Carter Railroad Museum celebrates fourth annual ‘STEAM UP!’

Carter Railroad Museum logo

JOHNSON CITY — East Tennessee State University’s George L. Carter Railroad Museum will hold its March Heritage Day on Saturday, March 29, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. with the fourth annual “STEAM UP!” celebration.

This spring rite showcases the sounds and sights of steam locomotives in miniature form, with steam trains operated on the large main room layout, featuring a functional 21-stall steam-era roundhouse.  Also included are display cabinet exhibits and tours of the Tweetsie scale model exhibit, which encompasses 1,300 square feet. Construction of this display is ongoing, but tours of the room are available during Heritage Day. As always, the Little Engineer Activity Room will be open so that children can play with steam engines like Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends.

Sometimes referred to as “iron horses” due to their striding motion and “breathing” sounds, steam locomotives were icons of the industrial age. These “creatures” had no problem topping 100 mph or pulling a mile of freight cars. However, steam engines needed frequent service to operate properly, requiring an army of experienced machinists, pipe-fitters, boiler-makers and other skilled laborers.

By World War II, the development of reliable diesel locomotion superseded the thundering behemoths. The use of steam locomotion was nearly over by 1960, with the engines remaining active only in small areas and tourist events.

Geoff Stunkard, the coordinator of the museum’s Heritage Days program, says, “It is hard to replicate the smells and sounds of steam, but that does nothing to diminish the fascination steam engines hold on us, both individually and as a culture. We always look forward to this last Saturday in March on our schedule since so much of the history of railroading involved this equipment. Perhaps we could say that ‘STEAM UP!’ is a ‘blast’ for us.” 

Members of the Mountain Empire Model Railroaders (MEMRR) club and the George L. Carter Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society are coordinating the program.

The Carter Railroad Museum is open every Saturday 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 at the back entrance to the Campus Center Building at 176 Ross Drive.

For online information about the museum, visit

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

For more information about the event, contact Dr. Fred Alsop, Carter Railroad Museum director, at (423) 439-6838 or .  For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at (423) 439-8346.

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