Southeastern Railway Museum

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The Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth is an absolutely fantastic museum sprawling across four large buildings and an open air railway yard.

Their railway exhibits range from steam and diesel locomotives, wagons, carriages, maintenance of way vehicles, signalling equipment, ground working tools and everything in between. They run some of the locos from time to time and also have a miniature railway and a large HO scale model railway.

There’s also a lot of non-railway exhibits including a selection of buses, trucks, taxis and some military and cotton picking equipment which is significant to the areas history.

As a Brit, I’m afraid I’m not an expert on American railways. I’m doing as much research as I can whilst writing this, but if there are any mistakes please do let me know.

As I always do with my museum visits, I’ll keep some of the exhibits out of this blog so you have to go see the museum for yourself. This one I highly, highly recommend!

As soon as I got out of the car I was greeted by this big fellow; which is a diesel-electric SD45-2. This is the only one preserved at the moment. It’s known as a road switcher, which means it would pull goods on the mainline and then can shunt (or switch) wagons into position when they have reached their destination. I was surprised to see this would be used for switching. We have shunting locos in the UK but they are generally tiny 0-4-0s and 0-6-0s whereas this thing is a bit of a monster.


Once I had brought my entry ticket from the little hut I made my way into the first large building.

As soon as I went in I was greeted my this:


This Pullman is known as The Superb. President Warren G Harding was to use The Superb as his private car during his two month cross country trip called the “Voyage of Understanding” in 1923. Sadly President Harding passed away due to cardiac arrest during the trip whilst in San Francisco. The Superb was then used in a funeral train from San Francisco, to Washington D.C and then back to Harding’s  home state of Ohio. The carriage was donated to the museum in 1967.


In front of The Superb was this cool little van.


Campbell Limestone Company privately operated locomotive.


Due to the huge amount of distance American trains have to cover, the crews used to have their own car at the end of a train called a Caboose. From here the crew could relax or watch over the train for any loads moving around or any mechanical issues. They are huge inside and the ones at the museum had cooking facilities, storage, sleeping facilities and a toilet for the crew.


I always thought that these were the U.S equivalent of a brake van, which in the U.K was a wagon that would be put at the end of the train, operated by a guard who would apply the brakes to slow or stop a train. Turns out they have a completely different purpose!

Here we have a ventilated wagon for carrying fruit. Peaches are a speciality in Georgia.


Along with a car for carrying milk. In the UK milk would be taken in a cylindrical shaped tanker.  This was a box car with two big vats inside that would hold the milk. Very unusual for me!


Big steam loco!


One of the fire doors for it’s boiler. Built in 1912.


There were a few maintenance of way speeders on display. This one really caught my eye as it’s just for one person. I bet that was a blast to ride along on!


This is what they traditionally look like.


There were a number of cabs, trucks and fire engines on display in this building too!


At first glance I thought the white truck above was electric. The radiator is mounted behind the engine!


On a couple of the pre-war trucks, there are 3ft(ish) vertical poles bolted to the front leaf springs (such as on the blue and yellow truck above). If anyone happens to know what they are for please let me know!

In a room stemming away from this building was the model room. The centre piece was the museum’s HO scale railway but they also had display cases full of models around the room.


World over, narrow gauge railways produce interesting vehicles.


Heading out of the back of the first building, we come to the second, which is where the museum’s bus collection is housed.


Interesting to see a gauge cluster under the hood. The mechanic can see what’s going on without having to walk the way to the front of the bus.


A nice simple forwards, neutral and reverse.


Along with a few other bits.


If we head across to the next building we have my favourite of the exhibitions which was this rake of unrestored and original Norfolk & Southern pullman coaches and a mail car. DSC_0040

There are two classes of pullman coach. One has a narrow corridor running down the right hand side of the carriage with bedrooms to the left. This I believe to be “First Class”.


The first room had a sofa. Note the white panel above the sofa drops down to reveal the bed.


On the other side of that room was another single chair and fold down bed. The door you can see lead to a small private bathroom.


The control panel for the features of the room was lovely! Air conditioning controls, lights and a switch to call a porter.


In the second class rooms the residents would have a private toilet hidden below a seat.


Bunkbeds would also fold out of the walls either side for sleeping.


Second class passengers also didn’t get much in the way of privacy. A simple curtain separates the passenger’s room for the walkway.


The mail car in which letters and packages would be sorted and distributed on the move.


Finally in this rake of coaches was a normal passenger coach. It was kind of eerie in this one. I’m not sure what sort of a history it had.


These are switching locomotives, which are akin to the U.K’s shunters.


Some more heavy diesels:


This one is The General II. The General was a locomotive stolen by Union spies during the American Civil War, who used it to cause as much mayhem on the Confederate rail network as possible whilst being chased by Confederate soldiers on foot and in trains. Look up the Great Locomotive Chase if you want to find out more. It was an interesting sequence of events.


Nice livery on this caboose.


This caboose was pretty unique with the extended outside platforms.


The museums rolling stock collection is vast. Looking through the photos I have and watching the word count of this post, I think I’ll just have to show you a few highlights.

I love railway cranes. Have done since I was a child. There are some really nice model kits of U.S cranes on the market.


The U.S Army also make use of the nations railways. This is a kitchen car awaiting restoration.

The last thing I would lie to show you is this ‘Transette’. It’s a sort of prototype built at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The idea behind these was that they could take small groups of people or goods to whatever station they needed to get to. Essentially making public transport easily accessible. The idea never took off though, and funding to the project was cut in the early 1980s.

I saw it and fell in love with it. If I could, I’d bring it home with me haha!


All in all, if you find yourself in the Buford area I’d highly recommend visiting the Southeastern Railway Museum. It’s one of those museums where you can really get amongst the exhibits. There are more open doors than roped off , perfect displays which I think is great.

Visit the museum’s website to find out more!

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By Richard Francis

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