The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History is a Smithsonian affiliate located just north of Atlanta in Kennesaw, Georgia. The significance of Kennesaw in Civil War history is notable on several fronts. Not only is Kennesaw the site of one of the most savage battles of the war between the states, and home of a massive National battlefield cemetery, it (Big Shanty Station) is also the beginning point for what would eventually become famously (or infamously, depending on loyalties) known as the Great Locomotive Chase. The key subject of the action-filled story is housed here at the Southern Museum. Let me explain...

On April 12, 1862, a small band of rough-cut northern spies led by a civilian northern scout (secret service?) by the name of
James J. Andrews, boldly stole a train in plain sight of the southern army. Their objective was to push north to Chattanooga, cutting telegraph lines and destroying track and bridges along the way. Their ultimate goal was to cut off supply lines and communication between Atlanta and Southern Troops in Tennessee. Unfortunately for the spies, a single enthusiastic train conductor named William Allen Fuller would have nothing to do with his train being stolen by a bunch of Yankee spies. He set out on foot to chase his train, the General, until he got it back. Mr. Fuller's resolve proved to be more than "Andrew's Raiders" expected, and the train was captured near Ringgold, Georgia, remarkably near the spy's destination. Some of the northern spies were captured and some escaped to return home. The Union survivors were awarded the very first Congressional Medals of Honor.

In 1956, the Great Locomotive Chase adventure was made into a Disney film starring
Fess Parker, an actor who later (1964) became the star of the popular TV series Daniel Boone. Rebecca and I were young children during that time period, and Fess Parker was a star to us. So, when I first saw The Great Locomotive Chase at camp at the ripe old age of 9, it was a immediate hit.

Ok, sorry about the tangent, but the point is, the steam engine named The General, the real star of "The Great Locomotive Chase," is here in all its glory. Yes, the original, 200-year-old locomotive is displayed here at the Southern Museum. Also, an abbreviated 20 minute film tells the Great Locomotive Chase story in the museum's theater, and the full length Disney DVD is available for purchase in the museum's gift shop.

Now, I don't want to neglect the rest of the museum because there is much more here. The Southern Museum features many displays portraying life of the soldiers of the Civil war, both northern and southern. Most displays are static: pictures, clothing, eating utensils, and weapons. Additionally, the museum has a series of displays portraying the manufacture of train engines by the Glover Machine Works during the time period. This is a really cool display showing the processes of engineering, machining, casting, and manufacturing.

For the children:
While much of the museum is targeted at adults, there is a portion of the Southern Museum dedicated to children. There are displays of historical significance that encourage children to role play (dress-up). There is also a full-size model of an engine in which children can experience the thrill of piloting a train. Additionally, the museum is adjacent to a very nice playground, a sure cure for childish boredom.

In summary, the Southern Museum is a must-see for adventurous families. Much of the static portions of the museum are not the most exciting places for small kids, but there are plenty of distractions to help keep them occupied. We really recommend the purchase of Disney's Great Locomotive Chase DVD in the museum's gift shop. It's well worth it! 

While in the Kennesaw area, we suggest a short drive up to Cartersville to visit the Tellus Science Museum, the Booth Western Art Museum, and the Etowah Indian Mounds. If camping and recreation are what's on your mind, check out Red Top Mountain State Park and McKinney Campground on nearby Lake Allatoona.

Note: The Great Locomotive Chase story is special to us because it happened here in our own back yard. In fact, Rebecca and I are both originally from Ringgold, the town where the General was recaptured.

Scroll down for more including an Adventure Journal entry.

Adventure Journal
Entry Date: September 2012
The Southern Museum in Kennesaw has been on our radar for a long time. We have seen billboards advertising the museum, and we've had other travelers and friends tell us it was a worthy stop. The fact that it is a Smithsonian affiliate made the visit inevitable.

We visited the museum Labor Day on our way home  from camping at Lake Lanier. When we arrived, I was pleased that adequate parking and turn-around space was provided for the RV and boat just across the street. There is a nice big playground there also.

The entry of the Southern Museum is inviting with multiple historic displays. A very nice gentleman in the ticket booth calculated the least expensive way for a family of six to tour the site, and it was VERY reasonable. I wish other places we visit tried harder to accommodate larger families.

After entering the first exhibit hall, I was concerned that the kids may become restless because most of the displays were static. Pictures, clothing, eating utensils, all telling the story of the Civil War and the history of trains in the south.
Surprisingly, the kids seemed somewhat interested, especially in the weapons on display.

As we proceeded through the museum, we were introduced to the Glover company, an historic local manufacturer of train engines. There are multiple examples of wooden casting models on display here. It's interesting to see the complex parts that were  made first of wood, then cast in iron. The Glover company is a prominent exhibit here with many restored belt-driven machines like mills, lathes, punches, and boring machines (not boring as in "dull" boring as in "making holes"). If you have a love for machines like this, you'll love this display.

From there we visited the kids' exhibit. Our young ones are beginning to feel too old for some of the "kiddie" attractions... But wait, who am I fooling. They still love it! They particularly enjoyed dressing-up in the costumes and posing for pictures. There is also a mock-up of a train engine with a video showing what an engineer would see traveling along the tracks in North Georgia. The kid engineer can control the speed of the train, ring the bell, and toot the whistle. Pretty cool!

