Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum Preserves Railway History and Offers Unique Experiences
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga has a rich history dating back to the arrival of the Western and Atlantic Railroad in 1850 and the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad in 1858. These rail lines turned Chattanooga into a hub for rail-based industries, and the city's strategic importance during the Civil War further solidified its reputation as a major railroad center. The iconic song "Chattanooga Choo Choo" was inspired by the city's railroad history. However, in the 1950s and 1960s, the rise of interstates and airlines led to a decline in the rail industry, and passenger operations all but ended. Despite these challenges, a group of local residents founded the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in 1961 with the goal of preserving, restoring, and operating authentic railway equipment from the "Golden Age of Railroading." The museum has since grown with the help of donations from the Southern Railway, including the original East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia roadbed on which the museum operates its passenger trains. These trains run on the historic route, including the Missionary Ridge Tunnel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum not only preserves railroad equipment, but also the experience of rail travel, in order to educate visitors about the industry's importance and its role in shaping the modern world.
What to expect at the Chattanooga Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
The Chattanooga Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum offers a wide range of exhibits and activities that cater to visitors of all ages. Here are some of the things you can expect to see and do at the museum.
Train Rides: The museum offers a variety of train rides, including a standard excursion, dinner trains, and special event trains.
- Missionary Ridge Local Trips - Join us for a 65-minute journey on the Missionary Ridge Local, beginning at our Grand Junction Station. This trip takes you over four bridges and through the pre-Civil War Missionary Ridge Tunnel, providing a tour guide with local history throughout the experience. After a 15-minute ride to East Chattanooga, you'll have a 25-minute layover before returning to Grand Junction. During the layover, you'll get to see a turntable demonstration and take a brief tour of our train restoration shop. This 6-mile roundtrip adventure is a great way to learn about the history of rail transportation and see some of the work that goes into preserving vintage trains. Don't miss out on this unique opportunity - come on ride the train! Tickets
- Evening Ridge Runner Trips - The "Evening Ridge Runner Trips" invites guests to embark on a unique train ride at sunset in Chattanooga, with the journey taking place on authentic passenger cars from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. The train is powered by a 112-year-old #4501 steam engine, known as the queen of steam. The trip features a passage through the pre-Civil War era Missionary Ridge tunnel and crosses several bridges. Upon reaching the East Chattanooga Depot, passengers can enjoy live music and a demonstration of the turntable. The entire experience lasts about an hour. Additionally, guests have the option to add a Charcuterie box or a Sweet Treats Dessert Box to their trip. Tickets
- Homefront Tea Room - Get ready for a unique and enjoyable experience with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's new Homefront Tea Room, A Tea in the Depot Experience. This event includes a full high tea in the upstairs viewing room of the Grand Junction Depot, as well as a ride on the Missionary Ridge Local. The tea seating will begin at 11:00 am, followed by a train ride at 12:30 pm, for a total time of 2 hours and 30 minutes. The selection of delectable teas and high tea fare will include savory and sweet items, as well as freshly baked scones. Tickets are per person and include the train ride. Please note that reservations are required for this event and that it is subject to change. Join us at 4119 Cromwell Road, Chattanooga, TN for a memorable and delicious outing. Tickets
- Chattanooga Dinner Train - Experience the best of both worlds with the Tennessee Valley Railroad's Dinner Trains - a unique excursion featuring fine dining on board a historic train. From March through October, you can join us on select Friday and Saturday evenings for a three-course dining experience on restored dining cars. Our Dinner Trains are a popular choice for special occasions, and our team of Dining Car Stewards and Chefs will provide exceptional customer service and delicious food throughout the trip. Departing from Chattanooga's Grand Junction depot in the evening, the Dinner Train will travel at a leisurely pace through parts of East Chattanooga before returning to Grand Junction. The standard departure time is 6:30 PM, and the travel time is perfect for a complete meal on the moving train. Don't miss out on this one-of-a-kind experience - join us for a Dinner Train excursion. Tickets
- Hiwassee Loop (Delano, TN) - Take in the breathtaking autumn colors on a 50-mile roundtrip through the lower Hiwassee River gorge with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. This 5-hour journey will take you to the top of the famous Hiwassee Loop, one of only six loops of its kind in North America and the only one east of the Mississippi River. You'll be on the train for the duration of the trip, enjoying the views as the tracks wind through the trees. The Hiwassee Loop trips are offered on Thursdays and Sundays, while Copperhill Special trips are available on Fridays and Saturdays. Please note that pricing varies for Fall Premium dates in October and the first two weeks of November. Don't miss out on this unique opportunity to see the beautiful fall foliage by rail. Tickets
- Copperhill Special Train Ride (Delano, TN) - Experience the beauty of spring on the Copperhill Train Ride with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. This extended day trip excursion takes you through the lower Hiwassee River Gorge, over the Hiwassee Loop, and onto the joint cities of Copperhill, Tennessee, and McCaysville, GA for a total 94-mile round trip. During the 90-minute layover, you'll have time for a leisurely lunch on your own before returning. The departure time is 9:00 A.M. and the return is generally around 5:30 P.M. The Copperhill route is the same as for Loop trips, but after traversing the river gorge and negotiating the spiral near Farner, the train continues a longer distance through Turtletown and Ducktown to the former mining town of Copperhill. Copperhill Special trips are available on Saturdays, while Hiwassee Loop trips are offered on Fridays and Sundays. Please note that pricing varies for Fall Premium dates in October and the first two weeks of November. Don't miss out on this opportunity to enjoy the beauty of spring by rail. Tickets
Exhibits: The museum has an impressive collection of historic railway cars, locomotives, and other artifacts that provide a glimpse into the past.
