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Oak Ridge, Tennessee

On a recent trip to Oak Ridge Tennessee, we talked to Richard Raridon, a volunteer at the American Museum of Science & Energy.  Mr. Raridon was very familiar with the movie October Sky and was in the area when the movie was filmed in Tennessee.  Mr. Raridon says that the scene where the Rocket Boys are seen removing a rail was filmed on a spur line that runs into the "Secret City" at Oak Ridge.  The Secret City was an area of 60,000 acres which the United States Government starting acquiring in 1942 to build research and production facilities for the Manhattan Project.  The production facilities were built in Oak Ridge to separate the fissile isotope uranium-235 from natural uranium, which consists almost entirely of the isotope uranium-238.  Uranium-235 is, of course, used in the production of atomic bombs.

The railroad spur runs into Oak Ridge from the Norfolk Southern's main line to the north.  If you take TN327 between TN61 and TN58, the spur line crosses the road several times.

 

These photos were taken from the K-25 Overlook located on TN58.   The excursion train (see below) starts in the industrial park just across the street from where we are taking the picture.  See map.
These photos were taken along TN327.
We are standing beside the Norfolk Southern main line which is parallel to TN61.  In these three photos, we are looking in the direction of Oliver Springs, Tennessee.  The spur which curves off to the right leads to Oak Ridge.  Somewhere along that spur is where part of October Sky was filmed.  The spur line was chosen for filming because 1) it is jointed rail, so a piece of rail could be removed for the movie, and 2) the line is not used daily, so it was easy to schedule a day for filming (and to replace the rail after filming).
We turned around 180 degrees.  This is looking down the Norfolk Southern main line toward Harriman, Tennessee.

The Secret City Excursion Train at Oak Ridge, Tennessee

The Southern Appalachian Railroad Museum runs an excursion train which crosses the October Sky filming location.  Their brochure reads, "Take a train ride through beautiful East Tennessee on a railroad built over 60 years ago for the historic Manhattan Project.  Learn about the birthplace of the atomic age on a one-hour ride that includes an informative narrative.  Experience history first hand!  Fun and educational, great for all ages.

"Located off Highway 58, ten miles west of Oak Ridge at East Tennessee Technology Park.  Take Exit 356 off I-40 and follow Hwy 58 north six miles to the park and watch for the train ride signs.

"Operated by the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum, P.O. Box 6756, Oak Ridge, TN 37831.  Phone (865) 241-2140.  http://www.techscribes.com/sarm/sarm.htm

The excursion train actually crosses through part of the K-25 facilities, which are still top secret.  Photos are not allowed in this area.  The brochure also warns, "Due to national security concerns, boarding site and route may be changed by U.S. Department of Energy.  Also, non-U.S. citizens are required to show passports and visas.  Citizens of certain nations are not permitted to ride.  Please call for details."

Chris Guenzler recently took this excursion train.  You can see his photos here:   http://www.trainweb.org/chris/sarm.html

 

American Museum of Science & Energy

Visitors, especially young visitors, will enjoy touring the American Museum of Science & Energy in Oak Ridge.  There are many displays and hands-on exhibits where visitors can learn about the history of Oak Ridge and the Secret City.  Visitors can also learn about atomic energy, coal, and other scientific areas.  The museum is very affordable, and is a great learning environment.

American Museum of Science & Energy
300 South Tulane Avenue
Oak Ridge, TN 37830
(865) 576-3200
www.amse.org