The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, located in Calera, Alabama, is one of the older operating museums in the country having been established in the mid-20th century and today is the State of Alabama's official railroad museum with a far-reaching collection of equipment, although it has an many more pieces stored and awaiting restoration than those which have been properly preserved. Along with the railroads fine collection of rolling stock and railroad artifacts it also has an operating tourist train on the grounds (which operates on a few miles of track) with special trains operated throughout the year like the Cottontail Express, Mother's Day Limited, Father's Day Limited, Santa Special, The Polar Express, and the wildly popular Day Out With Thomas.
The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum has its beginnings dating back to the Heart of Dixie Railroad Club, which moved to Calera in the 1980s after it attained ownership of a large tract of land to house its growing collection of donated railroad equipment and artifacts today which is, of course, known as the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum. Interestingly, the organization has become Alabama's official state railroad museum Along with the museum's collection of equipment there is also an operating tourist train on site, the Calera & Shelby Railroad which currently runs trains on over five miles of ex-L&N trackage, that once served a local ironworks in the area.
After CSX attained ownership of the line it quickly set to abandoning it. While the museum was able to obtain 11 miles of the former right-of-way CSX had torn up the trackage and since its purchase the museum has set to relaying the rails with 5 1/2 finished so far. It should also be noted that the William Penn Dinner Train also operates on the line, owned by private individuals and uses an ex-Pennsylvania Railroad Budd parlor car, diner, and coach (leased from the museum) for equipment.
The museum's train typically operate during the warmer months of the year, between March and December and along with its standard-gauge trains they also run a small two-foot gauge live steam engine locomotive which traverses a small quarter-mile loop around the grounds. Known as the Shelby & Southern it was purchased from the Birmingham Zoo. To the delight of youngsters the train was refurbished and put in operation in 2002. It's actually become a fairly popular little attraction itself. Aside from the operating trains the museum also has attained quite a collection of static rolling stock (all of which is listed below) and is definitely worth checking out. Hopefully, in the coming years they can have some of this equipment restored, or least placed under sheds and out of the weather.
Additionally, the museum has two former depots located on their property, both of which are restored: one is the former Southern Railway building from Wilton, Alabama while the other is the Louisville & Nashville's depot from Woodlawn (near Birmingham). Below is a roster of some of the steam and diesel locomotives owned by the museum:
· #2019 EMD SW-8: Built in 1951 for the US Army it is in service.
· #2022 EMD SW-8: Built in 1951 for the US Army it is in service.
· #2 Whitcomb 25-ton Switcher: Built in 1951 for the US Army it is in service.
· #37 Baldwin S-8: Built in 1953 for Jim Walter Resources, US Pipe it is out of service.
· #103 Alco HH900: Built in 1937 for ACIPC, Birmingham Southern it is out of service.
· #904 EMD SW-1: Built in 1942 for Republic Steel, Memphis Union Terminal it is out of service.
· #1850 Fairbanks-Morse H12-44: Built in 1953 for the US Army it is out of service.
· #1853 Fairbanks-Morse H12-44: Built in 1953 for the US Army it is out of service.
· #1861 Fairbanks-Morse H12-44: Built in 1953 for the US Army it is out of service.
· #3 Alco 0-4-0: Built in 1910 for ARMCO, Georgia Marble it is out of service.
· #38 Baldwin 2-8-0: Built in 1924 for Woodward Iron it is cosmetically restored.
· #40 Davenport 0-4-0: Built in 1953 for Alabama Power it is cosmetically restored.
· #4046 Baldwin 0-6-0: Built in 1944 for the US Army it is out of service.
For more information about the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum and planning a visit please click here to visit their website, which includes admission fees, opening hours, and everything they have available to see and do. For more information on museums like the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum you might want to consider the book Tourist Trains Guidebook from the editors of Kalmbach Publishing's Trains magazine. The book lists and reviews over 400 excursions and museums found throughout the country and is an excellent resource if you're looking for one to visit. In any event, if you're interested in perhaps purchasing this book please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.