Tours of Manhattan Project sites a highlight of Secret City Festival

Secret City Festival Logo

One of the highlights of the annual Secret City Festival, taking place Friday and Saturday at A.K. Bissell Park, is the series of tours that run all day both days.

Each of the four tours will depart from the American Museum of Science and Energy at scheduled times. In addition, the Secret City Scenic Excursion Train will be chugging along during the festival.

Visitors will have a unique opportunity to tour three historic Manhattan Project World War II sites. On Friday, June 13, Y-12 will host tours from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. The one-hour tour will include the Y-12 History Center, Building 9731, the Chestnut Ridge Overlook, and Bear Creek Road.

Also on Friday, visitors can take the U.S. Department of Energy Facilities Bus Tour, which is included with a $1 admission to AMSE. This tour includes stops at the Y-12 New Hope Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Graphite Reactor, and a tour around the East Tennessee Technology Park. A separate tour that focuses on the X-10 Graphite Reactor is available at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday.

On Saturday, there will be four opportunities to tour the ORNL Graphite Reactor. All tours will begin at the American Museum of Science and Energy. The Secret City Scenic Excursion Train will be running three tours as well. Departure times for both tours are listed below: [Read more…]

Train rides resume in Oak Ridge

Southern Appalachian Railway Museum

SARM offers spring colors, Easter dinner trains

Southern Appalachia Railway Museum, or SARM, kicks off its 2014 excursion train schedule in Oak Ridge with one-hour Spring Colors trips and an Easter Weekend dinner train for April.

The narrated one-hour Spring Colors train rides will depart at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 5, and Saturday, April 19. Ticket prices are $19 for adults and $15 for children three through 12. Popcorn, refreshments and railroad souvenirs will be available in the train’s commissary car. During the rides, a short narrative will describe the historic Manhattan Project and the historical significance of the railroad that served it. Reservations are suggested and can be made by calling the museum at (865) 241-2140. [Read more…]

Planned for years, new railroad museum will not be built at Heritage Center

Southern Appalachia Railway Museum Building

A plan for the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum that had been proposed at Heritage Center, the former K-25 site. (Submitted image)

Note: This story was updated at 10:13 a.m.

A railroad museum that has been planned for years at Heritage Center, the former K-25 site, will not be built due to budget constraints, officials said Monday.

The lowest qualified bid for the 3,315-square-foot facility came in at nearly $1 million, or about 26 percent more than expected, a press release said.

The Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee’s Heritage Center LLC and the Southern Appalachian Railway Museum determined this week that the cost was too high, the press release said. [Read more…]

Council accepts $480,000 grant for railway museum at K-25

Southern Appalachia Railway Museum Building

A plan for the proposed Southern Appalachia Railway Museum at Heritage Center, the former K-25 site. (Submitted image)

Although they had concerns about potential worst-case scenarios, Oak Ridge City Council members on Monday unanimously agreed to accept a state grant worth up to $480,000 for construction of a railway museum at Heritage Center, a project first proposed more than a decade ago.

By approving the resolution, Council also authorized the city to enter into a construction management agreement with the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee and Heritage Center LLC. That agreement calls for CROET and Heritage to offer the 20 percent local match required under the grant, or $120,000, as well as associated construction management services.

[Read more…]

Ride with Santa on Secret City Scenic Excursion Train

Santa on Secret City Excursion Train

Santa will be on the Secret City Excursion Train in west Oak Ridge for the next two weekends. (Submitted photo)

For the next two weekends, a train ride that starts in west Oak Ridge and rolls north of the former K-25 site in Roane County will feature a special guest—Santa.

“Santa will leave his sleigh in the garage and climb aboard the Secret City Scenic Excursion Train,” a press release said. “He’s sure to delight all the children as he and Mrs. Claus make their way through the coaches passing out Christmas gift bags and posing for pictures with the children.”

