Scenic USA - Tennessee

Cowan Railroad Museum

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Cowan Railroad Museum - Cowan, Tennessee

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

   Hoping to encourage economical development and attempt to reach a broader market, the Tennessee legislators granted several charters to build various railroads in the central region of the state during the 1800s.
   One of those lines was developed in 1840 to connect Nashville and Chattanooga. Naturally, the railroad was called the Nashville and Chattanooga Railway. One of the biggest obstacles in this venture was crossing the Cumberland Mountains. Climbing the lowest pass was quickly dismissed, leading engineers to propose a 2200 foot long tunnel. Drilling through rock in the mid 1800s was quite different than today. Using hand labor, African-American slaves used a steel bit and an eight pound sledge to pick their way through the mountain. A train station was built just to the north of the Cumberland Mountain Railroad Tunnel, placing Cowan, Tennessee, on the map.
   Today, the train station has been converted to a railroad museum, filled with the area's nostalgic railroading memorabilia, model Cowan Railroad Museum Hours trains, NC and STL Railroad books and a kid friendly locomotive and caboose.
   The Cowan Depot received a face-lift beginning in 2008. Wood was replaced, an old bandstand was converted into a train watching platform and a fresh coat of yellow and green paint was completed in 2011. Catching everyone's attention that drives by Cowan Railroad Park, a Columbia type 2-4-2 steam locomotive now rests out front on a spur. Built by Porter in 1920, the rare engine was used in the Cherokee Brick Factory in Macon for over 40 years. Sitting right next to the busy CSX line, kids can't help to be thrilled when they’re in the old locomotive and a huge diesel comes roaring by.

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