Remembering Bob Soule

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Wesley Schultz’s beautiful photo of Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum Engine 610 and TVRM co-founder Bob Soule made me stop and think of the many ways Mr. Soule helped the Chattanooga community. By way of remembrance, I wanted to share a short story with you.

Years ago I was surveying a piece of property that adjoined a large railroad right-of-way containing several sets of tracks. None of the old deed or plat dimensions seemed to make sense when trying to establish the original railroad right-of-way lines, and a great deal of research had yielded little information. A co-worker suggested that I call Bob Soule on the off-chance that he might know which set of tracks the original lines were measured from.

I called Mr. Soule the next morning, and found him both willing to help, and more able to do so than he knew. He told me the history of that route, which began as a passenger line to Cincinnati, and later had additional tracks laid beside it to accommodate freight shipments. After listening to his interesting story, he told me to check my dimensions from one particular set of tracks. Upon doing so, I found that every old deed and survey dimension checked out within a few inches. That track was indeed the original set of rails.

The TVRM has been an invaluable and at times underappreciated asset to this community. I urge the readers of your site to support it, and I hope that others involved in the museum’s efforts have as much dedication to the preservation of local railroad history as did Bob Soule.

D. Michael North

* * *

Thank you, Mr. North, for your kind comments.

There is no way to adequately describe Bob Soule’s impact in railroad preservation circles, both locally and nationally. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) was the dream of two men, Paul Merriman and Bob Soule, who gathered a few other local residents together and formally chartered the organization in 1961 with a mission to preserve, restore and operate historic railway equipment. TVRM exists because of Bob’s desire to save a small piece of history. TVRM survived because of his leadership and personal efforts. TVRM will continue its work because of his extensive influence. Mr. Soule worked for over 45 years to make it a success, serving as its full-time, volunteer president for the last 28 years. It was truly a labor of love, which encompassed every facet of his life during that period.

TVRM thanks the community for supporting Mr. Soule’s vision to save for future generations a bit of our living heritage. The organization was founded for this reason…and will continue for this reason. Would you like to help? Join the group as a supporting member (only $35 annually), become a team member and learn how to help operate historic trains in Chattanooga (yes you can, with the proper training), make a tax-deductible donation, or simply come out and ride the train. What does TVRM offer? Check the website at for information.

We will never forget the legacy of leadership left by Robert M. Soule, Jr. His inspiration will continue to be the guiding force of TVRM. We invite everyone who reads this to come out and see what the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is all about. You might be surprised how a small, independent, non-profit preservation group has progressed in the last 45 years from a few rail cars into a full-blown, nationally acknowledged tourist attraction with important historical significance. It would not be such without Bob Soule and we are forever grateful for his contribution of time, talent, and treasure.

Steve Freer
TVRM volunteer 1972-1999
TVRM employee 1999-present

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