Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Even in 'Paradise', bad things can happen! Although relatively unusual in East Tennessee, Wednesday night, March 23rd, a tornado touched down along high ground west of Tellico Lake in Loudon & Blount counties. Laurie and I took a drive to see just how bad the damage had been. The good news is that no one was killed or critically injured in the storm. Tennessee Hwy. 95 north to Greenback off of US 411 was blocked off for use by emergency vehicles only.

Power lines were a major casualty from the storm. Many people, including our friend Larry, (aka 'Big Dude'), lost power for hours or even a couple of days. This bucolic scene of cattle grazing in the field contrasts with the placement of utility repair trucks one field away busily rebuilding/restoring power and phone lines.

You know that something significant is happening or has happened when you spot the local network news/satellite trucks on the job. This is the NBC affiliate, WBIR on site. We saw at least 2 other broadcast units along the highway.

The morning after...beautiful blue skies...a major contrast with the night before!

Many trees were downed in the affected area. In this case, one tree had fallen on a home. The tornado forged a swath of destruction that was about 1/3 of a mile wide and a little over 4 miles long. Almost 3 dozen homes and businesses were damaged and destroyed. One large 3 story home with a 5 car garage was totally shredded, but the owner, the pastor of New Life Ministries Christian Center and his family weren't home when the storm hit.

This home sits right along US 411. Not only was it damaged beyond repair, it was blown off its foundation. This was a strong EF3 tornado, with winds reaching up to 160 mph.

Another local resident was feared dead when his mobile home was thrown a couple hundred feet by the storm and destroyed. The good news was that he'd recently been assigned to the 3rd shift at his job and he was at work when the storm hit.

This is all that remains of the Orr & Orr Developers Auto Body shop on US 411. One building was totally blown away and this larger structure is now just a mass of crumpled steel. Cars were blown across the 4-lane highway and others were stacked on each other. One employee was living adjacent to the shop in an RV. He survived the storm with only minor cuts and bruises despite the fact that the RV he was in was tossed around and flipped over.

This photo of the rubble remaining the day after the storm is evidence of it's destructive power!

Of course, this being the 'Volunteer State', there wasn't too much whining going on! Churches, neighbors, charities, schools, (including 20 members of the Maryville College Fighting Scotts football team), pitched in to help clean up and provide immediate assistance to the storm's victims.

This storm passed close enough to us that we hid out for a few minutes in our windowless interior closet where the plumbing from the bathrooms provide a little extra wall strength... Historically, the last damaging tornado in the area occurred in 1993 when one person was killed and 55 were injured. Apparently, property damage was much worse this time, (18 years later), but only 2 people were injured. In any case, this even provided more excitement than we needed, that's for sure!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Group Dining Experience...

Our most recent Dining Out experience with friends and neighbors from our village took us to Connor's Steak & Seafood in the Farragut/Knoxville Tennessee area. Fifty-five 'villagers' participated in this event. Connor's Steak & Seafood has 2 locations, one in Knoxville and another in Alabama. This restaurant is part of Connor's Concepts, Inc., a Knoxville based corporation that also operates The Chop House with 12 locations. In addition to Alabama as well as mid and east Tennessee, other locations are found in Ohio, Kentucky and Georgia. We were limited to a pre-set menu. This allowed Connor's to plan their ordering and meal coordination. One advantage of this arrangement was that we received special pricing for our meals and for the cocktail hour which preceded dinner. We had a choice of soup or a salad with our dinner. Laurie ordered one of her favorites...Lobster Crab Bisque! She reported that it was very good, laced throughout with nice bits of lobster and crab. I chose the House Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing. The ingredients were fresh and the dressing was just right. Dinner salads are available from the regular menu. These include an Ahi Tuna Salad and their house special Baby Spinach & Strawberry Salad. For her entree, Laurie ordered the 7 oz. Farm Raised Salmon grilled with herb butter. It was served over rice pilaf and broccoli and came with a side topping of sauteed vegetable medley . The salmon was delicious and the rice pilaf was very nice. The seafood menu at Connor's is fairly extensive. Among the items listed are Shrimp & Grits, Fish & Chips, Crab Encrusted Tilapia, Red Snapper, Chili-Spiced Chilean Sea Bass and Parmesan Encrusted Alaskan Halibut. The limited menu choices were the salmon, a tenderloin fillet and Chicken Parmesan. I'm not a salmon devotee and a 6 oz. beef fillet just doesn't do it for me. So I went with the chicken. It was a hand-breaded breast, fried golden brown, topped with marinara sauce plus provolone and Parmesan cheese. It was served over angel hair pasta with garlic bread and broccoli. It was supposed to come with sugar snap peas...but fortunately, I like broccoli. The flavors were nice and Tabasco was provided. (A critical condiment!) The only real issue was that the chicken breast was a bit dry/overcooked. I was sitting next to Gary and he had ordered the other dinner option, the 6 oz. Connor's Fillet. He asked for a baked potato as his side dish. Gary reported that his steak was cooked just right and it was very flavorful. (In my opinion, his meal could have benefited from more imaginative plating) Connor's steak & chops entree options from the menu, also include prime rib, a 12 oz. ribeye, a Boursin Fillet, (A House Specialty), pork chops, lamb chops and Braised Short Rib. (Another House Specialty)
We had a choice of 5 different desserts with our meals. These included Strawberry Shortcake, Caramel Fudge Cheesecake, Creme Brulee, Banana's Foster, and German Chocolate Upside Down Cake. I had the Creme Brulee and it was very nice.

