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.
Since the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's beginning, the vision has always been to be a museum that moves. With a broad range of pieces in our collection, we showcase just how important railroads were to our country.
A 2-8-0 Consolidation-type steam locomotive built in 1952 by the Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton Corporation for the U.S. Army. Although it is not currently in service at TVRM, it is a stark reminder of the end of an era as it is one of the last steam locomotives built in the country at a time when most railroads followed the Southern Railway's lead to modernize their fleet and move to more cost-effective diesel-electric locomotives. Engine 610 was built as a tool to help train the US Army since much of eastern Europe still used steam locomotives.
An E-8 model locomotive built by General Motors Corporation's Electro-Motive Division for use by the Southern Railway. This well- known streamlined locomotive was a signature of modern passenger trains of the time, spending much of its time on the Southern Crescent, between New Orleans and Washington, D.C. It features not just one, but two sixteen-cylinder diesel engines. Once returned to service at TVRM it will be one of the most powerful locomotive in TVRM's collection.