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Oak Ridge train ride offers scenic trip and history lesson

5:42 PM, Oct 10, 2011   |    comments
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October is the busiest month of the year for a train in Oak Ridge offering scenic excursions.

An excursion train is part of the mission of the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum (SARM).

"Preserving old cars and trying to educate the public about trains and also the history of Oak Ridge," Dick Raridon said.

Dick Raridon is a SARM member who usually volunteers as a car host on the Secret City Scenic Excursion Train.

"Sometime I ride along sometimes I just sit out there and take tickets and answer the phone," he said.

In October, passengers can see fall colors from the train as leaves change, but that's just part of the experience.

"You're getting a little history lesson along the way because you get to see what remains of the largest building on earth up here about half a mile, a 44 acre building that's being dismantled. And you get a little history of the area and the history of the train. This car was built in 1947," Raridon said.

SARM has used car 664 for years and just got a new addition: car 829.

An excursion train group in Michigan refurbished a car and gave it to SARM for a dollar. It was built by the Budd Company for Southern Railway and it's a good fit.

"They are noticeable by the corrugated stainless steel on the outside. So unlike some other cars that tend to show rust quite easily over, well this car is 70 years old, you sort of have to look for rust on this one," Southern Appalachia Railway Museum member Richard Iliff said.

In car 829, the upholstery on the seats looks new, the floor and paint is fresh and so are the mechanical systems, thanks to the Bluewater, Michigan chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

"The one thing they did not do is the interior lights. These lights are still the original on-battery 32 volt system. We will convert them we just have not had the time to do it and right now they're not operable," Iliff said.

Car 829 is operable and could help with scenic excursions this month.

"This plus the dining car, we can take about a hundred people. But if we get reservations for more than a hundred then we can easily hook on 829 and bring it along," Raridon said.

You can call 865-241-2140 for reservations then meet the train at a small ticket office for departures on Saturdays and Sundays.

The group plans to build a new depot and museum to replace the ticket office, soon.

"We were going to build it out there on the highway, Highway 58. But now they're talking about giving us a spot up here about a block up the track here which would be better for us because we would have a parking lot we wouldn't have to put in and the utilities and so on would be more accessible," Raridon said.

SARM is committed to finishing the project a year from December and committed to preserving railroad history for generations to come.

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