Another positive was that Connors allowed us to switch out our original dessert choices.

Gary had the German Chocolate Upside Down Cake. It came with ice cream and it was drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce. It looked great and Gary gave it an enthusiastic two thumbs up! From the regular menu, I noted that the ice cream is homemade...a nice touch.

Laurie opted for this very decadent offering of Bananas Foster. She actually let me have a taste...and she was right. This was an excellent flavor-filled dessert!

The full menu also includes 13 Appetizers & Small Plates, Pasta & 4 other chicken offerings plus a half dozen sandwiches.

This was a positive dining experience although we would have preferred to order off the full menu. We will be back in the near future to sample a wider range of entree and appetizer choices... This week we will be joining our friends Dennis and Edera for dinner at The Chop House location in Farragut Tennessee.

The Tennessee location for Connor's Steak & Seafood is at 10915 Turkey Drive in Knoxville. Phone: 865-966-0933. For further information regarding Connor's and The Chop House, go to

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Classico Italian Restaurant - Second Look?

Since Classico Italian Restaurant was OK for lunch...and they serve breakfast as well, we decided to drop by and check it out. Can you spell 'disappointing'?! We love a good breakfast and this didn't come close to measuring up...

The first problem was service. There were 3 other tables occupied when we arrived and 2 of them were getting ready to leave. There were 2 'waitresses', plus another young woman whose purpose we never did ascertain. For 20 minutes we sat there...waiting to be noticed. Finally, the manager/cook came out of the back and, as she passed by our table she asked us how we liked our breakfast. We told her that we had yet to be waited on... She berated one of the waitresses, who then took our order.

My breakfast is shown above... It's the basic breakfast with 2 eggs over easy, hash browns, (a) sausage patty and toast. The eggs were OK, the toast was a bit dry, (white bread instead of the Rye that I'd ordered), the hash browns were just a bit too crispy and the sausage patty had been cooked and probably recooked. It was hard and black all the way through. I was also a little startled that I only got one patty...although the low price for breakfast may provide the answer to that issue.

Laurie ordered a waffle with bacon on the side. The waffle was pictured as coming with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Now, I ask you, just how appetizing does her waffle look!? The frozen strawberries had apparently been hacked off a block of fruit...and, to paraphrase an old commercial, "Where's the Whipped Cream?!" We were so stunned when Laurie's breakfast was placed in front of her, that we had to call the waitress back over to ask for more whipped cream. We were told that this was all she could get from the can...and that they were out of whipped cream. This fit right in with the rest of our experience...and, oh yes, they had run out of orange juice.

One waitress could best be described as being either condescending or annoyed...we weren't sure which. The other waitress brought food to one table and then did nothing until we were almost done with 'breakfast' and then she began clearing a table that had been vacated 20 minutes earlier.

Paula and Gary, friends from Tellico Village, were sitting at a nearby table. They know that I blog about restaurants and they were counting the minutes that we sat there without being served. As they left, they told us that their experience was much like ours and they couldn't wait to see my blog about our breakfast!

When we visited this restaurant the first time, the service was very solid. Maybe it was just the breakfast crew that had the problem...although even with good service, the food was far below standard. Our next adventure at Classico Italian Pizza & Pasta will involve dinner. We want that experience to be a positive one. A good Italian Restaurant would be a real plus for the area! So, there will be a "Third Look" at this venue. The restaurant is located just off Loudon County Road 444 in Tellico Village at 318 Lakeside Plaza in Loudon. Phone: 865-958-9316.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fish Fry Special...

