Tweetsie Time Celebration at ETSU

Curtis Brookshire

Dr. Fred Alsop III and the crew at East Tennessee State University's George L. Carter Museum have a super program developed for the weekend of June 4-6. Features include operations of the museum's HOn3 ET&WNC layout and clinics on the railroad and how the crew is modeling it. They layout has been featured in White River's HOn3 Annuals.

We are just putting together a 2.5-day celebration of the Tweetsie railroad and our Carter Railroad Museum layout for the days in June that we would normally have been conducting the Annual Big Train Show.  The entire focus is on the ET&WNC from prototype to our model layout. 

TWEETSIE “TIME CELEBRATION” – Remembering Our Past, Enjoying Our Present

The 2021 Inaugural Tweetsie Time Celebration held at the George L. Carter Railroad Museum on the campus of East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN, will showcase both on-site and guided events. This will occur on the June 4-5 weekend originally slated for the BIG Train Show. There will be 4 activities each day. Premium registration is $85.00, limited to 60 people and will include a thumb drive archive of data and photographs as event syllabus, signed copy of Rail Mail book, Friday lunch and pre-dinner, Saturday lunch and access to all activities, including a full-route operation opportunity of an HOn3 train on the museum’s world class exhibit layout and participation in the operating session finale. 


10:00 AM to 12:00 Noon – Operating Session #1 – limited to 4 participants, 13 years and older.

LUNCH BREAK – 12:00 to 1:30 – preordered at Duck Taco in the former ET&WNC depot

2:00 PM to 4:00 PM – Operating Session #2 – limited to 4 participants, 13 years and older. 

4:00 PM to 6:00 PM– Operating Session #3 – limited to 4 participants, 13 years and older.

PRE-DINNER BREAK – 5:30 to 6:15

FRIDAY SEMINARS – Prototype History

10:45 AM- 12:00 Noon – “The Narrow Gauge Dilemma – How It Happened, Why it Ended” PowerPoint – Geoff Stunkard – Author, historian, archivist – This overview will showcase the reasons why narrow guage railroading grew in popularity, its benefits and deficiencies, and its final decline. Stunkard will present an visual guide to this history and his collection of over 500 worldwide narrow gauge postcards will be on display for examination.

Geoff Stunkard is the author of the book “Rail Mail: A History of American Railroading on Picture Postcards” and serves as the museum’s Heritage Day coordinator. He has served as a Carter Museum volunteer since 2008 and formerly functioned in that capacity at the Pennsylvania State Railroad Musuem as well. His photography and writing has appeared in TRAINS, Railroad & Railfan, Rail Pace and the defunct Railway & Locomotive Preservation. Most recently, he has been documenting the construction of the museum’s ET&WNC model exhibit for White River Productions. He is also well-known in the collector car community for his books, professional magazine work, and occasional appearances on NBC Sports in conjunction with Mecum automotive auctions. He and his wife live in Johnson City. 

1:45 – 3:00 PM – “A Role in Rock History - Geology of the Appalachians and Tweetise’s Useful Purpose”  PowerPoint -- The geography of the region was crucial to the railroad’s purpose. This will focus on the areas of the line that meant so much to its success – the ore mine at Cranberry, the scenic beauty of the Doe River Gorge, the quarry at Milligan, and coke and coal for the furnace at Johnson City, which came from regional sources as well.   

Dr. Michael J Whitelaw, Professor of GeoSciences, ETSU, does research in Stratigraphy, East Tennessee Regional Geology, and is a active field scientist.  He teaches classes in  Exploring Geology, Geologic Evolution of North America, Geology Field Methods, Subsurface Geology, Geosciences Field Camp, Sedimentation and Stratigraphy, Structural Geology, Plate Tectonics, and is rated as an outstanding professor by his students.


3:45 – 5:15 PM “It Was Here Once: Railroad Archeology with Dr Alsop” PowerPoint - The effort to develop the museum’s historical narrative required diligence. Master model builder Fred J Alsop will showcase the effort that went into building just one of the many buildings on display on the layout as well as overall points of interest that have been recreated true-to-form. Once completed, seminar attendees will be directed to view the areas in question located on the layout.

EXAMPLE - Dr. Fred Alsop has served as the director of the George L. Carter Railroad Museum since its founding in 2007 and retired from teaching in early 2021 after an critically-acclaimed career in the Biology Dept at East Tennessee State University. Author of several books on birds, he has traveled globally as a naturalist and has focused his most recent efforts on the development of the railroad museum’s long-term mission and success. Alsop’s precise discipline in accurate model building is a crucial part of the ET&WNC exhibit, and he has attained toward Master Modeler status through this effort. Wearing many hats, he also serves as President of the Mountain Empire Model Railroaders club, which owns the large HO scale exhibit in the museum and President of the Carter Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, also based in the museum. He and his wife live in Johnson City. 

6:30 PM – 8:00 PM weather permitting “I Walk the Line: An Evening Hike on the Tweetsie Trail.” TBD - likely led by Stunkard, Alsop, Sager. This hike or bike will encompass 3 miles of the trail, starting from Happy Valley Elementary and heading uphill toward Johnson City. Places highlighted to include Buffalo Creek, Milligan quarry, Milligan whistle stop, retention and building locations, mill track switch area and overview of Johnson City yard. All hike attendees will receive a map of the trail and regional map of other ET&WNC places to visit.

FRIDAY evening If desired– Group chow time at the Cootie Brown’s near ETSU Campus (this optional meal is NOT included in fees)


10:00 AM to 12:00 Noon – Operating Session #1 – limited to 4 participants, 13 years and older.

LUNCH BREAK – 12:00 to 1:30 – preordered at Duck Taco in the former ET&WNC depot

2:00 PM to 4:00 PM – Operating Session #2 – limited to 4 participants, 13 years and older. 


SATURDAY Seminars – Model Subjects

10:00AM-11:00AM – Volume Tree building with Ken Harmon 

11:00AM-12:00 Noon – Hidden Highlights Layout Tour with Greg M and Mike Buster

11:00AM – 12:00 Noon – Rock Forms in the Doe River Gorge with Fred Alsop and Mike Sager

12:00 Noon – 1:00PM – New Frontiers Moin del Photography with Geoff Stunkard and Logan Heaton

1:00PM – 2:00PM – The Johnson City Mill Model overview TBD

2:00PM – 3:00PM – MicroMark Model Making and 3d Imaging with Ben Merritt

2:00PM -3:00PM – Cranberry Mine structures and details with Fred Alsop

3:00PM – 6:00PM – Train Order Operations on the ET&WNC layout – active participation by ATTENDEES ONLY. 

SATURDAY If desired– Chow time at the Yeehaw Brewery in the former ET&WNC depot (meal NOT included in fees)


9:00AM-12:00 Noon—Carpool to the Christian Ministries Camp, Hampton, TN, at the mouth of the Doe River Gorge for a rail ride on the former ET&WNC Railroad tracks into the gorge to Pardee Point and a short, guided hike along the railroad east to tunnel #4 and the deck truss bridge. Return by rail to the parking area and view the restored 4-4-0 Crown steam locomotive. The celebrations end following the hike and rail ride and we depart for our homes.

For additional information contact Dr. Fred Alsop via email at alsopf@..., or by mobile phone