Georgia Museum of Agriculture #5, Vulcan

Widely known for offering unparalleled experience into the agrarian traditions of the 19th century in the American South, the Georgia Museum of Agriculture (GMA) offers visitors an opportunity to learn a thing or two about the storied and innovative history of the Wiregrass region of Southern Georgia. One of the most popular activities at the museum is riding behind a restored steam engine that is more than 100 years old.

Georgia Museum of Agriculture #5 on display at the museum.
GMA #5 on display when not operating. (Photo: Mike Finn via CC by 2.0)

A Brief History of the Georgia Museum of Agriculture #5

Known as the Vulcan, the Georgia Museum of Agriculture #5 is a 36″ narrow-gauge steam locomotive with a wheel arrangement of 0-4-0T. It was built by the Vulcan Iron Works in 1917 for the Hardaway Contracting Company of Columbus, GA. The locomotive was used during the construction of Lake James and hydroelectric dam on the Catawba River in Bridgewater, North Carolina.

The Vulcan enjoyed a consistent revenue career for the next four and a half decades. The size and design of the Vulcan made her very useful for mining and construction projects, and her ownership changed hands several times during her revenue career, primarily between contracting companies, as she operated on the east coast.

In 1963, the locomotive was retired from revenue service and donated to Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina where she would go on static display. After changing hands again in the early 1970s, #5 was acquired by Georgia Agrirama, now the Georgia Museum of Agriculture, in 1976. However, funding issues delayed restoration until 1981.

Following her restoration, #5 became an operational exhibit for Georgia Agrirama. The locomotive operated at the museum until 1993 when boiler issues forced her out of commission. The necessary boiler work and other restoration efforts took another 5 years, although it could have taken significantly longer if not for a large group of volunteers led by Keith Rucker and David King among others. The second restoration was complete in 1998, allowing the Vulcan to return to the museum railways.

One interesting note about the Vulcan: the locomotive originally used coal for fuel, but the boiler converted to use oil due to concerns of falling cinders being a fire risk.

Vulcan warming up for the day at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture.
Vulcan warming up for the day. (Photo Courtesy of Georgia Museum of Agriculture)

Current Status of the Vulcan

Today, the Georgia Museum of Agriculture #5 is one of the few remaining steam locomotives that were built by the Vulcan Iron Works. Currently located in Tifton, Georgia, you can take a look back in history by riding in this majestic steam locomotive and experience what it feels like to ride on a steam locomotive. The train ride is open at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture every Saturday but there are also other events involving this steam locomotive that you can find on the museum’s website.

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