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Little Chicago Rail Day at ETSU’s Carter Railroad Museum coming up

Contributed • Jan 23, 2020 at 9:30 AM

Sometimes, heritage is at your front door.

The back door, as well.

And that’s where Saturday’s Heritage Day at the George L. Carter Railroad Museum will be looking — right at home.

“Little Chicago Railroad Days” will focus on the region’s own rich rail history, featuring both past and present railroading in Johnson City, with scale model railroad equipment and vintage memorabilia on display from the region.

The first of 12 Heritage Days scheduled this year, Saturday’s event stands out.

“These events cover many facets during the course of each year, but this one is special to us because we have such a rich heritage of railroading here,” said Geoff Stunkard, the museum’s Heritage Days coordinator.

“The city came to be because of a railroad water servicing stop, and it later hosted three different companies,” he added. “Today, the two major firms in eastern railroading, CSX and Norfolk Southern, continue to run through the city in daily fashion, whereas many other towns have seen abandonment.”

The Southern Railway and Clinchfield Railroad remain very popular among the volunteers who help with museum exhibits; the lines operated both large steam locomotives and streamliners in their heyday. The East Tennessee Railway is the remnants of the original East Tennessee & Western North Carolina, which operated both standard and narrow gauge rails, and is now partially used as the Tweestie Trail between Johnson City and Elizabethton.

The cooperative efforts of the Mountain Empire Model Railroaders and National Railway Historical Society volunteers will host this celebration of regional history. There will be special trains in operation on the museum’s 24x44 foot HO scale layout, which is primarily an Appalachian region display featuring the pre-1960s era scenes in design and overview.

A major part of the museum’s displays is the HOn3 model of the “Tweetsie” line.

The Carter Railroad Museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Heritage Day is held the last Saturday of each month. There is no admission fee to the museum, but donations are welcome.

The museum is also seeking artifacts for its displays, including the newest addition dedicated to the “Tweetsie,” which is open for guided tours during event days. In addition to the displays, there is also a growing research library, and an oral history archive being established as part of the museum's programs.

For more information, visit www.etsu.edu/railroad.

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

For more information about Heritage Day, contact Fred Alsop at 423-439-6838 or alsopf@etsu.edu. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.

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