This is an early spring view from the Clubhouse at the Kahite Golf Course in Monroe County Tennessee. If you look carefully, you can see the snow on the Appalachians in the distance.

Laurie and I came by the Clubhouse for a Friday all you can eat Fish Fry. Afterwards, we drove through this easternmost section of the Tellico Village properties counting the many deer in yards and on the golf course.

This is what the first helping of the fried fish dinner looked like... Decent fries, good cold slaw, very nice hush puppies and a really nice hunk of deep fried fish. We asked for seconds and the waitress brought another piece of fish...and since it was cut in half, apparently it was for us to split. Another helping was quick in coming so, in the end, all was well.

We decided to split a dessert and we chose a slice of Chocolate Pie. It was very, very good! The coffee was full bodied and favorable as well...

The Kahite Clubhouse & Grill is located at 400 Kahite Trail in Vonore, Tennessee. Phone: 423-884-2159. With the exception of special events such as this Friday evening fish fry, the normal hours for the restaurant are from 8 am to 6 pm, seven days a week.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tennessee Railway Depots...

Here are three railway depots that we photographed while exploring parts of Tennessee last year.

This is a combined passenger & freight depot in Smyrna. It was built in 1873 for the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. The trackage is now owned by CSX. The depot was built to support rail connections to key seaports at Charleston and New Orleans.

Here is the former Tennessee Central Railroad depot in Crossville. It was built in 1893 and it was abandoned by the railroad after the end of passenger service in 1968.

It was here that American hero, Sgt. Alvin York, arrived when coming home after WWI. Later, Gary Cooper was here while filming a movie about Sgt. York. The building is now being used as a gift shop and part of it can be rented out for special events.

This solid looking building is the oldest surviving railway depot in Tennessee. This depot was built in Niota in 1854 for the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad. Originally, the town and depot were named 'Mouse Creek', but another town on the other side of Knoxville was named Mossy Creek and the mail kept getting mixed up. Both towns changed their name. Niota was the name of a well known Indian Chief. The building now serves as the City Hall.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Quality Diner Cuisine...

The other day, we were out running a couple of errands near Maryville Tennessee and we recalled an article on a new restaurant called The Red "I" Diner. Our friend Larry, (aka. Big Dude), had also stopped by and he'd commented that the food was pretty good. So, we drove out TN 33 until we spotted the restaurant. It's attached to a gas station/convenience store. It was hard to spot from the road. The name is 'catchy' but the sign is a bit lost on the facade of the building.

Although at least one local review pegged this location as a former Waffle House, one of the owners told us that it was a former Huddle House. The decor has a bright and shiny 'diner' look to it and it had a comfortable feel to it. The restaurant has only been open a few months but one of the owners, Jeff Marlowe, told us that he's a professional chef and he's been in the business for many years.

Laurie ordered the 'Papa' Burger, a half pound of fresh Angus ground beef on a grilled & buttered Ciabatta roll with lettuce, onion and a slice of Provolone cheese melted on top. The burger was hand formed and cooked just right...very juicy and tasty! Laurie ordered some homemade cole slaw as a side...and it was some of the best cole slaw that we've had...anywhere or anytime!

I just didn't feel like having a sandwich...but, since Red "I" Serves breakfast all day long and I love breakfast, I went with two eggs over easy with hash browns and bacon. Everything was cooked perfectly. Other breakfast options range from a 'B4 and After', a biscuit with an egg and a fried chicken breast to 'The Locomotive', consisting of 2 eggs, a fresh cut grilled loin chop with toast and a 2x4 biscuit with pepper gravy for dipping.

Then of course, I had to try a 2x4 biscuit, (yes, 2"x4"!), with some gravy... I meant to order sausage gravy but ended up with a lot of very nice pepper gravy instead. (Of course I sprinkled Tabasco on the gravy, my eggs & the hash browns) This was the best bacon and eggs ++ restaurant breakfast I've had to date in East Tennessee!

As mentioned above, one of the owners waited on us... Jeff is very eager to please and he's a bit of a food perfectionist. He surprised us with a great dessert...Chocolate Bread Pudding with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a shot of whipped cream...then drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce. Believe it or not, the bread pudding was very light...not heavy like most bread pudding. This was an excellent dessert!

