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The Attalla Special: Chattanooga, TN to Attalla, AL 3/29/2014

by Chris Guenzler

Dave Smetko informed me about this trip which sounded most interesting: this steam-powered train will operate with diesel assistance over Norfolk Southern's Alabama Division main line (former Alabama Great Southern) on a 174-mile round trip. Passengers will be able to detrain in Attalla to browse the many shops in this historic town, which grew up around the railroad. Departing from TVRM's Grand Junction Station at 4119 Cromwell Rd (free parking onsite), the train will travel over the former Southern right-of-way, onto the East Chattanooga Belt Railway, and will enter the Norfolk Southern at 23rd Street.

Dave bought he and I tickets for both of the steam trips out of Chattanooga, one to Attalla, Alabama and the other to Oneida, Tennessee. Both would be new mileage for me. Once we both decided to fly into Atlanta, I used my Alaska Airlines miles for my flights to get there, via Portland, and American Airlines via Fort Worth to get home. I went online to get Super Shuttle to get me to LAX then two days before the trip, Dave sent me this in an e-mail which he received.

Note to March 29 & 30 Ticketholders:

Steam locomotives require continual effort to operate successfully. Winter shop work has been underway on Locomotive 630 since December. Repairs have been more extensive than expected and therefore have taken longer than planned. We're working around the clock to prepare the locomotive for this weekend's excursions, but the possibility exists that the work will not be completed in time.

This message is to let you know that if 630 won't be able to operate this weekend, Norfolk Southern is keeping one of their twenty commemorative "Heritage Units" in reserve to lead the excursions. This locomotive is a General Electric ES44AC built in 2012 and represents the Southern Railway with its classic green, imitation aluminum and gold paint scheme."

A phone call to Dave to let him know that anything that pulled us on that mileage is fine, and I worked through Thursday before packing for a unique trip to Chattanooga to begin.

To Chattanooga 3/28/2014

I arose and did my morning chores then waited for Super Shuttle to arrive, which he did at 3:45 AM and off we went, picking up a large family at a hotel in Anaheim, a man at his apartment in Fullerton before we headed to LAX, getting me there two hours before my flight. I had TSA Pre-Sceening so that was easy then repacked my bags at the gate.

Alaska Airlines 557 3/28/2014

I boarded this flight to Portland, Oregon and flew above the clouds while reading Trains Magazine most of the way, arriving on time to a rainy Portland and headed straight onto my next plane.

Alaska Airlines 752 3/28/2014

My clouds were the call of this flight to Atlanta but I read Railpace Magazine and did Sudoku puzzles to pass the time, arriving at a rainy Atlanta and I took the Air Train to the front of that airport to meet Dave.

The Drive to Chattanooga 3/28/2014

Dave arrived to pick me up and off through Friday night Atlanta traffic we went. The Garman GPS took us off the freeway so we saw a little bit of Atlanta as well as a brand-new streetcar line they are building. Back on the freeway we poked along and stopped for a bathroom break near Kennesaw before the freeway finally opened up. We stopped at KFC for some dinner to go and made our way to the Microtel Inn and Suites in Chattanooga where we called it a night.

3/29/2014 We arose and I wrote the story before going to McDonald's for breakfast before we drove over to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum for the first of two trips we are taking.

The Attalla Special 3/29/2014

This train had a consist of: Norfolk Southern 8099, Norfolk Southern 42 "Tennessee", Norfolk Southern 46 "New Jersey", Norfolk Southern 47 "Louisiana", Norfolk Southern 28 "Powhatan Arrow", Norfolk Southern 29 "Powhatan Arrow", Norfolk Southern 26 "New York", TVRM 50 "Emporuim", TVRM 001, TVRM 007, TVRM 857, TVRM 3158 "Travelers Fare", BMCX 899 "Silver Lake", BMCX 873 and BMCX 6604.

The front of our train to Attalla in the rain.

Norfolk Southern had Southern Heritage unit ES44AC 8099 on the point of our train for today and tomorrow.

A view of Grand Junction station as passengers boarded the train.

Southern GP30 2594 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1963. Leased from the Southeastern Railway Museum, this GP30 differs from others in that it has a high short hood. The factory default was for these units to have low short hoods, but could be ordered with high short hood. The Southern Railway and the Norfolk and Western Railway were the only railroads to purchase the GP30 with high short hood. This locomotive would have been used in tandem with other diesel-electric locomotives to haul long freight trains across the country. The 2594 was donated to the Southeastern Railway Museum in 1993. Today, 2594 hauls TVRM's excursion trains and wears the same historic Southern Railway paint scheme as it did when new.

