The Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum is a little museum but there is a lot to see and learn here. The lumber company was big into cutting timber in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, floating it down the Little River to a sawmill in Townsend, and then shipping it out on trains during America’s first big housing boom. Today you can tour this free museum while exploring everything else there is to do in Townsend.
I had just left the Tuckaleechee Caverns when I came across this little museum in a town that bills itself the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies.” The caverns were amazing but it requires a lot of climbing stairs so I was a bit winded. I was looking for something easier but still entertaining to do. So I stopped at this museum.
Immediately I was greeted with a large locomotive sitting on a short section of track. This is the biggest attraction at the museum and people love capturing selfies here. A few minutes after I arrived a woman pulled up in an SUV with three teenager girls for a little portrait photo shoot. The tracks aren’t functional anymore and only serve two purposes: support the locomotive, and give visitors something neat to walk along. Finally! I could walk along railroad tracks where it wasn’t actually illegal.
Inside the small museum is a one-room display of historical photos and history about the lumber company, logging in the Smokies, and the old railroad line. It was fascinating taking this little walk through time and seeing just how different this national park looked back then. And also how different life was in the mountains.
Right next door to the one-room museum is a one-room gift shop. They had a few interesting knick knacks like a wooden train whistle and t-shirts, mugs, and shot glasses. This is one of the only ways the museum supports itself so I purchased a few things before leaving.
Once outside I sat on the front porch of the gift shop for awhile and chatted with the nice gentleman manning the shop that day. We talked about travel across the country but more specifically travel between Gatlinburg and Townsend. This may be the more peaceful side of the smokies but there is still plenty to do out here.
It was a short visit at the museum but absolutely worth it. It’s free so you really have no excuse not to stop. And after stopping here you might want to head into the national park and make a stop at the Elkmont Historic District. Daisy Town looks a little different now, but I’m sure you’ll recognize it from some of the black and white photos hanging on the wall in the museum.
7747 E. Lamar Alexander Highway, Townsend, TN | 865-448-2211 | www.littleriverrailroad.org/home.html | Admission is Free