Well, keeping up our pace, the kids and I headed out to explore yet another local attraction, the North Alabama Railroad Museum. This was the second time we had stopped, but the museum is operated by volunteers and may not always be manned. For that reason, I suggest calling ahead before your visit. The museum grounds are open 7 days a week so you can see the trains, but if you want to see the tiny museum housed in the depot, or hope to get access to the caboose, you’ll need to do so when volunteers are present.
When you arrive, your first stop should be to the Chase Depot, the yellow and green building shown in the picture. There is a box on the outside of the building that holds brochures and a paper detailing the self-guided tour which includes a map of the grounds. Inside the depot, you will see a small display of railroad artifacts and displays. The depot was one of the smallest union depots in the country and served the Southern Railway, Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railways. The depot you will see today is the second built on this site. The original depot contained two waiting rooms during the days of segregation, an agent’s office and a freight room.
We were a little bit confused about where to go from here. Though the map details the buildings, we weren’t entirely sure what was open to the public and what wasn’t. I guess my advice to you would be to wander around, if it’s locked, it’s not open. Lucky for us, there were plenty of volunteers on hand since it was a work day and we were quickly whisked off to get a glimpse of the caboose. The caboose is part of the display train and though you’ll find a plaque on the bottom of the car telling you what it was used for, this is the only part of the train that you are permitted to tour unless you arrive on a special departure day when the excursion train is running.
One of the volunteers ushered us into the caboose. All I can say is wow, was it hot in there! I really think that the volunteer would have talked more about the train car if it hadn’t been so unbearably hot! We were interested in the commode that seemed to be stuck in the middle of the room. It was explained that men and women didn’t work together at that time so the two men who shared the caboose had less need for privacy. It was really interesting to peek under the lid and see that the toilet drained directly below. See the picture on the right? That’s gravel. Don’t think the EPA would let you get away with that now, would they? Of course if I remember right, this caboose was last used in the 1940’s- things have changed a bit since then.
The guys in the caboose would sit in the bay like window seats in the caboose, which would allow them a clear view of the train. They’d watch intently for axles that appeared to be overheating. We did see one that had overheated and as you can imagine, a broken axle would create a heap of trouble.
We also got to take a peek in the vintage, restored Amtrak train that is still operational. Today it is used on select dates to transport visitors along the 10 –mile Mercury & Chase Railroad. If you ask my children what they learned on this one, I don’t think they’d be able to tell you much. We discovered that it’s a bit hard to concentrate when you are literally dripping with sweat! My suggestion would be that if you happen to be in the Historic Chase community on a Wednesday, you could stop to stretch your legs and have a quick look around. It won’t take you too long, maybe 30-45 minutes tops. If you’re going to spend any significant amount of time traveling to this attraction, call ahead and see if you can schedule a tour. I really think if you received a tour it would make the difference between this being an okay stop and a gem of a field trip. You can reach the North Alabama Railroad Museum by calling 256-851-6276 or by stopping in at 694 Chase Rd. N.E. Huntsville. You can see more of the pictures from our trip at the Live the Adventure Facebook Fanpage. If you do plan to go you may want to download the free notebooking pages that I created. Thanks for linking up to Field Trip Friday! Feel free to grab your cute button and once again, it’s not mandatory, but I would love it if you’d help Field Trip Friday to grow by offering a link back here.
Until next week~ Happy Field Trippin’!
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