A sampling of other menu items at the Red "I" Diner include Fried Hand Breaded Mushrooms, (Smokey Mountain Stokers); 3 different dinner salads; a battered & fried fish sandwich, (Oh My Cod); a version of the classic Monte Cristo sandwich, (Red I Cristo) and; a hand tenderized pork tenderloin sandwich, (Smokey Mountain Titan). We will definitely make a return visit! Nice food at a good price...

The Red "I" Diner is located at 2024 East Hunt Road in Maryville Tennessee. Phone: 865-233-5210. Everything served at the Red "I" Diner is made fresh daily. There are daily specials and desserts as well.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Railway Depots - Two Along the Way

The other day when we were out running errands and catching a quick lunch, we happened across this nice little depot in Maryville, Tennessee. From what I could discover, it's the former Southern Railroad freight depot. It was built for Southern back in 1925 and it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. The tracks used to run along the left side of the depot. The building is now serving as the office for a local CPA firm.

A couple of days later we were out exploring again...another nice day in East Tennessee. It did cloud up a bit as we cruised along the back roads on our way home from Clinton... (Antique Stores Galore!)

This is the former Southern Railroad Passenger Depot in Oliver Springs. It was built in 1896 for $1,550.00. It now serves as the Oliver Springs Library and local archive repository. This was a busy railway station for many years. At one point, in addition to the 2 - 4 passenger trains each day that stopped here, there were 6 local 'shopper' trains that came through Oliver Springs going to and from Harriman and Knoxville.

The last passenger trains that stopped here were the "Carolina Specials"...the "Pride of the Southern". They made that final trip on December 5, 1968.

There are a few displays both inside and outside of the Oliver Springs Depot. This is a Southern Railway caboose that was originally built in 1971...then it was refurbished by Oliver Springs in 1997.

So...why was this little town such a busy train hub? It's all about tourism, coal and Oak Ridge. Starting back in the 1830's, Oliver Springs was known for it's mineral springs. Although earlier there had been several smaller hotels serving American & European tourists seeking the healing powers of the mineral waters, the town hit big time in 1895 when the luxury 150 room Oliver Springs Hotel was opened.

Unfortunately, the hotel burned down in 1905 and nothing was built to replace it... Coal kept the area busy for some time and then, during WWII, the construction of the nearby Oak Ridge complex led to additional rail traffic in support of that facility.

This nifty little 116+ year old building is all that's left of the Oliver Springs Hotel complex. It's the former ticket booth where one paid for admission to the mineral springs. It now sits right next to the Southern Railway Depot/Library.

For photos and a bit more information on an earlier hotel as well as the 150 room building that burned down in 1905, check it out at The Depot itself is located at 610 Walker Avenue in Oliver Springs.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Riverview Grill (Alert!) Clinton, TN

Another beautiful day in East Tennessee...and we had just completed a marathon tour of almost every antique shop in Clinton. It was time for a late lunch/early dinner and we had a $20.00 Greater Knoxville Lifestyle Card we could use. So we drove west along the Clinch River for a few miles. The Riverview Grill - Seafood & BBQ is located on TN Hwy. 61 just a couple of miles east of Oak Ridge.

It was mid-afternoon and there wasn't much going on. The good news is that the restaurant is very casual and we had our pick of tables along the window overlooking the river. We learned that the restaurant is under new ownership and then came the BAD NEWS. The new owner isn't honoring the Lifestyle discount and apparently not any other outstanding coupons either. Such is life... So, instead of steaks or a more expensive seafood platter, we opted for less expensive meals.

We started out with an appetizer platter. Looks good doesn't it!? The deep fried pickle chips with the ranch dressing were killer good! The fried shrimp were OK but they didn't have much flavor going for them. The cocktail sauce helped. There were 5 wings on the platter. They were beautiful and they were very tasty. However, they were almost cold...and Laurie wouldn't eat cold wings.

Laurie ordered a turkey club on a toasted ciabiatta roll. It came with bacon and melted cheese with lettuce and tomato on the side. The onion rings were her choice for her side dish. The turkey was actually from a roast turkey breast...but it was a bit dry. She cured that problem with a bit of the ranch dressing that came with the appetizer. The onion rings were very nice.

I ordered the fried clam platter. As one can see, it came with a couple of hush puppies, french fries and cole slaw. It had been a long time since I had fried clams. Deep fried anything is good and I had nothing in recent memory to compare the clams to, but I did enjoy them. The fries and the hush puppies were OK...nothing distinctive. As for the slaw, it tasted strange... I thought maybe it was just me but Laurie confirmed my impression...the slaw was the opposite of tasty!

