Hidden in the heart of campus is a railfan’s dream museum, and it just celebrated a decade of operation.
On Nov. 18, the George L. Carter Railroad Museum celebrated its 10-year anniversary. The event included a presentation followed by a reception with refreshments and presentation of the exhibits.
The museum was dedicated to George L. Carter in November of 2007, according to the museum website. November is also National Model Railroad month. In the 10 years of operation, the museum has had 70,000 visits by people interested in trains.
“We attract a lot of people, but not just people who are interested in trains,” ETSU biology professor and Museum Director Fred Alsop said. “It may be just a fun thing to do or see what else the university’s campus may have to offer.”
During the event, train lovers young and old were able to explore the museum and talk about their love of railroads with one another.
Alsop presented during the event as well as former ETSU President Paul Stanton.
“I grew up like a lot of you, particularly the men, who grew up with model trains from Christmas,” Stanton said. “It dawned on us when we were looking for a new home for the modelers to build trains, it ought to be here on this campus and no other place in Johnson City. … George L. Carter was the man who, in essence, got ETSU where it is today.”
According to Stanton, Tennessee officials were looking for places to start “normal” schools for teachers in the early 1900s. Johnson City was one of many sites looked at, and Carter helped make sure the land and funding was available to start the school.
The Carter Railroad Museum began as an exhibit on ETSU’s campus by Mountain Empire Model Railroaders, and it was later brought to ETSU as a museum. Today, that exhibit is the largest one in the museum, according to Alsop. It has models that are bought for and donated to ETSU by members of the community. There are also specific sections of the museum that belong to individuals.
The museum is located in the bottom of the Campus Center Building and is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Anyone may visit and admission is free. The museum operates by volunteers from local railroad clubs, who also help make the exhibits. It features various railroad models, a library and a room for children to learn about trains.
Alsop says the museum sees anywhere from 65-120 people each Saturday and upwards of 200 for special events.
“The railroad layout that’s being featured is the one that actually started here in Johnson City, the Tweetsie Railroad,” Alsop said. “It’s kind of nice to have a tie with a railroad that started in a town that was started by railroads.”