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Discover the Great Locomotive Chase at the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History

By S. Mathur

The Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History has gone through many changes since it was founded in 1972, but its focus remains the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862. This Civil War episode began when a group of Union raiders crossed deep into enemy territory to steal the General locomotive from the railroad depot in Big Shanty, which is now called Kennesaw.

Brittany Graham, Marketing Specialist at the Museum explains that "the raiders were pursued by the General's conductor William Fuller and his men for 87 miles before the General eventually ran out of wood and water. Our Great Locomotive Chase exhibit tells the story of these men, the chase, and features the General locomotive, the actual Civil War-era steam locomotive."

As well as the story of the Chase, the Museum tells the history of railroads in the South. The "iron horses" of the Civil War were critical for troop movement, transporting food and supplies, and medical care. The original General locomotive is on display, along with the Col. James G. Bogle Collection which contains photographs, time tables, and other documents related to the Great Locomotive Chase.

A new bus tour, to be inaugurated on October 22, will take locomotive enthusiasts on a day-long journey along the route of the Great Locomotive Chase. The tour will follow the old Western and Atlantic Railroad route as closely as possible for 87 miles. The route and stops will be narrated by the Museum curator and staff.

Other Museum exhibits feature the Glover Machine Works, a turn-of-the-century locomotive factory in Marietta, Georgia,, which played a major role in rebuilding the South after the war. The interactive Jolley Education Center teaches children about trains and railroad safety. The new Research Center holds archival material relating to some of the largest railroads South.

The Museum is now affiliated with the Smithsonian. Since 1998, it has been managed by the Kennesaw Museum Foundation, Inc., which had the mission "to create a superior museum environment at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History by providing philanthropic and programmatic support for special exhibits, artifacts acquisition, educational programs, and community outreach."

Education and outreach programs are tailored to different age groups, from preschoolers to adult education classes. Annual Museum events celebrating trains include Railroad Rendezvous and Trains Trains Trains!, with model train layouts, indoor and outdoor railroad-themed activities for children, music, and an opportunity to explore the General. The museum just launched their Homeschool Workshop series where kids can participate in guided activities, tours, demonstrations, plus a hands-on workshop! There are also crafts and projects, including Lego models, to take home.

Museum membership supports the work of the Museum and the Foundation. Member benefits include complimentary admission to the museum and special events, gift shop discounts, priority registration for special programs and lectures, a subscription to the Southern Museum newsletter and enrollment in the Smithsonian Reciprocal Membership program which gives free admission to other affiliates around the country.

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