Scenic City Express

It’s official!  The Southeastern Region of the NMRA will be hosting the 2026 NMRA National Convention and National Train Show in Chattanooga.  

On January 26, 2024, the NMRA Board of Directors voted 9-0 to award the 2026 National Convention to the SER and to be held in Chattanooga. So, it’s full steam ahead for the 2026 Scenic City Express!

The National Convention will be held July 27 – August 2, 2026, at the Chattanooga Convention Center located in downtown Chattanooga.  There are 4 hotels either attached or within a 5-minute walk of the Convention Center that will be providing special rates to attendees.  The Marriott is attached to the Convention Center and Read House, The Chattanoogan, and Hotel Bo are within 2 blocks of the Convention Center.  And when it comes to finding a place to eat, downtown Chattanooga has plenty of restaurants to choose from.  Plus, the Chattanooga Convention Center is one of the stops on the free shuttle buses that run about every 20 minutes from the area by the river to the Chattanooga Choo Choo so attendees will be able to hop on the shuttle and hop off at shops and restaurants along the way.
Chattanooga is within a day’s drive of over 4,400 NMRA members. One of the major factors in members deciding to attend National Conventions is the travel expense.  Chattanooga is the center of easy access for travelers coming by Interstate Highways through Nashville, Knoxville, Birmingham, and Atlanta from points around the US.  And current updates to the Interstates in Chattanooga will be completed in 2025. We are projecting that over 900 attendees will be at the convention, but Jenny at HQ thinks we could get over 1,200 attendees.  With lower travel, lodging, and dining expenses that Chattanooga has to offer over cities home to millions of people where the national convention has always been held at, we could see a large turnout.  Especially with all the events we are planning, and all the tourist-related activities the Chattanooga area has to offer visitors.
We are honored that ScaleTrains will be the major sponsor for our convention.  I also reached out to the Southern Railway Historical Association and the L&N Historical Society, and they are planning to hold their conventions at the TVRM during our convention and open their archives to our convention attendees.
On February 6, 2024.  I met with the Operations and Scheduling Managers at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum along with Mike Cummings, SER Member and NMRA Secretary, and Shane Wilson, President of ScaleTrains, to discuss private trains reserved for NMRA convention attendees.
 We are delighted that the TVRM will provide the following trains and activities for our convention:
Dinner Train on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.  96 passengers on each train.  Tickets would be sold on first come basis during registration.
ScaleTrains will charter the Summerville Double-headed Steam Special on Thursday with the 4501 and possibly with a locomotive the TVRM has been restoring that will be heading to its home at a museum down south after the convention so would be an unusual locomotive for Chattanooga. The train will carry 240 people with lunch under a tent in Summerville for the passengers. And this train trip will also be sold on a first come basis.
The Hiwassee River Rail Loop train would run on Friday. It's a 4.5-hour train trip for around 200 people.
And as part of the non-rail activities the TVRM has a Homefront Tea Room that holds 50 people, and they will set those up for 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM.  Also first come during registration. 
The Missionary Ridge Local operates every half-hour and convention attendees will ride with other guests of the TVRM.  But convention attendees will be given a special back shop tour of the TVRM shops where the really heavy railroad shop machines are used.
The TVRM may also have a blacksmith demonstration and a WWII Army Camp reenactment group with equipment for guests to enjoy. 
TVRM Night Photo Shoot Event limited to 50 attendees that lasts for an hour and 15 minutes. 
In addition to all the above we also have the Incline Railway up Lookout Mountain, Riverboat cruise on the Tennessee River, Rock City, Ruby Falls, Point Park, the Tennessee Aquarium, and many other attractions.  We will also be planning bus tours of Chickamauga Battlefield, the nation’s oldest and largest National Military Park. The Battle of Chickamauga was the 2nd bloodiest battle of the Civil War with over 35,000 killed, wounded, missing, and captured.
Besides all the above activities, at the Chattanooga Convention Center we will have great clinicians from around the country giving clinics from Monday – Saturday.  And capped by over 100,000 sq. ft. of model trains at the National Train Show on Saturday and Sunday that will be open to the public.
On March 1, we will launch a convention website where you can keep up with events we will be adding to the convention before we go live with registrations.
So, save the date, July 27 – August 2, 2026, and plan on attending a great convention planned and carried out by members of your Southeastern Region!
See you in Chattanooga!
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