Little River Railroad Company

Townsend’s Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum is one of the Smoky Mountain’s hidden treasures. Smoky Mountain history is on full display at the museum as visitors are privy to the inventive, courageous nature of the American industrial spirit. These lumber pioneers, as well as others who toiled in the region that would eventually become the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, had to adapt to their ever-changing surroundings, tool their equipment to the conditions they labored in, therefore indirectly assisting in establishing the roads that we still travel today. The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company museum should be on every visitor’s list that comes through Townsend, especially local history buffs and railroad enthusiasts that visit the area.

The artifacts and exhibits that are part of the collection welcome each visitor, even while still on the road. Included among the outdoor exhibits are: a Shay Engine, a caboose, a set of old-time houses, and an early water tower. These early 1900s items were actually used in the area as part of the early logging industry. The museum exhibit’s cornerstone is the Shay engine. Little River used the Shay engine to haul log cars down the mountain to the sawmill and to transport the lumber yard workers up the mountain and back to work. Basically, the Shay engine was the backbone of the Little River Railroad Company. For lack of a better term, this is a must see for train enthusiasts everywhere, as not many of these Shay engines remain in existence. It’s certainly hard to find one as beautifully and meticulously maintained as the one at Little River.

Make your way inside after taking a look at things outdoors and notice the photos and all the information posted about the logging industry in the Smokies at that time. The first exhibits detail the natural history of the area and the Elkmont pioneers. Next, the industry’s rise is detailed as well as the types of tracks and locomotives that people used while logging. One of the most fascinating parts of the museum is the part detailing how inventive and industrious these workers were. Everything from designing new types of rail cars to a swinging bridge for flatcars is noted and highlighted… You’ll be amazed to see what the laborers came up with to make lumber transportation possible.Finally, the exhibit concludes with the introduction of the railroad and lumber industries and its effect on the National Park.

The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum is part of our early American history. It blends the excitement of hard work and adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains. The American spirit is displayed in vivid detail here. You’ll see how the land was used before the founding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take pictures with a piece of history, read about the logging industry, or just soak up the essence of early America. No matter, it’s a great experience for everyone.