Choo choo, all aboard! Hey kids, did you know that the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is not just JUST a museum? Nope! In fact, not only can you learn all about the history of the Chattanooga and Tennessee rail history, BUT you can also enjoy actual train trips too!
The Tennessee Valley Railroad offers a number of train trips, but if you just want to whet your whistle then the Missionary Ridge Local is only 6 miles round trip taking only 65 minutes but packs in all the excitement you might want as your tour guide offers a fascinating local history throughout the experience, where you'll cross 4 bridges, pass through a pre-civil war tunnel, as well as hourseshoe-shaped tunnel, and enjoy a historic turntable demostration!
You can also enjoy a brief tour of train restoration shops!
Then you also have other train rides to choose from, including a Christmas Dinner train, Halloween Eerie Express, Dinner on the Train and Homefront Tea Room!
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.
To Chattanooga Station:
Take Interstate 75 to exit 4 – Highway 153
Take Hwy 153 to Jersey Pike (Exit 3). It is the fourth exit from I-75, and just past all the car dealerships
At the end of the ramp, turn left and cross over Hwy 153
Just over Hwy 153, turn right onto Cromwell Road
Proceed about 1/3 of a mile and you’ll see the Tennessee Valley Railroad sign on the right. Cross the railroad tracks and park in the lower parking lot. You’re there!
**Please note that traffic can be an issue driving into Chattanooga. Give yourself extra time and check your favorite navigation app before leaving for your train adventure.**
Train rides from $20 (incl. Museum admission) . Museum exhibits only $10
Train rides from $15 (incl. Museum admission) . Museum exhibits $6 only (Ages 2 to 12)
There is no food service on board Missionary Ridge Local trains, however, you can purchase food or snacks in the Grand Junction Depot Deli. Their longer rides such as Chickamauga Turn and Summerville Steam Specials generally include a commissary car which sells food, snack items, and souvenirs. Of course, dinner trains and some other trips with appropriate ticketing include a specified meal.
The train ride ticket automatically includes admission to the museum exhibits
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum gift shop is a must-stop on your trip through history. You'll find all kinds of great unique gifts, clothing and souvenirs that will remind you of days gone by!
Food and beverages may be consumed while on board all trains, so you can bring your own healthy foods, but make sure you take all your rubbish home!
Service animals (defined as dogs or miniature horses trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities) are welcome at TVRM.
Historic rail cars and stations were built before the advent of technology which accommodates people with special needs. Their 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 their historical passenger cars, all persons who can board the train themselves and occupy a standard passenger seat are welcome and encouraged to ride.
Make sure you are well before your departure time as they can't hold up the train if you're late!