Eventually we made our way into the theater where we viewed a 20 minute film about the Great Locomotive Chase. It was well done and maintained the kids attention for the duration. When we exited the theater, pictures of the men involved in the actual real-life spy thriller were displayed along the walls. Then the ultimate star of the legend, the General. It was much larger than I think any of us expected. It is beautifully restored, looking like it could be fired-up and driven right out of the building (and it probably could).

Our last stop was, of course, the gift shop where various Civil War and train-related trinkets can be purchased. We resisted buying all but the full length DVD of Disney's film, The Great Locomotive Chase.

The Richardson Tribe

Other Destinations:
Amicalola Falls State Park
Beaches of South Walton.
Berry College
Big Kahunas
Biltmore House
Blairsville, Georgia
Callaway Gardens
Cataloochee Ski Area
Cave Spring
Cedar Creek Park
Charlestown State Park
Chattahoochee Bend State Park
Chattanooga Zoo
Chehaw Park
Cherry Hill Park
Chester Frost Park
Chieftains Museum
Choccolocco Mountain Off Road Park
Cloudland Canyon
Cloudmont Ski and Golf
Consolidated Gold Mine
Cohutta Wilderness
Cumberland Island
Dauset Trails
Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort
Desoto State Park
Doll Mountain Campground
Dunnaway Gap
Enota Mountain Retreat
Etowah Indian Mounds
Fall Creek Falls State Park
Florala State Park
Franklin D Roosevelt State Park
Fort Mountain State Park
Georgia Mountain Fairground
Georgia Veterans State Park
Gold n Gem Grubbin'
Helen Georgia
Hillcrest Orchards
James H Floyd State park
James Island Park
Jellystone Park- Cave City, KY
John Tanner Park
Lake Allatoona
Lake Sidney Lanier
Lake Winnepesaukah
Little River Canyon Center
Live Oak Landing
Lula Lake Land Trust
Mammoth Cave National Park
McIntosh Reserve
McKinney Campground
Moto Mountain Powersports
New Echota - Cherokee Capitol
Noccalula Falls Park details and pictures
Old Stone Fort Archaeology State Park
Pine Moutain RV
Red Top Mountain State Park
Ridge Ferry Park
Rocky Mountain Recreation Area
Rock Town - Pigeon Mountain
Rome GA
Salt Springs Recreation Area
Silver Springs
Stone Mountain Park
Tanglewood Farm
Tannehill State Park
Tellus Science Museum
The Southern Museum
Topsail Hill Preserve
Townsend KOA
Townsend Tennessee
Twinbrook Resort
Up The Creek RV Camp - Park Details - Pictures
US Space and Rocket Center - Details and Pictures
Vogel State Park
Wild Animal Safari
World of Coke
Zoo Atlanta - Details and Pictures

Special Event:Southern Museum’s Popular "Trains, Trains, Trains" Returns Jan. 24
The Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History will host the fifth annual installment of its highly popular “Trains, Trains, Trains” event on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the Museum.

Features Rating (1-10)



Official website 10 This is rare. I'm giving a website a 10. The Southern Museum's website is awesome. The colors, the delivery, the information, the images. Being a museum, I'm giving them a break on the pictures. After all, if they show all their exhibits, why go to the museum?


The Southern Museum is in what "appears" to be a very old, but very well renovated building from the outside. The inside of the facility appears brand new. The floors, glass, exhibits, walls, everything spotless like it was installed yesterday. The curator and staff of the Southern Museum apparently pride themselves in keeping the building and its contents in tip top shape. It reminds me of the Tellus Science Museum and the Booth Western Art Museum, both located just up the road from here in Cartersville. Why a 9? It could be larger!
Exhibits Great Locomotive Chase


The Great Locomotive Chase is really the core of this museum. It provides the "star power' that attracts patrons. I wish there were more to it, but seeing the actual train is quite a thrill.
Railroads: Lifelines of the Civil War


This is an awesome tour of the history and importance of railroads in the south. Most displays are static. I wish there were more interactivity for the kids here.
Glover Machine Works


This exhibit was one of my favorites because I love to see historical examples of manufacturing. The kids were ok with it, but didn't really understand the significance. Again, more interactivity for the kids would be good.
Jolley Education Center


This is the area for kids, and it's pretty cool. The Richardson Kids were entertained for a while, but there could be even more activities. Dressing up and posing for pictures seemed to be their favorite part of the day.
Local Attractions-Things to do near Cartersville, GA.


Booth Western Art Museum, Etowah Indian Mounds, New Echota, Mckinney Campground, Lake Allatoona, Red Top Mountain State Park, etc. You could spend a week or more in the area, and never get bored.
*Note: We rate only the amenities we have personally reviewed.

No financial consideration or favor has been received for listing in PB&J Adventures' website. We are in no way affiliated with this facility or any other facility we review. Any paid advertising seen on this site was arranged after the destination was reviewed. You can trust the reviews to be unbiased.

September 2012 - Please note - I am not pleased with the quality of these pictures. Museum lighting is difficult to shoot in without an adequate camera. On this trip, my digital SLR camera had died (as in "cannot be repaired"). I have since purchased a professional Canon EOS DSLR camera, so image quality will improve.