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“Relaxing and pretty trip” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
727 Tennessee Ave, Etowah, TN 37331
(423) 894-8028
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Ranked #1 of 2 Attractions in Etowah
Type: Museums
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Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Vonore, Tennessee
Top Contributor
296 reviews 296 reviews
158 attraction reviews
Reviews in 128 cities Reviews in 128 cities
416 helpful votes 416 helpful votes
“Relaxing and pretty trip”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 23, 2014

We took a large group on the train trip in October. We made advance reservations through Chattanooga (there is a $1.50 per ticket charge for doing this) since we were a large group, but there was plenty of space to have waited until the last day. We did call the Etowah station in advance and make sure they had a sufficient number of buses to get us to the State Park to start the trip. The lady appreciated that call. They use old buses to drive you to the train. It was possible to drive to the state park and pick up the start of the train. Parking at the Etowah Station can get tight; some people then parked along the street in Etowah and walked a few blocks to the station.

There were people in wheelchairs able to take the trip and there are ramps to help with mobility needs.

The museum is free and takes only a few minutes to walk through at the Etowah station. It doesn't really matter which side of the train you sit on, as it changes sides at the top. However, some people were pretty tired for the return trip (and it's not quite as sunny), so sitting on the side furthest from you when you get on the train for the trip up might be just a bit smarter. The snack bar is very limited, so we would encourage you to take along some food and beverages. You can get up and move around easily on the trip. There is a little unexpected entertainment along the way which was nice. The only thing that could have been improved on is that the commentary over the speaker could not be heard in some of the cars. We had people change cars to hear better. Sit back, relax and enjoy! The people who work on this trip, from the reservations to the station and the train were all very welcoming and appreciated. Don't forget to leave a tip in the can at the end of the trip.

Visited October 2013
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15 reviews from our community

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Chattanooga, Tennessee
Top Contributor
97 reviews 97 reviews
14 attraction reviews
Reviews in 41 cities Reviews in 41 cities
455 helpful votes 455 helpful votes
“Good and bad”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 27, 2013

We did the trip to Copperhill from Etowah. Long trip. 100 miles round trip. 3.5 hours each way. Train tops out at 20 mph during this trip. Gorgeous, pristine scenery along the Hiwassee River and in the Cherokee National Forest. Historic rail line over 100 years old.

Unfortunately, CSX will not let the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum board on its tracks at the Etowah depot anymore. So TVRM had to build a ramp in a state park from which to depart. Patrons have to park at the depot and take school buses to the park. Handicapped people are allowed to park their cars at the state park.

Unfortunately, TFRM plans TERRIBLY for handicapped people. The old trains are hard to get a walker through and impossible to get a wheelchair through. They should put handicapped people in the first car, which becomes the last car at Copperhill since they move the engine to the other end of the train for the trip back. The last car is the car from which the entire train departs. They are not able to "spot" the train for any other exit point since it would block a city street and would take up rail used by another company, Blue Ridge Scenic Railway (which travels to Copperhill from Blue Ridge, Ga.). A handicapped person with us had to negotiate three rail cars on a walker, which took a long time and completely exhausted her.

After seeing Copperhill and the twin border town of McCaysville, Ga. (a really neat area with good shops and restaurants), you would think that TVRM would let handicapped people board the train five minutes earlier than the rest of the people! But, no, they do not! Terrible!

Upon returning to Etowah, they at least did spot the train so handicapped people could exit at the nearest exit to where they were sitting. There was one disabled person in car 3 and one in car 4 and both were able to use the exit between those cars. But, again, they need to take into account disabled people better than this! It should not be that difficult when making reservations!

Unlike other TVRM tours, this trip did not serve a meal on tables. There was a snack bar in the "commissary car," which was car 4. Everything reasonably priced and the poor guy did a good job handling the mob of people. You are able to bring snacks on board, too.

The conductors who were dressed in full conductor apparel were not helpful at all in answering questions. When they walked up and down the aisles, they did not make eye contact with anyone and acted aloof. Occasionally, one of them would speak over the public address system, but many questions went unanswered. I talked to other passengers who said that other train excursions they had been on were much better organized and had much more informative people working the trips. One of the conductors did provide brief entertainment in each car on the return trip. Three songs sung to his banjo picking.

