Great Locomotive Chase trip

This Labor Day weekend, in honor of it being a long weekend, and it being my birthday weekend, we wanted to do something special. We decided to take a day trip into Georgia, and visit some Civil War sites and museums.

I love Civil War history, and there is no shortage of it in Tennessee and Georgia. When we first moved to Chattanooga, my dad told me about the Great Locomotive Chase. He let me borrow a book about it, “Stealing the General.”

Here is a short history lesson: The Great Locomotive Chase (also known as Andrews’ Raid) happened on April 12, 1862. James Andrews, a civilian and scout for the Union Army, and volunteers from the Union Army stole a train, the General, in Kennesaw, Georgia, (back then known as Big Shanty). The train at the time was stopped to allow passengers to have breakfast at the Lacy Hotel.

The goal was to drive the train to Chattanooga, destroying the Western and Atlantic Railroad track as they went. Railroads were vital in the south and the Civil War. Gaining access to the railroads would cut off supplies to and from southern cities, and badly damage the south’s chances in winning the war.

Confederates gained access to different trains, including the Yonah, and the Texas, and pursued the General. Andrews and the Union soldiers made it as far as Ringgold, Ga., before the locomotive ran out of fuel, and they were captured. Some of the men were able to flee, but eight were hanged.

Our first stop of the day was Kennesaw Georgia, about an hour and a half drive away. We visited the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, which houses the original engine, the General.

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The General was the main draw of the museum, but we also learned a lot about the railroads and how they were used and impacted by the Civil War.

There was a neat section in the museum where you learned about the work in foundries, and what it takes to make a locomotive.

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The second Great Locomotive Chase and Civil War related stop of the day was in Tunnel Hill, Ga., where we visited the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center and Museum.

A major part of the Great Locomotive Chase was the chase through the Western and Atlantic Railroad tunnel. The Texas was actually chasing the General backwards!

As part of this tour, we rode on a golf cart the whole length of the tunnel, back and forth. This was really cool. The tunnel is no longer used, but the newer tunnel, built in 1928, is right along side of it. We were lucky enough to see a train come through while we were here.

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This is one of my favorite pictures I took on the trip. It’s the modern and the historical together. In the background, you have the modern train, and in the foreground is an original ruined railroad line. The union soldiers destroyed as much track as they could while on campaigns. They would bend them so they would be unusable.

We also got to see the Clisby Austin house, built in 1848. Austin was the post master in Tunnel Hill, and he also owned general stores. He was married twice — his first wife died — and he had 19 children! Austin was a Union sympathizer, so when the war broke out, he sold the home and left.

General Sherman stayed in the home for a week during the start of the Atlanta Campaign. Later on, after the Battle of Tunnel Hill, the home was turned into a hospital.

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One thing that I found interesting in this home was that the stairs were original. You could see the dips in the wood, from all of the people who have walked on it over time. I took the same steps as General Sherman!

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I enjoyed the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center and Museum, because it was a bonus to learn about Clisby Austin, and the home.

There were other stops on this day trip, so stay tuned!

Missionary Ridge Local

I am happy to say that, as a train lover, I have finally taken a ride on the Tennessee Valley Railroad.

A few weeks ago we rode the Missionary Ridge Local, which is a one hour train ride that travels through Missionary Ridge with a stop at the East Chattanooga Depot.

I am not quite sure what happened the weekend we were there, but there were some amendments to our trip. For starters, the steam engine is supposed to run on weekends, but we ended up with a diesel engine. This disappointed me, but this is just another excuse to go on another train ride someday. There is also supposed to be a short tour of the shop, next to the East Chattanooga Depot, but this did not occur on our ride. I am not sure why.

One thing I did enjoy was the turntable demonstration at the East Chattanooga Depot. The conductor was knowledgeable and explained the whole process while the engine turned around to prepare for the trip back. The conductor told everyone that this turntable is one of only a few in the United States. I was giddy when hearing this, because I know of another one, in Frostburg Maryland, in use by the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, which my parents both work for.

The train passed through some neighborhoods, as well as over Chickamagua Creek and through Missionary Ridge Tunnel, a tunnel dated to before the Civil War.

Commentary was provided throughout the trip about the local history and what we were seeing through the windows.

Chattanooga has a rich railroad history, especially during the Civil War. The area became a railroad hub in the 1850s. During the Civil War, both sides recognized the importance of holding onto the city, for its railroad lines. There was the infamous “Great Locomotive Chase” during the Civil War, organized by civilian James Andrews, in which he and Union soldiers captured a locomotive, The General, in Georgia, in order to destroy as much of the Western and Atlantic Railroad on the way to Chattanooga. They were eventually captured, and now there is a monument and grave sites dedicated to those men in Chattanooga’s National Cemetery. When Chattanooga was captured by the Union in 1863, it was called the “Death Knell of the Confederacy,” undoubtedly because of the importance of the railroad.

The train depot from where we left, Grand Junction, has a nice gift shop and a deli as well.

After the train ride, we walked through the collection of train cars and engines that are on display.

I admit, I’ve been on better train rides. Maybe I’m spoiled because as a kid, I’ve frequently rode in the First Class Parlor car, the Marian, on the Strasburg Railroad. However, I still enjoyed this trip. I am looking forward to longer rides, such as a dinner train, or the Chickamauga Turn, which is a six hour ride with a layover in Chickamauga.

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About to enter the 1858 Missionary Ridge Tunnel.
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Passing the shop as we were pulling into the East Chattanooga Depot.
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The engine takes a spin on the turntable.
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At the East Chattanooga Depot. I loved the little set up they had, complete with chickens!
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The inside of our car.
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One of the engines on display outside the Grand Junction depot.

Chattanooga Choo Choo

“Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?
Track twenty nine! Boy you can gimme a shine
Can you afford to board a Chattanooga Choo Choo?
I’ve got my fare and just a trifle to spare
You leave the Pennsylvania station ’bout a quarter to four
Read a magazine and then you’re in Baltimore
Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer
Than to have your ham ‘n’ eggs in Carolina
When you hear the whistle blowin’ eight to the bar
Then you know that Tennessee is not very far
Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rollin’
Woo, woo, Chattanooga, there you are…”

I quickly learned the words to Glen Miller’s Chattanooga Choo Choo when I found out that we were moving to Chattanooga! My dad loves trains (he works as a breakman on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad as a retirement job) and he instilled that love in me. Seeing the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel was at the top of my to-do list in Chattanooga.

The hotel is in an old train terminal building which was built in 1906. It was supposed to be demolished, but it was saved and restored. Now, it is a beautiful hotel, and much more. There are shops and restaurants attached with a garden out back, and of course, the famed “Choo Choo.”

We explored the grounds this morning, and had brunch in the Frothy Monkey, which is a coffee shop attached off the lobby. It was a great morning. My parents are coming to visit in a few weeks, and I’ll be glad to get the chance to go back again so soon.

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