The City of Toccoa will welcome one steam train from Atlanta on Oct. 3 and one on Oct. 4 at 12:00 p.m. at the historic depot.
These trips are part of the "21st Century Steam" program operating over Norfolk Southern lines using equipment from both NS and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The trips to Toccoa will feature TVRM steam locomotive #4501 (built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1911.)
Locomotive 4501 has an interesting history: She was built for Southern Railway in 1911 and worked for 37 years before being forced out of service by a wave of modern diesel locomotives. Instead of being scrapped as so many other steamers were, 4501 was sold in 1948 to the Kentucky and Tennessee Railway in Stearns, Kentucky, to haul coal from mines served by the K&T. After 16 years serving the K&T, 4501 was sold to Chattanooga railroad enthusiast Paul Merriman in 1964. Merriman was a TVRM founder and president at the time, and brought Locomotive 4501 to Chattanooga for display and possible operation.
This is just what the fledgling museum needed, as 4501 was a highly visible symbol of steam railroading. Shortly thereafter, Southern Railway leased the engine from TVRM to be used throughout their system as a roving ambassador and to pull public rail excursions, which continued until 1994.
Back at home in Chattanooga, TVRM was able to operate the locomotive until its boiler certification ran out in 1998. Since other steam locomotives were operating at TVRM at the time, 4501 rested in semi-retirement until 2011 when Norfolk Southern inaugurated its “21st Century Steam” program. 21st Century Steam is a program of excursions for Norfolk Southern employees and the general public, utilizing steam locomotives on a limited number of trips on Norfolk Southern rail lines.
This train will be pulled over Norfolk Southern’s Piedmont Division main line (former Southern Railway) on the 180-mile round trip. Passengers will detrain at the Amtrak platform for a two-hour layover to seek out lunch, shop at local stores, visit the Currahee Military Museum (housed in the Toccoa Railroad Station), or explore the area.
The Currahee Military Weekend will be in full swing while the trains are in Toccoa. Guests can visit the re-enactors on the courthouse lawn, as well as taste some of the best food that Toccoa has to offer. Food vendors will be set up along Doyle Street. There will also be two stages of entertainment with music provided by the Vintage Vocals and local bands as well as an art show and sale.
“We want our guests, those who are here for the Currahee Military Weekend and those from the trains, to feel like they have stepped back in time to the 1940’s. We are asking everyone to dress in period dress to help create that feel. Please join us as we give the train riders a warm welcome,” says Sharon Crosby, Special Events Coordinator for the City of Toccoa.
For more information, please contact the Main Street office at 706-282-3309.