Central of Georgia 0-4-0 349 built by Baldwin in 1891 as Savannah and Western 557. It Central of Georgia 1587 in 1894 and was re-numbered 1581 in 1912 then became 349 in 1926. In 1937, 349 was leased to the Talbotton Railroad near Albany, Georgia until it went out of business. The locomotive later saw service on the Bowdon Railroad.

It was retired in the 1950's and found its way into private ownership, during which time it was painted green and gold and lettered for the Southern Railway. 349 was donated to TVRM in 1987 and placed on display at Grand Junction. Today, the locomotive can be seen cosmetically restored and on display at the Erlanger Children's Hospital in Chattanooga, on long-term loan from TVRM.

Dave and I then boarded the train, taking seats in Car 3 but I soon moved to Car 2 for a big window. That was no problem as Car 2 was empty except for us. At 8:00 AM the train reversed out of the Grand Junction station onto the Knoxville main line at CP Jersey and once we received a green signal, we took off for Attalla.

The train passed the Grand Junction station and the Southern GP30 as we headed west.

Crossing Chickamauga Creek before reaching deButts Yard in Chattanooga.

Canadian National power was leading a CSX freight on a train as it left deButts Yard.

The deButts Yard Tower.

Dave Smetko enjoying our trip to Attalla.

The train ran by C.T. Tower built circa 1970.


It then went by the connection to the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel from where all our 2007 NRHS convention trips started.

This looks like an old diner to me.

Crossing the Chattanooga Creek. We went through the long tunnel then passed through Wauhatchie before entering Georgia.

A horse farm in a slice of Georgia we cut through on this trip.

An old log cabin on this piece of Georgia property.

We went through Trenton in a rain storm.

A church in the town of Rising Fawn.

A stormy scene in Georgia.

The train crossed a stream.

Another stormy view this morning.

An interesting house and trees waiting for Spring before we crossed into Alabama.

More of a stormy Alabama morning.

A nice home against the mountain behind it.

The cows were out on a dark damp morning.

The train ran across another stream.

The mountains had unique clouds hanging over them.

A hunter's blind.

View of the north ridgeline.

Cows and another barn.

Another home surrounded by trees.

Another home on the little hill.

The white trees are Bradford Pear.

Alabama trees.

More views of the Alabama countryside.

White Pear trees dot the Alabama farm here.

The Southern Railroad station in Fort Payne, built in 1891.

A pond and a horse farm.

The weather improved as we closed in on Attalla.

Another Alabama view.

Southern Caboose X561 built by Gantt Manufacturing in 1971, on display in Collinsville.

More of that unique Alabama countryside as we neared Attalla, at which we arrived thirty minutes early. I detrained and went off for pictures.

Our train at rest in Attalla.

Southern Heritage Unit 8099.

One last view of our train this morning. I went to Jack's Restaurant for lunch and afterwards, met Dr. Wesley Ross, an NRHS member, and we decided to photograph trains during the layover here.

Our train heading south across the CSX line to get into the siding to reverse into the wye here. We relocated for our next set of pictures.

The train reversing to the wye.

Norfolk Southern 8711 East came through as we waited for our train.

A street view in Attalla.

Norfolk Southern 9382 West next through next.

Norfolk Southern 2531 South passed by us as the next rain shower arrived.

The main east-west road in this town.

Our train reversed into Attalla for boarding.

Our train ready to take us back to Chattanooga. We ran to Crudup and went into the siding for yet another southbound Norfolk Southern train then once he went passed, we continued on our way north.

Two views of the Fort Payne Southern Railway station.

Southern Caboose X246 buit by Gantt Manufacturing in 1971, in Fort Payne.

At Battella we met two freight trains, BNSF 9685 West and Norfolk Southern 8962 West, while we sat in the siding. I still had a pair of pictures to take.

The Trenton Southern Railway train station. From here we went all the way to deButts Yard where we changed crews and then went to Citico Jct where we wyed the train so it would be facing the correct way for our trip tomorrow. We reversed the rest of the way to the junction with the TVRM then pulled forward back into the Grand Junction station, where we ended our trip.

After that, Dave and I drove to Bea's Restuarant but arrived just after they closed so went to Lone Star Steakhouse and I had a great Flat Iron steak then returned to our hotel for the night.

Click here for Part 2 of this story