As it turns out, a steam engine won't be pulling the excursion train that will make the trek from Chattanooga to Oneida and back on Sunday. But the train will still be coming -- and right on schedule -- with well over 400 passengers aboard.
The 1904 vintage steam engine scheduled to pull the train was forced to undergo maintenance that will keep it out of service Sunday. But Scott County Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee chairman Brandon Hughett said Friday that the passenger cars are still vintage, there will still be more than 450 passengers aboard the sold-out train, and the lack of steam in the sky as the train approaches Oneida won't impact the festivities at Oneida City Park.
"Maintenance is maintenance, and it couldn't be helped, but we're still going to provide our visitors a great day at the park," Hughett said.
The Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Oneida are hosting the BSF Vintage Train Fest at the park, where passengers aboard the train will disembark for two hours while the train is turned and prepared for the return trip to Chattanooga. More than 50 vendors have registered for the festival, ranging from arts-and-crafts vendors to food vendors.
Activities at the park will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday morning, when the first vintage cars are expected to begin arriving and registering for the antique car show that will accompany the train festival. Hughett said well over 100 classic automobiles are expected to be on hand, especially given an almost perfect weather forecast of sunny skies and temperatures near 60 degrees.
The train itself is expected to arrive around 12:30 p.m. and depart at 2:30 p.m. Live entertainment will begin at the park at 12:30 p.m. -- with music provided by the Great Day in the Morning bluegrass band -- and food offerings will include a chicken-n-dumpling dinner by the Scott County Senior Citizens & Friends, barbecue, burgers, homemade ice cream and more.
Other festivities will include wagon rides and trackless train rides for kids or the young-at-heart.
Admission to the festival is free.
And while there will not be a vintage steam engine pulling the train to the park, the diesel locomotive that will do the work is unique in its own right.
Bright green in color, the locomotive is not your ordinary train engine. Southern No. 8099 is part of Norfolk-Southern's "Heritage" line of locomotives that was rolled out in 2012 to commemorate the railroad's 30-year anniversary. There are 20 of them in all, each painted in a different scheme that is designed to fit contemporary locomotives while staying as true as possible to the engines' original designs over the years in order to commemorate N-S's railroad predecessors.