Last revised: May 9, 2023
By: Adam Burns
The North Alabama Railroad Museum, or NARM for short, is one of the state's largest such organizations with a volunteer group numbering more than 100 individuals.
The goal of the museum is to "...preserve railroad history in North Alabama and South Central Tennessee" and since they opened in the 1960s have been able to collect quite an array of equipment as well as preserve an original depot.
The group also offers train excursions throughout the year running on a stretch of trackage originally owned by the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway (also known as "The Route Of Dixie").
The North Alabama Railroad Museum began in 1966 as an all-volunteer organization, which it remains to this today.
They are based just northeast of Huntsville in the small community of Chase and over the years have slowly grown their collection.
In 1984 they witnessed one of their most dramatic changes when the museum acquired from CSX Transportation about 5 miles of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway's (NC&StL) former Huntsville Branch that originally ran between Huntsville and Winchester, Tennessee.
Today, it is operated as the Mercury & Chase Railroad hosting popular excursions such as the Mother's Day Special, Father's Day Special, Peter Cottontail Express, Fall Color Special, North Star Limited, Victory Special/The Patriot, Punkin' Pickin' Extravaganza, and Santa Train.
To pull excursions NARM has an operational Alco S2 switcher (originally built as Delaware, Lackawanna & Western #484 in 1949) that is repainted in the NC&StL's historic red and yellow livery as #484.
In addition to #484 they also operate two other historic Alco diesel locomotives; an operational RSD-1 road-switcher and another S2 switcher.
They also own two other locomotives which are currently not in service.
Finally, the group owns a large collection of rolling stock, such as historic cabooses and passenger cars (sleepers, coaches, a diner, baggage cars, and a Railway Post Office car), some of which are operational and used to pull their trains.
Their excursions typically begin with the arrival of Easter where the Peter Cottontail Express offers kids the chance to enjoy the holiday and other activities.
The season concludes with trips aboard the Santa Train, lasting about 40 minutes, where the youngsters to enjoy a ride on the rails and meet Santa himself.
In addition to these trips there are several others hosted throughout the year although the museum does not have a daily schedule of train rides, which run only on special occasions. When the trains are running they board from the restored depot at Chase.
Union Carbide & Carbon Company Boxcab Diesel Switcher #11 (Under restoration. Originally built Alco/General Electric/Ingersoll-Rand in August of 1927.)
Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis S2 Switcher #484 (Operational. Originally built by Alco in 1949 as Delaware, Lackawanna & Western #484.)
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe S4 Switcher #1534 (Originally built by Alco in 1952.)
U.S. Army RSD-1 #8652 (Operational. Originally built by Alco in 1945.)
North Alabama Railroad Museum S2 #213 (Operational. Originally built by Alco in 1941 as Terminal Railroad Association Of St. Louis as #571. Later worked on the Manufacturers Railway.)
This building began life as an actual train station (not a replica), built as a "Union Station," a joint building constructed in 1937 used by the Southern Railway and Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis (later Louisville & Nashville).
Following years of neglect the building was finally restored largely into its original appearance sporting yellow/orange and green paint. Inside visitors can peruse several historic railroad artifacts on display from the areas of northern Alabama and southern Tennessee.
Although not owned directly by the museum (it is currently titled to Madison County) it remains on long term lease to the organization and its future appears quite safe.
If you have plans to perhaps visit the North Alabama Railroad Museum it costs nothing to visit the grounds and their displays. However, there is a charge to ride the trains. In addition, they offer a school program for kids.
To learn more about when they are open, train schedules, ticket prices, and other happenings with the museum please visit their website.
Finally, NARM is always looking for volunteers and those interested in keeping the museum going as well as work on restoration projects, of which there are many!