The region encompassing Chicago, Detroit, Louisville, Milwaukee and St. Louis was the true epicenter of American commerce between east and west during the 20th century. Dozens of railroads large and small provided service throughout Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and the upper Midwestern states, all serving as links in the chain.
“So much was done by the railroads in the late 19th and 20th centuries that, in the end, the region was overbuilt in terms of traffic corridors,” says Geoff Stunkard, the Heritage Day coordinator for the museum. “From steel and automobile manufacturing to vast agricultural resources and raw materials, the railroads of the 1900-1960 era were colorful and plentiful. Many have now merged and a substantial amount of tracks have actually been removed, but we appreciate what once was.”
Between passenger and freight operations, the railroad was crucially important in the era before widespread air travel and interstate highways. This was especially true during the first and second World Wars. Whether it was perishables like produce and livestock or raw commodities such as coal and ore, everything from store goods to Studebakers came from this region. Since so many models of these trains remain popular icons of streamlining and strength, the Carter Railroad Museum will provide an excellent Midwestern representation in operation by volunteers on the 24 by 44-foot HO scale layout.
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.
Volunteers from the MEMRR club and the George L. Carter Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society will be on hand to operate the equipment.
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 www.etsu.edu/railroad.
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, visit www.memrr.org or www.glcarternrhs.com. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at (423) 439-8346.