TENNESSEE

Ride the Rails

There is a whole world out there to be seen and discovered if you take the road, or, in this case ‘railroad’ less traveled. When one thinks of vacationing and getting away, railways are a long forgotten means of transportation. This seems especially true for southerners that typically don’t rely on mass transportation. The costs and convenience of flying or driving over riding on a train long distance, seem to outweigh most other travel options to southerners. We often forget that there are still functioning railways that take adventure seekers on scenic, backwoods, tours. From the Tennessee mountains and valleys to rural Georgia farms, you get a true glimpse of what is so intoxicating about the good ol’ south. We decided to put a few of these southern rails to the test and see what it is that they have to offer. The Dollywood Express is probably one of the most popular railways. The ease of access from the Dollywood theme park makes it an attractive choice for travelers. An authentic 110 ton coal-fired engine takes you on a breathtaking 5 mile tour of the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains. This is a great ride if you want a glimpse of the countryside. It’s a pretty exciting little ride and Dollywood has a full repair shop with on staff mechanics that keep the engine running. It seems to be one of the biggest attractions at the theme park. It offers a place to rest, a cool breeze and a small dose of history by very enthusiastic staff members.

However, if a theme park is not your cup of tea there are many more options and many more miles of breathtaking views. So, in the instance that this short ride isn’t enough to quench your thirst for the scenic south, there are a few more options to consider.

Chattanooga is home to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, and this year celebrates its’ 50th Anniversary. That’s not the best part though. Every labor day they have what they call “Rail Fest” for train enthusiasts. People come from far and wide to see not only the engines that live at the museum, but other trains are brought in for display and rides. You can purchase an all-day pass for a nominal fee which includes unlimited rides on most of the trains.

The train connoisseur will enjoy the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. There you can get the full train experience. The Museum was founded as a chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in 1960 by a group of railway preservationists. The Southern Railway donated some land to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and was able to open to the general public just 11 years later in 1971. It has grown quite a bit since the 70’s. The proceeds from patrons keep the museum alive and functioning. Besides Rail Fest, this museum has many things to offer on a regular basis, including different length train excursions to suit everyone in the family. From short excursions to all day adventure, you can find what you want at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

The Tennessee Valley Railroad is a moving museum. It is the only place in Tennessee that you will find a regularly scheduled, full sized train ride. However, it’s more than just a pretty ride through the countryside. The rides are an interactive history lesson. It’s like riding on a moving time machine.

The most expansive excursion is approximately 6 hours long and cost a merely $33 per adult and $25 for children. For a $20 fee per person, you can upgrade and have the full experience by adding dining to your authentic time traveling train adventure. There are shorter excursions that are about half the price or under yet equally as entertaining. These excursions are packed with incomparable history, perfect for those that enjoy a “hands on” learning experience.

So if you are looking for something new, you have a love for trains or a love for Tennessee, these steam and coal engines are surely a sight you will not want to miss! You will not regret the experience and will have memories to carry for life. Give the rails a run!

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