On certain weekends throughout the year, photographers from all over the south make a trip to Chattanooga, Tenn. in order to photograph the steam engines at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.
Often described as a moving museum, The Tennessee Valley Railroad offers an interactive, historical experience that adds an extra dimension to a visit to one of Chattanooga’s popular attractions. Not only is this museum a fun experience for visitors and locals alike, but the only regularly scheduled, full-sized train ride in Tennessee is offered at this museum.
With these factors taken into account, it is most fitting that photographers, artists, and admirers come to experience these steam engines.
One specific steam engine ride in particular, the Summerville Steam Special, follows a historic route from Grand Junction Station in Chattanooga to Summerville, GA, crossing the state line at Rossville and traveling past Chickamauga National Military Park and through Chickamauga, Rock Spring, Lafayette, and Trion.
This nine hour steam engine ride recently attracted photographers from the North Georgia Photography Club.
Numerous photographers from this prestigious club showed up on Oct. 21 to photograph the Summerville Steam Engine.
Bob Kelley, member of the North Georgia Photography Club and leader of the train chases, has traveled to photograph these trains about ten to fifteen times and tries to go every chance he can get.
By calling this photography excursion a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” Kelley realizes the importance and fun of photographers experiencing these Chattanooga steam engines and encourages his club to come as often as they can.
In order to capture the smoke, the speed, and the beauty of these trains, photographers like Kelley have to chase the steam engines in their trucks.
“It can be extremely dangerous being that close to something so powerful, but it is one of the most exciting parts. Riding behind them is a rush of adrenaline,” Kelley said.
By strategically planning the nine hour day photographing these trains, photographers like Kelley make sure to take numerous factors into account. According to Kelley, he takes note of the arrival time to each location, traces the route on Google Earth, looks up each GPS coordinate, prepares camera setting in advance, and makes sure he is safe by keeping off of the tracks and out of the way.
Even though this is one the club’s favorite photography opportunities, numerous challenges can come into play. According to Kelley, each photography will face the problems of keeping up with the trains, trying not to get lost, paying attention to safety, and arriving at the right time.
However, even though struggles and challenges may arise, Kelley and the club understand the exciting and historical elements in these photographs.
“Why would you miss out on such a cool opportunity? It is rare that we live so close to such a magnificent piece of history and there are few railroads in America that you can ride on steam trains,” Kelley said.
With the excitement of just one club photographing these steam engines, there are still so many other opportunities to capture the history and beauty of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in this city, Chattanooga, Tenn.
The upcoming Summerville Steam Engine trips and last three ones for this year will be on Nov. 3, 10, and 11.
Meet the Storytellers:
Troy Stolt is a student photojournalist based out of Chattanooga Tennessee, where he is the photo editor of the UTC student newspaper, the University Echo, he has experience covering news, sports, in the creation of multimedia, studio portraits as well as making featured photos. His work has also been published University relations, Nooga.com, and the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Abigail Frazier is a senior communications major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She works for the student newspaper, The University Echo, as the News Editor. Frazier hopes to pursue print journalism or an online publication in News Media.
Jessica Boggs, Senior at UTC, is pursuing a degree in Communication and minoring in International Relations. She is an experienced international photojournalist as well as feature photographer for The Echo. Jessica is passionate about speaking for those without a voice through the lens of a camera.
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