The Wilmington Railroad Museum is a non-profit that is dedicated to preserving the history of the Atlantic Coast Line and Wilmington, North Carolina Railroads.


© Wilmington Railroad Museum

The Wilmington Railroad Museum was started in 1979 by a trio of women who had acquired some Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Artifacts. The women were dedicated to preserving the history of the railroad and established the Wilmington Railroad Museum. They found a home for the museum in the former Freight Office Building of the ACL Railroad in 1983 and immediately began expanding exhibits including the donation of a caboose, vintage locomotive and boxcar.

Over the next quarter century, the museum quickly grew and expanded its information on the growth of the rail industry on the south eastern United States, in particular the state of North Carolina, and acquired many vintage and modern artifacts. In 2007, the Museum changed locations and moved into a railroad freight house from 1883 that provided a vintage setting fitting for the museum and offered more open space for the large collection.

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© Wilmington Railroad Museum

The museum offers many different halls and exhibits related to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and others that serviced the South Eastern United States. The museum does charge admission and is largely self-guided however, for groups of ten or more, guided tour groups can be booked in advance. Some of the favorites areas of the museum include:

· The Children’s Hall- Little one’s can play with model and toy trains, explore train tables, and have fun in large scale layouts where they can play conductor. There is also a miniature caboose where parents can take photos.

· Model Hall- small scale models based on the history and aerial images of the railroads have been crafted so that visitors can get a feel for the great expansiveness of the railways in the coastal areas of North Carolina. The includes towns, bridges, streets, and trolleys as well and is set in the early 1950’s Wilmington. There are 9 to scale miles included in this layout that is always being refined and updated.

· ACL Steam Engine #250- This steam engine has undergone a massive renovation project that has brought it close to its original appearance thanks to the Eagle Scouts of Wilmington. The engine is over 100 years old and can be seen on display outside of the museum.

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© Wilmington Railroad Museum

· History Hall- The history of Wilmington and the ACL Railroad is explored through multiple displays and exhibits in this hall in the center of the museum. Here, visitors will learn through many different interactive and educational opportunities the history and folklore that makes the railroads so interesting. Learn about the haunted past of the conductor that lost his head, as well as how the ACL helped keep the southern economy booming.

· ACL Red Caboose and Garden- The Atlantic Coast Line Red Caboose is outside in the courtyard and garden area of the museum. When not in use for a birthday party or private event, the caboose can be climbed on and explored and visitors can rest and relax on the benches in the courtyard.

· The Gift Shop- One of the most fun places in the museum, the Gift Shop, is full of educational and inspirational gifts for all ages. Model and to scale toy trains, Melissa and Doug toys, puzzles, wood vintage toys, books, crafts, Walthers resources books for modelers, Thomas the train toys, and more can all be found here.

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© Wilmington Railroad Museum

Every first and third Monday of every month the Wilmington Rail Road Museum hosts a special story time in The Children’s Hall at 10:30 am (last updated March, 2017). This is free for members and does require a small admission for non-members and is best suited for families with children under 5 years old but is open to everyone. Children will listen to stories for toddlers read by volunteers for 30 minutes.

The museum also regularly hosts scout troops working on train or railroad related merit badges. Private train collections have also been displayed in the museum before including Pete Chamberlin’s model truck collection. The collection was amassed over 35 years and includes more than 1260 scale model vehicles that were donated to the museum and are rotated on display with some being included in the model train layouts.

Private events can be hosted in the Atlantic Coast Line Red Caboose. There are specific packages and guidelines that can be discussed with museum staff. Parties can be accommodated for up to 25 people on the caboose. The museum can also be rented out for meeting, weddings, and other private events.

Back to: Things to Do in Wilmington, North Carolina.

505 Nutt Street, Wilmington, North Carolina, 28401, Phone: 910-763-2634

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Best Things to Do in Wilmington, North Carolina: Wilmington Railroad Museum

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