Rails & Trails Pages

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Knoxville Trip

November 9 - 13, 2011 saw me attend a GREAT Railroad Convention in Knoxville, TN.  The Lexington Group is a group of rail historians and railroad personnel who meet yearly in various cities around the US and Canada.  We had 3 days of various speakers which included many historical topics.  The Conference was sponsored by Norfolk Southern Railroad, Gulf & Ohio Railroad, and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.  One of our speakers was NS President Wick Moorman.

Besides all the great meals, we were treated to several train trips.  Due to visiting family in Louisville, I did not ride the Chattanooga to Knoxville train on Nov. 8th or the Knoxville to Chattanooga trip on the 14th.  But the others were GREAT!!!

Thursday afternoon saw 2 steam trains running on the Three Rivers Rambler Tourist Line.  One train of NS passenger cars was pulled by steamer 154.  This engine is a coal burner built in 1890 by the Schenectady Locomotive Works.  It is one of only 10 engines built by this company still in existence and was given to the City of Knoxville in 1953.

Due to the length of the train, a diesel was used to pull the train on the trip back.  This is diesel #2250 was completely gutted and fitted with a 4-cycle prime mover instead of the normal 2-cycle to meet the new emissions standards.  RR fans--it's featured on the inside of the front cover of the December, 2011 TRAINS magazine.

The other train was pulled by the Tourist Line's 203, built as a 2-8-0 coal burning steam engine but converted to oil.  It was built in 1925 by Baldwin Locomotive Company of Philadelphia and has been rebuilt by the Knoxville Locomotive Works and volunteers.  It has been pulling tourists on this line since 2001.

It pulled a string of vintage passenger cars AND the open air car that I would ride in.  We boarded in a small NS yard and got to go through an industrial area where the train normally doesn't run.

The tracks pass between the Tennessee River and the University of Tennessee Campus.  Here's the basketball auditorium:

And bridges are always fun to go under or over.
As we get out of town, we pass over the Holston River Bridge.  The Holston River, the French Broad River, and the Tennesee River all meet just on the other side of this bridge (hence the 3 Rivers Rambler Tourist RR).

The ride today will end at one of the marble quarries.  Marble from these quarries was used to build many structures in Washington DC including the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument.

On Saturday we would get a round trip ride from Knoxville to Asheville, NC and back, 240 miles in all.  This train would be a 14-car NS Executive Car Train, pulled by their 4 F-units.  This train was FIRST CLASS in all respects.  The 4 engines were completely gutted and rebuilt to 21st Century standards.  They are now essentially GP38-2 units.  I talked with George Eichelberger who designed the SOUTHERN Railroad-inspired paint scheme.  He's really happy with the end result except the number boards need to be redone as they aren't the correct SOUTHERN number font.
Here's a couple of shots on the web of our train:

Our train would closely follow the French Broad River for most of the trip.

There were 2 'special' cars that everyone wanted to ride in.  Here's the Theater Car.  The back end has been removed and a large window installed.  Theater seating gives many people a chance to 'see where they've been.'
Note at the top:  Our brake line pressure is 107 pounds, we are going 27 MPH, and it is 9:41 AM.

The other car everyone likes is the dome car.
It never ceases to amaze me concerning the number of people that HAVE to sit here the whole trip and then just visit--not viewing the scenery or letting other people get to experience the view from the dome.
And here's a view from inside the dome:
 Other shots on the way back:

On Sunday we had a 5-car train composed of the NS Executive cars and Engine 154.  Our train traveled to Alcoa and back (think Alcoa Aluminum--boy is that place BIG.  I saw 3 flat cars, each having a big ingot (slab) of aluminum.  Missed the picture on the way out and they were gone on the way back.
This was a FAMOUS trip and you'll probably see pix of it in future train magazines.  Engine 154 is a SOUTHERN Railroad engine and sat in a park in Knoxville before finally recently restored.  The 1982 World's Fair was held in Knoxville and a contest was held for a painting to commemorate the event.  The winning entry had engine 154 pulling a passenger train over the Tennessee River and was titled "154's Dream!"  Today is the day this would finally happen!  154 is a 2-8-0 Consolidation engine built in 1904 by the American Locomotive Railway Company in Richmond, VA for the SOUTHERN Railroad.  Norfolk Southern donated it to the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum in Chattanooga in 1999.  Here is our engine:

I grabbed a seat in the "West Virginia" open end observation car (we couldn't go on the deck in this direction as it was too close to the smoking engine).  This car usually resides in Washington, DC where it is used to entertain lobbyists and dignitaries (and now ME!!!)

Our train soon passes the site of the 1982 World's Fair:

We're about to pass over the Tennessee River Bridge.  Below us are the 3 Rivers Rambler's track, the track we rode on last Thursday.
A local television station's helicopter chased us for the whole ride.

Here's an example of the crowd that gathered at every intersection along the route, as well as many open locations in fields.

We were pulled back by Engine 630, a 2-8-0 Consolidation built in 1904 by the American Locomotive Railway Co. in Richmond, VA for the SOUTHERN.  The NS donated it to the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum in 1999.  It pulled the excursion from Chattanooga to Knoxville and the one from Knoxville to Chattanooga, neither of which I rode.  It hooked onto our train in Alcoa and I didn't get pix.  However, it is written up in the December, 2011 TRAINS magazine on pages 4, 7, and 62.

A highway bridge over the Tennessee River is getting a major facelift as its deck was removed and a new wider one will be installed.  The supports were left.
With this last picture, we must say good-bye to a great convention.  It's going to be tough to top this one next year which will be held in Peoria, Illinois but I'm already looking forward to it.  Below is the 3 Rivers Rambler at its normal loading site, awaiting another group of people anxious to ride a train!

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