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Tri-State Model Railroaders Club

L&N locomotive 225, a 4-6-2, rolls across the Cartecay River bridge, just south of Ellijay, GA, on the Tri-State Model Railroad Club layout.

The Tri-State Model Railroaders (TSMRI) club is located in the over 100 year old historic Mineral Bluff depot on the Murphy Branch of the L&N “Old Line”. After starting the model train club in another location in 1999, the club moved to its current location in 2005 when the depot was restored. The TSMRI members have built a very nice layout representing the L&N “Old Line” from Marietta, GA to Etowah, TN. The club models the year 1952 when steam and diesel locomotives worked the line serving numerous customers.

The “Old Line” has a wonderful history and is still operating today. After CSX acquired the line from L&N, they sold off the southern portion to investors from Tennessee for a short line, which became the Georgia Northeastern Railroad. The Georgia Department of Transportation acquired the remaining tracks up to the state line with Tennessee and leases the line to the GNRR. Currently, the Georgia Northeastern Railroad (GNRR) operates on a 95 mile section of this line, with most of the freight action taking place on the southernmost section from Marietta to Tate, GA. The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, a subsidiary of the GNRR, operates a tourist train from Blue Ridge, GA to the towns of McCaysville, Ga and Copperhill, TN straddling the state line. Here is a link to the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway:

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum operates a tourist train from Etowah, TN over the Hiawassee Loop and south to Copperhill on a seasonal schedule. Here is a link to the Tennessee Valley Railroad:

The club layout occupies a 22’X37’ foot space in the Mineral Bluff brick depot. The layout is designed as an around the room style layout with a return loop at each end. One return loop has a large staging yard area representing Atlanta, GA.

The layout features a large steam and diesel service facility located near the yard in Marietta, GA.

The Blue Ridge depot was scratch built based on plans for the prototype structure.

Two peninsulas utilize the center area of the room with larger peninsula showcasing Ellijay, the Turniptown Creek trestle, and Blue Ridge, Ga. The other peninsula replicates the Murphy Branch, including a model of the Mineral Bluff depot and the interchange yard with the Southern in Murphy, NC. You can see more about the layout on the club website at:

A train passes over the Hiwassee Loop bridge where just a few minutes before it was on the lower track going under the bridge.

A new upper section has been built that is accessed by a unique helix and features the Hiwassee Loop. On the prototype, the Hiwassee Loop is an engineering marvel that was used to climb a steep grade and replace a troublesome switchback that took time to traverse. The track loops around Bald Mountian two times and then passes back over itself allowing the train to climb a steady grade. Longer trains can actually pass over themselves as they circle around the mountain. Members of the club constructed a helix that has tracks passing outside and then inside the mountain to hide every other loop of the helix. It is great fun to see the visitor’s reactions as a train works its way up or down the mountain and they can’t figure out where it is going to appear next.

The motor car crew waits for passengers to board for the last trip of the day.

During the 2021 July 4th weekend the club held their Ride the Rails festival. The event allows guests to visit the club layout and then ride a motor car on a 5 mile round trip on the Murphy Branch. In addition, guests can operate a hand car, which is always fun for the kids. Donations are requested for the motor car ride and hand cart, which helps offset the club expenses for the year. A great time was had by all attendees and we received numerous compliments on the club layout. Another Ride the Rails 2021 event will be held September 25th and 26th, stop by if you are in the area. More information on the event can be found on the club website link above.

Model train clubs are a great way to make friends and learn about the hobby. I have been a member of the TSMRI for almost 10 years, and have enjoyed building and operating the layout, as well making new friends. If you currently don’t have room for a layout, a train club can allow you to improve your modeling skills for that day when you do build a layout. You can learn a lot from the other members and have your questions answered. The club also allows me to operate in a time table and train order environment and experience that type of train operation. In my case I have the best of both worlds, operating on a large layout featuring 1950s equipment at the club layout, and then my home layout featuring modern day switching. It all occurs on the same rail line, just different eras, which makes it really fun.

Until next time, stay safe and keep model railroading.

758 views2 comments


Interesting that both layouts are set in the same year, 1952. My early modeling commenced in about 1948, but even then I leaned toward modern diesels. F3, FA and a critter.

Roger Thomas


That second level sure looks good! And the Bald Mountain helix is a ton of fun.

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