Featured on the Missionary Ridge Local

Steam Engines 4501 and 630 Enjoyed by Norfolk Southern Guests At the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, history came to life with the presence of Steam Engines 4501 and 630, offering a double dose of steam-powered excitement. June 8, we hosted special guests from Norfolk Southern and their families, both locomotives worked hard on the Missionary…

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June 9, 2024

Preserving the Legacy of 100-Year-Old Steam Engines

Preserving the Legacy of 100-Year-Old Steam Engines At the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM), our mission to preserve and celebrate the rich history of railroading is exemplified by our two iconic steam engines, each over 100 years old. These engineering marvels, dating back to the early 1900s, are more than just machines; they are living…

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June 2, 2024