ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, Alabama
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, Alabama
Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum
The museum is located in Calera, Alabama,
and features antique locomotives, train cars,
railroad equipment and even train rides.
Railroading in Bygone Days
Visitors to the Heart of Dixie
Railroad Museum can climb
aboard antique locomotives
for an engineer's perspective.
Photo by Lauren McCormick
Days of Steam and Power
All of the locomotives at the
museum are authentic. They
once were workhorses that
pulled trains of different types.
Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum - Calera, Alabama
Official Railroad Museum of AL
Waiting at the Station
Visitors can climb aboard on
weekends for unforgettable
train rides through the hills of
The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum in
Calera is the official railroad museum of
Alabama and boasts one of the South's
premier collections of antique trains and
railroad equipment.

The museum is open to the public Tuesday
through Saturday from March to December of
each year and offers train rides on most
Please click here for a current
schedule of rides and to check costs or
reserve tickets online.

The outstanding heritage attraction grew
from the efforts of members of the Heart of
Dixie Railroad Club, a group of train lovers
based in
Birmingham. They originally kept
their growing collection of locomotives, train
cars and railroad equipment in downtown
Birmingham, but moved in the 1980s to the
current location in Calera. The new site
provided space for the development of the
museum and protects the antique equipment
from vandalism, etc.

The museum features four original steam
locomotives and nine diesel-electric ones.
Three of the latter have been completely
restored and are used today to pull the
excursion trains that leave from the museum
station each Saturday or for switching cars in
the museum yard. One of these was built in
1924 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and
used by the Woodward Iron Company.

The steam locomotives and non-operating
diesel-electric ones are on static display in
the massive display area across 9th Street
from the station and museum building. Steps
allow visitors access to several of them for a
first-hand view of how engineers and railroad
employees would have seen the rails.

Visitors can also see more than 40 pieces of
rolling stock, including passenger cars,
crane cars and even cars once used by the
U.S. Air Force Strategic Command as part of
its rail-based Peacekeeper Missile program.

While just a walk through the myriad of
antique equipment is fascinating enough for
most antique train buffs, the rides aboard the
Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum's excursion
trains bring the glory days of railroad back to
life. The trains depart from the station on
Saturdays during the museum's operating

The museum or Calera station is an original
train station that once stood in the town of
Wilton, Alabama. It has been beautifully
restored and serves as the departure point
for visitors planning to enjoy the train rides.

The excursion trains themselves are pulled
by original diesel-electric locomotives. After
leaving the station, they travel along a section
of railroad bed that dates back to 1891, when
the iron and steel industry was reaching the
height of its boom in Alabama. Industrialists
built railroads throughout the central part of
the state to move iron, coal and steel to and
from the Birmingham area mills.
Heart of Dixie Railroading
The museum highlights
railroad equipment with a
special emphasis on trains
from Alabama.
The standard gauge or full-size excursion
trains operate on the Calera and Shelby
Railroad. Once part of the L&N Mineral Loop,
the tracks were originally laid in 1891 to allow
the transport of iron ore, coal and limestone
products to the big mills. The track fell into
disuse after its Coosa River bridge was
removed during a hydroelectric project.

Although the rails were removed, the bed
remained and a large section was acquired
by the museum. Miles of the old railroad have
been restored and the trains now take
passengers for fascinating rides through the
rolling hills of central Alabama. For the first
time in years, a steam locomotive will return
to service at the museum this fall.

The museum has also restored and runs the
former Birmingham Zoo train, now called the
Shelby and Southern.

The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum can be
found at  1919 Ninth Street in Calera, which
is just 30 minutes south of downtown
BIrmingham, Alabama.

To reach the museum from I-65, take Exit
#228 and travel south on Alabama Highway
25 for 0.6 miles. Turn left on Ninth Street and
you will see the museum just two blocks
ahead. Admission is free, but there is a fee
for the trains.
Please click here for more.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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