The Southern Museum opened in 1972 as the Big Shanty Museum in Kennesaw, Georgia. It showcased the famous General locomotive and was dedicated to telling the story of the Great Locomotive Chase, which took place on April 12, 1862, an event that elevated the engine and Big Shanty (today the City of Kennesaw) to prominence during the Civil War.
While the General remained the main attraction, the Museum began to collect and interpret other artifacts from the Civil War, eventually changing its name to the Kennesaw Civil War Museum.
In the mid-1990s, the Museum curated an impressive locomotive-building collection from the Glover Machine Works of Marietta, Georgia, forming the foundation of what the Museum has become today.
Beginning in 2001, a two-year renovation and enlargement of the facility culminated into a nearly 50,000 square foot facility housing three permanent exhibits:
Railroads: Lifelines of the Civil War
Glover Machine Works: Casting a New South
The Great Locomotive Chase featuring the General locomotive
The Museum expanded again in 2007 with the opening of the Jolley Education Center, an 8,000 square foot facility offering classroom space for programs and rentals, as well as separate space for the very young to safely play alongside their older siblings. The Jolley Education Center also houses the “40 & 8” Merci Boxcar, a gift from the French people to the state of Georgia following World War II.
The newest addition to the Southern Museum came in 2016 with the opening of a new Railroad Education Center Library & Archives. This 8,200 square foot structure houses the Museum’s large and ever-growing collection of archival material: documents that trace the growth and operations of some of the South’s largest railroads.