Santa will be the excursion rides that run Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1 and 2, and again Dec. 8 and 9.  The Southern Appalachia Railway Museum volunteers will have the train “all decked out in true holiday style to add to the enjoyment of the trips and the season.”

[Read more…]

Council to hear updates on animal shelter, railway museum

The Oak Ridge City Council will hear updates tonight on the animal shelter, where two of three employees recently resigned, and the proposed Southern Appalachia Railway Museum, which has been in danger of losing a $480,000 state grant.

Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi is scheduled to give an overview of the animal shelter during a City Council work session at 7 p.m. today at the Central Services Complex on Woodbury Lane. This morning, Akagi said the city has hired two new animal control officers.

Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson and City Attorney Ken Krushenski are scheduled to give the updates on the railway museum.

[Read more…]

Railway museum still on track

Wheat Train Depot

Nonprofit volunteers are scrambling to ensure they can use a state grant to build a railway museum next to the Wheat boarding station, pictured in center background, at the former K-25 site in west Oak Ridge.

Plans for a railway museum in west Oak Ridge are still on track, volunteers said Monday.

It had recently appeared that the decade-old proposal could derail. During its Sept. 10 meeting, the Oak Ridge City Council agreed to give City Manager Mark Watson permission to send a letter to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, asking them to keep the $480,000 grant for the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum at the former K-25 site in west Oak Ridge.

But during a Monday night City Council meeting, Watson said he hasn’t sent the letter yet. And board members of the nonprofit SARM said they are working quickly, hoping to assure the city manager of the project’s long-term sustainability.

The board members said the museum’s size has been reduced to 3,600 square feet and its estimated cost has been lowered to less than $900,000. They’re working on a plan for interior displays at the museum, completed basic environmental permitting, and expect to meet a Nov. 1 state deadline.

“We’ve had a lot of fast peddling to do to get caught up to this point,” said Charlie Poling, SARM museum director.

SARM President Scott Lindsey said funding for the museum would include the $480,000 state grant, $120,000 raised by the museum, and $300,000 from the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee, or CROET.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Lindsey said.

The museum would be built next to the current Wheat boarding station at K-25, now renamed the Heritage Center. That station is now used for SARM’s Secret City Scenic Excursion Train.

Although no city money would be involved in the museum project, Watson has warned that the municipal government is the grantee, so the financial obligations would ultimately be the city’s responsibility. SARM members said they have presented Watson with financial information on the project.

If the work proceeds, Poling said museum construction could start in the late winter or early spring, and Lindsey said it could take about nine months. Located on a few acres donated by CROET, the museum would include interior and exterior displays, office space, and a platform.

The Oak Ridge City Council agreed to apply for the TDOT grant in 2000.

Watson had earlier said SARM has many hurdles to overcome before Nov. 1, including major design revisions, a National Environmental Policy Act environmental clearance for the new site, identification of the right-of-way, and design review. On Monday, he said there has been a “lot of movement” in the past four weeks.

City could return $480,000 railway museum grant

If the City Council agrees, the city manager could ask the state to take back a decade-old grant that was supposed to help build a railroad museum in Oak Ridge.

The $480,000 grant could be used to help build the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum at the former K-25 site in west Oak Ridge, a project estimated to cost about $1.25 million.

The Oak Ridge City Council agreed to apply for the grant in 2000, and state officials have now set a last-chance Nov. 1 deadline for an authorization to proceed on the 5,000-square-foot project, City Manager Mark S. Watson said in a memo.

[Read more…]

City could consider returning $480,000 state grant for railroad museum

Mark Watson

Mark Watson

A decade-old state grant to build a railroad museum in west Oak Ridge needs to be used or returned to the state, city officials said Monday.

The long-awaited 5,000-square-foot Southern Appalachia Railway Museum and railroad depot could cost $1.25 million, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson told City Council members during a work session Monday.

But the $480,000 Tennessee Department of Transportation grant and a $120,000 match from the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee would only cover half the cost, city officials said.

“It’s a big hill to climb,” Watson said.

[Read more…]