The waitress was new but she tried hard to please. She was very attentive and helpful. Still, this just wasn't a worthwhile experience. There are too many other restaurants to try or return this one is off our list. For your information, the Riverview Grill is located at 1625 Oak Ridge Highway in Clinton, TN. Phone: 865-463-8550. Website: If anyone has a different/better experience at this restaurant, please let me know...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rail Tour in The Secret City! > Part II

In Part I of my blog about the Rail Tour in The Secret City, I promised that there would be more news about the train... Yes, this is the same locomotive and train that we'd taken! Only 2 months after we took our tour, the train derailed on a roadway near the Oak Ridge Department of Energy facility. As you can see, only the locomotive and the caboose were derailed. Fortunately, no one was injured although the relatively new paint on the engine was significantly marred!

Here are the rest of our photos from the Secret City Rail Tour based in Oak Ridge Tennessee... With a little research I learned that this EMD GP30 locomotive was built by General Motor's Electo-Motive Division between 1961 and 1963. It was originally purchased by the Southern Railroad. The Southern Appalachia Railway Museum (SARM) operates the tour trains and the Heritage Railroad/Walden's Ridge Railroad handles local freight operations. The motive power/locomotives are used somewhat interchangeably.

This was my view from the open door of a former baggage the open air concession/snack bar car. Both Laurie and I spent most of our time standing in the doorway enjoying the spring sights along the 14 mile route.

More about Oak Ridge... Because of the large number of workers recruited for the Manhattan Project, the army planned a town for them at the east end of the 17-mile long valley chosen for the project. The architectural firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was selected to design the town. Prefabricated modular homes, apartments and dormitories, many made from 'cemesto', (bonded cement & asbestos!), were quickly built. Larger homes were awarded by the government based on the size of the family and the status of the worker. Divorce usually led to a 'housing demotion'.

This is the inside of the concession car on our tour train. Yours truly is hanging out the open doorway. In addition to snacks, a small selection of souvenirs were available for purchase.

Oak Ridge was developed by the Federal Government as a segregated community. Schools were segregated as well and they remained segregated until the Supreme Court forced the Federal Government to change it's policy via it's Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954.

As we returned from our tour, most of which is outside this Department of Energy facility, we rolled on by several items of rolling stock owned by SARM. Laurie took a couple of photos before we were reminded that we couldn't take pictures inside the facility. Since most of the buildings that we rode by weren't in use or are set to be torn down, it didn't make much sense...but rules are rules.

This passenger coach is a refugee from the Algoma Central Railroad based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. The Algoma Central is both a scenic tour railroad and a working railroad that operates on 296 miles of track from Sault Ste. Marie north to Hearst Ontario. That railroad's tour train runs up to Agawa Canyon...a distance of 114 miles. This coach is scheduled for refurbishing and future use on the Secret City Scenic Railroad.

Here is another old diesel locomotive at rest at the Oak Ridge facility. There was quite a bit of rolling stock in the facility but, as mentioned, Laurie's photo taking efforts were curtailed.

Oak Ridge and the Secret City facility is an interesting area. It's almost surreal...even a bit stuck in time. Of course, East Tennessee has a long history as regards land seizures/condemnations by the Federal Government. In addition to Oak Ridge, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Smoky Mountain National Park were all also created via government take over of private land.

For more information about The Secret City Scenic Train Tour, you can call 865-241-2140 or go to the SARM website at

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Classico Italian Restaurant - First Look

Laurie and I had been told about an Italian restaurant opening in Loudon Tennessee at a small strip center in Tellico Village. It replaced a previous restaurant...that had been too pitiful to write about. In any case, we were really excited when we were told that the new restaurant might be related to Willie's, our favorite Italian restaurant in the greater Knoxville metropolitan area!

However, we quickly discovered that Classico Italian Pizza & Pasta was not a spin off of Willie's. Instead, it's related to Danny's Pizza & Pasta, a restaurant that's located less than a mile down the road from Willie's. So, with the wished for connection proved to be non-existent, it all comes down to the food, service and atmosphere at Classico Italian!

Originally, we'd vowed to give this new restaurant 2 or 3 more weeks to shake out the kinks and get it's act together. But, it was lunch time, we were out driving around and Laurie felt like pizza...

I decided to order the Sausage Parmesan Sandwich & French Fries. The sandwich was certainly big enough and the order of fries was huge... I would have preferred a link of Italian Sausage instead of the slices that were used and I like it a bit spicier...but it was a decent sandwich, especially for $6.75.