The best view from the train is on the left side when leaving and on the right side on the return trip. They make passengers switch sides in Copperhill so everyone can enjoy the view.

There is a lot good about this experience. But a lot bad, too. It was very frustrating. And it made the return trip seem very long. It would have seemed long anyhow.

While the scenery of this trip probably is better than any of their tours, I still would take the Chickamauga or Summerville trip next time because they are shorter and because of the meal service. Actually, the Summerville trip may not be shorter, but you do get a meal served.

I spoke with a store owner in Copperhill and she told me that the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway people are much easier to work with and more helpful in determining how many people will be visiting. She said they have a hotline they can call so they can know how many trains will be arriving in Copperhill, at what time, and with how many people. Meanwhile, she said that TVRM has no such service at all and that they do not have any kind of relationship with businesses in Copperhill. I mentioned this to one of the employees on the train and was told that since the TVRM office is in Chattanooga, they are not able to say how many people are on the trains until they count the tickets. That makes no sense to me. Just let the businesses in Copperhill know how many tickets have been sold and when the trains will be arriving. This is better than nothing.

One more thing: The map they give you with your tickets is not the best map. If you get off in Calhoun, please note that Hwy 163 makes a turn on Hwy 11 and then 163 continues after making a quick left off of 11. Unfortunately, there is no sign on Hwy 11 pointing you in the direction of "163 East." We guessed wrong and turned left and got briefly lost.

Visited October 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cleveland, Tennessee
Top Contributor
157 reviews 157 reviews
59 attraction reviews
Reviews in 60 cities Reviews in 60 cities
45 helpful votes 45 helpful votes
“Absolute Must to see!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 19, 2013

We've been on two other Tennessee Valley rides and can't wait to ride them all! When making reservations I would recommend calling. To me the website is confusing. This particular ride is called the Hiwassee Loop. You have to go to the calendar exclusively for the Hiwasse Loop which is not on the main calendar. I would check the website for all options then call the just to make sure you haven't missed something before you book. We booked the Dome Observation and they are a fantastic value. You make half the trip in the Dome observation and half the trip in the lower section of the Dome cars and train. They opened the windows between cars and I got wonderful photos. We had just as much fun exploring the entire train as we did from the Observation dome. Don't hesitate to ask the crew questions. I would be amazed if they didn't have the answer they are all so knowledgeable.
I would suggest you allot time to explore the Museum and building in Etowah. The building is beautiful and the displays are worth the time to read. Downtown Etowah is equally worth checking out. The shuttle busses start departing for the train about 15-20 before departure time.

Visited October 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Forest City, North Carolina
Senior Contributor
47 reviews 47 reviews
10 attraction reviews
Reviews in 28 cities Reviews in 28 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
“Great Train Ride”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 15, 2013

The Hiwassee Loop train was a lot of fun. The Loop train is a half day trip. We have been on a number of train trips this fall and this was one of the best. It was a smooth ride with a narration about the local history. The conductors are fun and provide great information. On the ride you see the changing Hiwassee River, the power plant, the old train line, and more. It all starts at the museum which gives you a good foundation about the railroad line. Buses take you from the station to the boarding area. Arrive in the parking lot early as it fills up quickly.

Visited October 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Johnson City, Tennessee
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
“Loved it”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 5, 2013

The museum is very interesting if you're a history or train buff. You ride an old bus to the train. We rode in the dome coach. The dome we wanted we were told was booked and got a tad irritated when a passenger offered one of the employees on the train a tip to move to a better seat and he said he would see what he could do. Our dome was nice though, spacious seating for your legs, good view. Don't expect major views, you see the river but it's mostly trees and just a relaxing ride. The lull of the engine and feel of the ride makes you very sleepy. If you are in the dome, an attendant comes and takes snack orders (included in the price) of cheese or fruit cups, chips, candy, and drinks. Engineer gave a history on the way up, on the way back it was nice and quiet. One employee came and sat on the steps going up to our dome and played the banjo, which was nice. I would have ridden that train cross country.

Visited September 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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