Sending thoughts to heaven while following a Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum excursion

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Thursday, November 1, 2018

Mr. Bob Soule

Mr. Paul Merriman

The Great Roundhouse in the Sky



I’ve long wanted to speak with both of you again since you departed this Earth. But I’ve not felt the urge to contact you so strongly as I have this week. You were both giants in the preservation of steam locomotives, and your creation, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, has compelled me to write.

Last Sunday, I had the good fortune to follow and photograph a TVRM excursion train from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Summerville, Ga., about 50 miles each way on the former Central of Georgia branch that is now a short line. Power was two TVRM steam locomotives, which you are both very familiar with: Southern Railway 2-8-0 No. 630 and Southern Railway 2-8-2 No. 4501, the Mikado that you, Mr. Merriman, bought from the Kentucky & Tennessee short line in 1964 and the one that headlined Southern Railway’s excursions from 1966 to the end with Norfolk Southern in 1994. They pulled a most impressive train with open window and air-conditioned coaches, a commissary, two diners, and two observation lounge cars, one a heavyweight and one a lightweight. Two impressive locomotives and an impressive train to match.

The train left from the Grand Junction depot, the early 1980s depot that TVRM built from scratch. When I first visited the museum in 1978, the Grand Junction site on Chattanooga’s east side was literally the end of the line next to the Southern Railway main line at a control point named Jersey. There was nothing, and I mean nothing here. Today, there’s a two-story depot inside a wye next to a yard chocked full of rolling stock goodies. The risks you took years ago have paid off.

Best of all, there were people everywhere: There were passengers in every seat except for 21 on this 10-car train. There were fans and local people out watching and enjoying the train. And the locomotive and train crews: Save for a few folks, the majority were under 40. You will be pleased to know that they’re taking good care of these much beloved locomotives that are native to the South. They appreciate their age as well as their abilities and have done well by them through recent rebuilds and on-going work.

So, I wanted to thank you for all that you did to create this wonderful time machine. And I wanted to let you know that it is in good hands, and that steam trains have not perished from the South. You surely must be smiling down every time Nos. 630 and 4501 march across north Georgia on sunny warm fall days like the one I just experienced. Few railway preservation organizations can do what your's does today. Few have the rolling stock, the power, and the people to get the job done like you do. 

Yours in steam,




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