Southern Museum 50th Anniversary Celebration

Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History Celebrates 50th Anniversary

The Southern Museum opened fifty years ago on April 12, 1972, in historic downtown Kennesaw, Georgia. Originally called the Big Shanty Museum, it showcased the famous General locomotive and was dedicated to telling the story of the Great Locomotive Chase. The event, which took place 110 years earlier on April 12, 1862, elevated the engine and Big Shanty (today the City of Kennesaw) to prominence during the Civil War.

Over the next fifty years, the Museum grew in size and expanded its collection to include other artifacts from the Civil War period and railroading in the Southeast. In the mid-1990s, the Museum acquired and curated an impressive collection from the Glover Machine Works of Marietta, Georgia, the last builder of steam locomotives in the South. The name was changed to the Kennesaw Civil War Museum soon thereafter. Beginning in 2001, a two-year renovation and enlargement project culminated in a nearly 50,000 square foot facility housing three permanent exhibits: Railroads: Lifelines of the Civil WarGlover Machine Works: Casting a New South and The Great Locomotive Chase featuring the General locomotive. The name was changed, yet again, to the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.

The Museum expanded further in 2007 with the opening of the Jolley Education Center. The 8,000 square foot facility offers classroom space for programs and a dedicated area for the very young to play safely alongside older children. The Jolley Education Center also houses Georgia’s Merci Boxcar, a gift from the French people to the state of Georgia following World War II. The Southern Museum’s Library and Archives, which opened to the public in 2015, contains extensive documentary records, manuscripts and photographic materials related to the Civil War and railroad history in the South.

Today, the Southern Museum is a prestigious Smithsonian Affiliations member devoted to history and education. The Museum provides a family-friendly experience that fosters conversation about the strategic and economic use of railroads in the region during and after the Civil War. Annual events include the model train extravaganza Trains, Trains, Trains! in January, the African American History Month Celebration in February, the Women’s History Month Celebration in March, Civil War History Day in June, Railroad Rendezvous in July and All Aboard for Holiday Fun in December. Yearly educational programs include the Mommy & Me preschool program, the Homeschool Workshop Series and Sensory Friendly Afternoons.  

The General Emporium, the Southern Museum’s gift shop, features a variety of Civil War and railroad objects, from clothing and collectibles to toys and model trains, many of which are custom items featuring the General. The Museum also has its own signature line of Lacy House jams, jellies and sauces. 

Join the Southern Museum to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary in 2022 with a variety of events taking place in April, including a special model train layout featuring the General that will be on display in the lobby throughout the month and a rare opportunity to board the General locomotive at an after-hours event.  

50th Anniversary Events

Western & Atlantic Bus Tour – Saturday, April 2
Learn about the history and significance of the railroad adjacent to the Museum, including its role in the Great Locomotive Chase, on an informative bus tour along part of the route. Led by author and railroad scholar Todd DeFeo, stops on the tour may include Cooper’s Furnace, Cartersville, Kingston, Dalton, and Ringgold. The bus departs from the Southern Museum at 7:30 a.m. and returns at 4:30 p.m. A box lunch will be provided. Availability is limited. Purchase your tickets online: $50 for members and $65 for non-members. Sponsored by Joe and June Bozeman and Jimmy John’s.

Big Shanty Festival & Parade – Saturday, April 9
The Southern Museum is proud to be a gold-level sponsor of the Big Shanty Festival 2022 in downtown Kennesaw. In recognition of our fiftieth anniversary, the Museum is serving as the grand marshal of the Big Shanty parade. Be sure to visit our booth, filled with a variety of train merchandise, at the festival. The festival is free; regular admission rates apply to visit the Museum.  

Visitor Appreciation Free Day – Tuesday, April 12
Join the Southern Museum on April 12, fifty years to the day the museum opened to the public, and enjoy all the museum has to offer, from exhibits to interactives to movies, for FREE. Thank you to all the visitors and donors who have generously supported the Museum over the past fifty years. With your continued patronage, we look forward to providing a world-class museum experience for another fifty years.

Movie Screening: The General starring Buster Keaton – Saturday, April 16
The silent film masterpiece, released in 1926, is based on the events of the Great Locomotive Chase. The General featured onscreen is a replica of the locomotive that is on display at the Museum. The filmmakers requested the use of the historic locomotive, but the owners at the time refused when they learned the movie was a slapstick comedy. Screenings take place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. in the Museum’s General Theater. Regular museum admission rates apply.

Southern Spirits – Friday, April 22
With a cocktail in hand, explore the Southern Museum after hours from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. while you enjoy local food from Eatin’ Fresh Kennesaw and live music from Mitchell Phillips and Ezra Jacobs. You also will have the opportunity to step aboard the famous General locomotive. Tickets include Museum entrance, boarding of the General, hors d’oeuvres, and drinks, including moonshine, our spotlight spirit. Attendees must be at least 21 years old. Purchase your tickets online today: $20 for members and $25 for non-members. Sponsored by Atlanta Bonded Warehouse, North Georgia Staffing, McNeel Builders, Credit Union of Georgia, Savannah Distributing, and Burnt Hickory Brewery.

Open House at the Southern Museum – Saturday, April 30
Experience many of the activities that take place at the Southern Museum throughout the year in a single day! Drop into the Cobb Energy Gallery from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. for a sampling of our educational programs. A children’s birthday party in the classroom of our Jolley Education Center, with free cake while supplies last, is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. A living history presentation, including a tour of the Museum galleries and a historic firing demonstration on the front lawn, happens from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Our Railroad Education Center Library & Archives, with highlights from the collection, is open to the public from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The Museum gift shop is offering a 10% discount on all purchases. Museum members get 25% off. Finally, a special presentation on the past, present, and future of the Southern Museum takes place in the General Theater at 3 p.m. with Dr. Jeff Drobney, Kennesaw City Manager and former Executive Director of the Southern Museum, and Dr. Richard Banz, the current Executive Director of the Museum and the Kennesaw Museum Foundation.

About the Southern Museum

As a prestigious Smithsonian Affiliations member, the Southern Museum is an inclusive institution devoted to history and education. Home of the General locomotive, made famous during the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862, the Museum provides a quality experience that fosters conversation about the strategic and economic use of railroads during and after the Civil War. The Southern Museum’s educational programs reinforce classroom learning by connecting historical information with actual artifacts, while the Jolley Education Center offers numerous hands-on and interactive exhibits for children of all ages.

Visitor Information

The Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History, located at 2829 Cherokee Street NW, in Kennesaw, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Museum admission is $10 adults, $8 seniors, $5 active-duty military and students (with ID), $5 youth ages 3 to 17, and free for Members and children 2 and under.