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Clinchfield Country and Carter’s Kingdom: ETSU railroad museum celebrates namesake

Contributed • Nov 23, 2018 at 6:06 PM

The Clinchfield Railroad and its founder, George L. Carter, will be honored during Heritage Day on Saturday, Nov. 24, at East Tennessee State University’s Carter Railroad Museum.

The museum’s namesake was instrumental to the growth of the region and the university. Carter was most responsible for establishing the original Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio Railway, now part of CSX.

A well-known developer and landowner, Carter bequeathed his 120-acre farm and $100,000 toward the establishment of the East Tennessee State Normal School, which later became ETSU.

The Clinchfield’s main line and rail yard originally ran down what is now State of Franklin Road through downtown, which proved to be very beneficial to residents. The rail line was relocated to its present location immediately to the southeast of ETSU’s campus as Johnson City grew.

“This particular weekend over the Thanksgiving holiday is always cheerful and busy, and we save it for this event,” said Geoff Stunkard, coordinator of the museum’s Heritage Day program.

“The old CC&O, later renamed simply as the Clinchfield Railway, remains even to this day part of the national network of rail lines. It remains a popular operation in this area for enthusiasts as well.”

The museum’s layouts will showcase some of the equipment that once ran on the Clinchfield line, such as the legendary Challenger-design steam engines and colorful diesels.

The equipment will be operated by volunteers from the Mountain Empire Model Railroaders club on the museum’s world-class 24-by-44-foot HO scale layout and the standard gauge portion of the new ET&WNC narrow-gauge display room.

Located in the Campus Center Building at ETSU, the museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and includes model railroad layouts, a children’s activity room and ongoing programs. Heritage Day is held the last Saturday of each month. There is no admission fee, but donations are welcome.

The museum is also seeking artifacts for its displays, including the newest addition dedicated to the “Tweetsie” line, the ET&WNC, which will be open for guided tours during event days.

In addition to the displays, there is a growing research library, and an oral history archive is being established as part of the museum’s programs. For more information, visit www.etsu.edu/railroad.

Members of the George L. Carter Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and MEMRR coordinate the exhibits. For more information, visit www.memrr.org or www.glcarternrhs.com.

The Carter Railroad Museum can be identified by a flashing railroad-crossing signal at the back entrance to the Campus Center Building. Visitors should enter ETSU’s campus from State of Franklin Road onto Jack Vest Drive and continue east to 176 Ross Drive, adjacent to the flashing RR crossing sign.

For more information about Heritage Day, contact Fred Alsop at 423-439-6838 or alsopf@etsu.edu.

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