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'Song of the South'

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JOHNSON CITY (June 20, 2013) — East Tennessee State University’s George L. Carter Railroad Museum will hold its free June Heritage Day on Saturday, June 29, when the museum will offer “Song of the South: Serving Up the Southern Railroad.”

Displays will feature equipment, artifacts and models from the old Southern Railroad, which figured prominently in the early days of Johnson City’s development. Visitors can follow the progression from colorful steam engines to sleek streamliners and then to the “all-business” look of the rail line until it joined with others to form today’s Norfolk Southern rail empire.

Banker J.P. Morgan figured prominently in founding Southern Railway in 1894. Encompassing 4,400 miles spanning the South, the line grew to cover more than 8,000 miles through 13 states by 1920. When it was founded, the railroad included the Knoxville-based East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad, which ran through Johnson City, as well as lines to Asheville and through Natural Tunnel in Southwest Virginia.   

Members of the Mountain Empire Model Railroaders (MEMRR) club and the George L. Carter Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society will be on hand to assist with the displays.

Geoff Stunkard, coordinator of the Heritage Day program, says, “This is the third year for this event and June’s summer weather seems just right for the Southern Railway. Many of our members have an affinity for this railroad, and so do our visitors, who appreciate the Southern’s local ties.”   

Model trains from the Southern’s operations, including the steam excursion program of the 1970s, will be operating on the MEMRR club’s large HO layout. On display will be rare artifacts and photographs of Southern operations, as well as an exhibit of postcards from the Natural Tunnel area.

The Carter Railroad Museum is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcomed. The museum can be identified by a flashing railroad crossing signal over the back entrance to the Campus Center Building at 100 Ross Drive.

The museum includes model railroad layouts and a children’s activity room. In addition, museum volunteers are asking the public for artifacts for the museum’s newest addition, dedicated to the “Tweetsie” line, officially known as the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. The room is still under construction, but guided tours of the room will be offered on Heritage Day.

For online information about the museum, visit http://johnsonsdepot.com/glcarter/cartermuseum.htm.

            The MEMRR club works in conjunction with the museum to demonstrate and maintain the model layouts, museum exhibits and other projects. Visit www.memrr.org to learn more about the group.

            For more information about the event or special assistance for those with disabilities, call Dr. Fred Alsop, the museum’s director, at (423) 439-6838.