A rare piece of locomotive history from the Gallatin Fossil Plant now has a new home at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) in Chattanooga.
A Fairbanks-Morse model H16-66 was recently donated to the museum by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). According to officials, the locomotive is one of the few surviving engines of its type with only nine still in existence.
“I’m happy this train now has a second life,” Gallatin Fossil Plant Manager Travis Patterson said in a prepared statement about the donation. “It has an incredible story, and I hope it will power a new generation’s imagination at the museum.”
Built in 1958 and known as the “Baby” Trainmaster, the locomotive was the most powerful single-unit engine produced at that time, according to the museum. It was used for nearly 40 years to transport coal four miles to the power plant before it was eventually retired in 1997 when coal shipments shifted from train to barge delivery.
In 2019, TVA officials began looking at opportunities to preserve the engine and approached the museum regarding a possible donation.
“This locomotive holds a unique place in history for TVA and the region, and we’re excited that it will be well-preserved in its new home,” TVA Supply Chain Vice President Laura Campbell said.
Since rail service is no longer available to the plant, officials said extensive planning had to be done to move the Fairbanks-Morse on the highway. TVA used cranes to lift the partially disassembled locomotive onto an equipment truck to make the journey to Chattanooga.
The engine was delivered last month following a 10-day effort to prep, load and transport it to its new home.
“The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is honored that TVA would place this locomotive in our collection for future display and possible operation,” TVRM President Tim Andrews said. “Our mission is to educate the public on the role of railroads in developing the Tennessee Valley region, and what better example than this locomotive to showcase the intertwined efforts of the railroads and the supply of electricity by TVA in powering our economy.”
The Fairbanks-Morse is expected to be put on display prior to the start of the museum’s year-long 60th anniversary celebration which begins on Oct. 14. For more information about the TVRM visit tvrail.com.