Exhibit Building (Open most days of the year) - The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) is excited to announce the opening of its new exhibit building, which will feature special exhibits such as "TVRM’s First 60 Years," a Railroad Post Office car display, and two exhibits by sponsor Scale Trains. This is the first use for this important addition to the TVRM Cromwell Road Campus. The exhibits will showcase the history of the museum and the impact of steam in the region. The museum was founded in 1961 by Bob Soule and Paul Merriman, two rail enthusiasts who met near Citico yard in Chattanooga and shared a passion for preserving the experience and impact of steam in the region through functional artifacts and equipment. Following a successful charter excursion, they formed the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in August 1961, with the goal of educating future generations about the rich history of steam railroading. Tickets
Museum Store: The museum store offers a wide range of railroad-related souvenirs, including books, DVDs, and other memorabilia.
Special Events: The museum hosts several special events throughout the year, including a Day Out With Thomas, a Halloween Eerie Express, and a Christmas-themed North Pole Limited.
Plan Your Visit to the Chattanooga Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
If you're planning a visit to the Chattanooga Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, here's some helpful information to make your trip as smooth as possible:
Hours: The museum is open year-round, with varying hours depending on the season. Check the museum's website for the most up-to-date information.
Admission: Admission prices vary depending on the type of train ride or event you're attending. Check the museum's website for current pricing information.
Directions and Parking: The museum is located in Chattanooga (4119 Cromwell Road
Chattanooga, TN 37421) and Delano (9406 hwy 411, Delano, TN 37325) with plenty of FREE parking lots. We are in the Eastern Time Zone.
Accessibility: The museum is wheelchair accessible, with ramps and elevators available throughout the facility.
Historic rail cars and stations were built before the advent of technology which accommodates people with special needs. Our rail cars and the Summerville station were not designed to accommodate wheelchairs safely. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes the limitations of such historic rail equipment and expressly exempts trains and stations of this type from accessibility requirements. Though we cannot accommodate wheelchair use or access within our historical passenger cars, all persons who can board the train themselves and occupy a standard passenger seat are welcome and encouraged to ride.
About Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum:
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is a railway museum located in Chattanooga and Delano, Tennessee. It was established in 1961 to preserve and operate historic railway equipment for the education and enjoyment of future generations. The museum features a variety of vintage trains and railcars, including steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, passenger cars, and freight cars. Visitors can experience the history of rail travel through excursions, exhibits, and hands-on activities. The museum operates on a historic rail line, offering scenic rides through the Hiwassee Loop and providing a unique perspective on the region's history and culture. With its rich heritage, educational programs, and engaging events, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is a must-visit destination for railway enthusiasts and history buffs alike.
Hubs and I did the Missionary Ridge Train ride during a quick stop in Chattanooga for the holidays. The train was more for him than me, but we both had a phenomenal time! Not only are all the employees helpful and kind, they experience is incredibly informative and interesting. I suggest if there are only 2 people in your party to ride in the cab of the train. We rode with the engineer who drives and it took our experience to the next level. Joe the engineer told us a plethora of extra info about the trim, TVRM, and you get to ride in the lead train car while it turns around at the turn around spot. So cool! Also, check out the exhibit they have in the depot area. Loads of info and cool things to check out! Emily N - Google Review
A great stop for train enthusiasts. Nicely restored locomotives and passenger cars. The missionary ridge train ride is pleasant and informative. Susan M - Google Review
We took the Missionary Risge train ride today and loved it. The entire way to East Ridge the conductor gives a narrated tour of the history of the trains we are on as well as the area. This is followed by a narrated demonstration of the turn table which rotates the train for the ride back. It was fun, informative, and scenic. Will be recommending to friends and family when they visit. Pat O - Google Review
Did you know that when you purchase a ticket with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, you are helping to preserve the history of railroads?
As a non-profit organization, it takes a lot of resources to restore and maintain our vintage trains and equipment. In fact, it can cost up to $1.5 million to completely rebuild a steam engine, which must be done every 15 years or sooner. Your support helps us to continue to share this important piece of history with the community. So not only are you enjoying a unique and memorable experience, you are also contributing to the preservation of railroad history.
Open Daily (except Christmas Eve, Day, and Easter Sunday)
Mid-March to October (daily), Nov-Feb. (weekends) - Check website for more details
For the most up-to-date hours and information, please contact Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum directly.