ETSU’s Carter Railroad Museum goes continental Aug. 31

Published 8:35 am Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Legendary lines and locomotives ‘Winning the West’ for monthly Heritage Day program

JOHNSON CITY — The George L. Carter Railroad Museum at East Tennessee State University will turn its attention toward the vast expanses of the American West on Saturday, Aug. 31, with its yearly celebration showcasing the railroads that stretched across deserts, mountains and plains. These well-remembered lines crossed some of the most dramatic scenery in the world, which itself resulted in specialized equipment epitomized by giant steam engines, multiple-unit diesels and huge infrastructure projects.

“When you consider the way these railroads changed the course of American history, there is no denying that this technological achievement is worth celebrating,” said Geoff Stunkard, the Heritage Day coordinator for the museum. “They overcame nearly insurmountable challenges in both the physical and political landscape to achieve greatness. The Union Pacific, the Santa Fe, the Great Northern and others spread opportunity to the peoples arriving in this land looking for freedom and possibilities.

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“Shipping now crossed the continent and tourism to remarkable places like Yellowstone and Yosemite became possible as well,” he continued. “Even today, the breadth of the nation is still bridged by railroads.”

Commerce and travel spurred great competition between companies. Colorful paint schemes and romantically named trains like the Super Chief, Portland Rose and Daylight Limited were thrilling examples for pleasure seekers, while rushes in produce and imports like silk pushed even freight speeds to the limit. The apex was high-horsepower units like the 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement of the Big Boy steam engines on the Union Pacific.

Visitors to the museum’s August Heritage Day event will be able to see replicas of some of these machines in action thanks to the Mountain Empire Model Railroaders (MEMR) club and the George L. Carter Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.  For more information on these groups, visit or Volunteers will be on hand to operate the museum’s 24×44 foot HO scale layout and two of the four operating model layouts will feature trains from the American West.

The Carter Railroad Museum, located in ETSU’s Campus Center Building, 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” line, the ET&WNC, which is 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

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 toward 176 Ross Drive, adjacent to the flashing RR crossing sign.

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