Laurie ordered a small 12" pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage and black olives. She felt that it was a good, if not great, pizza. I had a bite of it but it wasn't enough for me to offer my opinion. The pizza was large enough that Laurie was able to take half of it home...

The menu at Classico Italian Pizza & Pasta is fairly extensive...offering much more than our rather limited luncheon experience. Entrees include Veal Marsala, Shrimp Scampi, Fettuccine Carbonara and Salmon Piccata. Pasta specialties range from Baked Zitti to Ravioli, Spaghetti, Lasagna through Eggplant Parmesan. Gourmet Pizzas and Calzones round out the menu.

Of even more potential importance is the fact that Classico Italian serves basic American breakfasts from 8 am to 11 am daily! This could be a big plus for the Loudon/Tellico Village area... Laurie and I will have to try this new restaurant's dinner menu as well as the breakfast menu before we can fairly evaluate this addition to the area's dining choices.

Service was very nice...polite and pleasant servers. One negative is that nothing much has changed from the old restaurant as relates to decor. It's gray on gray...with few decorations and an ugly carpet. Perhaps the food will succeed enough for the new owners to spend some money to really brighten up the place!

Classico Italian Pizza & Pasta is located just off of Loudon County Road 444 at Tellico Village at 318 Lakeside Plaza in Loudon Tennessee. Phone: 865-458-9316.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Rail Tour in The Secret City! > Part I

With Spring on the way here in East Tennessee, my wanderlust is reignited and I start imagining what experiences and sights might be possible this year! One goal for 2011 is for us to take 2 or 3 interesting and scenic rides on the railroad. It is amazing just how many rail related possibilities exist out there. They range from the exotic to simple short line trips.

Last Spring, Laurie and I took a short ride on the rails on "The Secret City Train Tour" in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This is the ALCO C-420 Locomotive that was used to pull our train. It was built in 1966, retired in 1982 and then rebuilt and repainted in 2008. (Much more on this locomotive in Part II on the Secret City Rail Tour)

For those of you who don't live in East Tennessee, Oak Ridge was the home of the Manhattan Project, the place where the USA developed Atomic Bomb which ended WWII. In 1942, the federal government in effect seized 60,000 acres of private land, giving thousands of residents about six weeks to relocate. On this land, the government built the 'secret city' of Oak Ridge along with the necessary research and production facilities. Much of the facility is still involved in national defense, although now it's referred to as the East Tennessee Technological Park.

This is the coach that Laurie and I boarded for our ride. It's an old Central of Georgia Budd coach that was built in 1947. It was later used by the Southern Railroad before being retired.

This is the inside of the passenger coach. It was well kept and comfortable, but in keeping with our exploratory nature, we didn't spend much time sitting in our seats. We did stay seated long enough to listen to the informative spiel by the volunteer from the Southern Appalachian Railway Museum as he told us about the tour and the Secret City. SARM sponsors the operation of the Secret City excursion trains.

Boarding these excursion trains is unlike any others that we've experienced. Passengers board the train at the Heritage Center. (formerly the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant) Bags are subject to search by East Tennessee Technological Park security personnel. Non-US citizens are required to provide passport and visa information prior to boarding.

This is the second car of the train that carried passengers on the day of our tour. Dining Car #3164 was built for Southern Railway in 1924 by the Pullman Company. It saw extensive use with the Carolina Special and The Tennessean via Knoxville. It was retired in 1970.

In 1945, the K-25 Uranium-Separating facility at Oak Ridge covered 44 acres and it was the largest building in the world at that time. The area was called the Clinton Engineer Works and the unnamed town grew to a population of 45,000, but it was an official government secret until 1949. All of the workers wore badges and the town was surrounded by guard towers and a fence with 7 entry points.

This is a view of the seating portion of the dining car. It's obviously a good place for those who want to socialize while riding the rails.

The 2011 Schedule of Secret City Train Tours will pick up again with multiple trips on 2 Saturdays in April, 2 in May, 3 in June, and then 2 in July, August & September. These tours operate on 10 days in October in order to take advantage of the Fall colors.

We'd never seen the business end of a dining car. This is where all the work was done. Turning out full meals in such tight quarters must have been a very challenging job!

In my next blog on this trip, I have a couple of illicit photos of railroad rolling stock that I took as we rolled through the facility. I was told that I needed to stop taking photos... Otherwise, this was a very laid back and relaxing ride on the rails.

For more information about the Secret City Scenic Excursion Train and to review the 2011 schedule, you can call 865-241-2140 or go to the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum's website at