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Hours:
Thurs - Sat, 10 am - 4 pm
Sundays, 1 - 4 pm
Mondays, 10 am - 4 pm
May through October

Other times by
appointment
931-967-3078

Location:
108 Front Street
P.O. Box 53
Cowan, TN 37318-0053

Cowan Railroad Museum
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Overview

The museum currently exhibits approximately 1000 interesting, valuable and historic railroad and city of Cowan artifacts, pertaining to railroading mainly in and around Cowan. In many ways there has been a re-creation of a moment in history in the vignettes of various displays. There are displays of figures in period costumes, photographs, tools, documents, old maps and out-of-print railroad books. This collection is always growing and there will be special visits of interesting displays from time to time. There is also a small gift shop where you can purchase engineers caps, railroad oriented t-shirts, stickers, buttons, collectible RR patches, books and much more. See the artifacts page for some pictures and descriptions.

One special artifact has been donated to The Museum and is on display in the waiting-room: a large upright antique hand-made oak “cabinet of drawers” used to store large railroad maps dating back to circa 1890-1910. It is highly prized and quite handsome as well as an example of local craftsmanship from days gone by.

There are model trains of all types on display including a marvelous hand-made model Live Steam locomotive (4-4-0) in 1” to the foot scale. It burns alcohol and runs on steam like the real thing. This was built by a local craftsman about 1920. There also is a HO scale Model Railroads set up and in operation, representation of the Cowan and tunnel area.  A prized collection of authentic NC&StL scale models are on display, including many built-from-scratch models by a master builder from Tennessee.

Outside in a wonderfully landscaped park setting is a complete full-size train headed up by a 1920 Porter steam locomotive of the rare “Columbia” wheel arrangement (2-4-2), a flat car and an authentic for the area wooden NC&StL bay window caboose. On a separate track is a full sized General Electric (GE 44 ton) Diesel switch engine, formerly owned by the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway, and an original NC&StL boxcar. There is also a pair of Fairmont “motor cars” restored to operation on display. Often called “putt-putts” because of the noise they make when running, these were used by right-of way repair people. New attractions are in the “works”. Read on!

There is always a steady parade of heavy freight trains passing by outside the doors of the depot. One can now climb into the Depot’s observation tower and while away the afternoon watching current day operations of big-time railroading complete with monster Diesel pusher engines working southbound on about half the trains as they attack the grade approaching the distant tunnel. On a cool day, you can hear the engines as they work echo off the face of the mountain two miles distant and more than 200 feet higher up. It is AWESOME to even the most casual observer!

The museum hopes to host a number of its own activities as attractions to the Cowan area in addition to the frequent regularly scheduled events the town hosts. Click on “Events” to view those.

The museum is totally operated by its members who are volunteers and is recognized by IRS as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.   This allows donations with a tax-deduction benefit to you should you be interested in contributing to the effort here. It is a labor of Love! Love of the City, love of the railroad and love of each other, typical of small town, USA. As the Pusher crews used to say on their radios to each other as they worked the mountain, “c’mon down, c’mon down to Cowan.



Cowan Railroad Museum is a non-profit 503(c)3 corporation chartered in the State of Tennessee.
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