Located in Galveston, Texas, the Galveston Railroad Museum has been serving the community as well as its numerous visitors for the last 30 years. This institution is a nonprofit organization committed to preserving, displaying, and restoring various historically significant locomotives. In addition, the Galveston Railroad Museum offers educational and interactive opportunities that underline the impact that railroading has had on American history and culture.
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The museum provides ample social and educational opportunities for local children and their families. The space can be rented out for special occasions, such as birthday parties, weddings, and photoshoots. Educators can schedule field trips that include a ride on the caboose, interactive lights and cross bucks, and a tour of the model train theatre. In addition, the museum has a unique program for Boy Scouts hoping to obtain railroading-related merit badges. The museum also supports Eagle Scouts interested in restoring the older railcars by providing materials for this type of work.
The Galveston Railroad Museum has a 4-acre railyard, which contains five tracks of rail cars. Most notably, it houses the world’s largest collection of railcar dining ware. The railcars on display offer an interesting perspective on how railroads and railcars have changed and developed over time. Their oldest locomotive on display is the Fort Worth and Dallas Caboose, which was first constructed in the last decades of the 19th century and remained in service for nearly 100 years. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Caboose is emblematic of its time due to the year in which it was constructed. It was built in the late 1920s, at a time when Santa Fe was beginning to promote steel trains in place of wooden ones. Railroad aficionados will appreciate the way in which the Southern Pacific Box Car, built in 1917, with its efficient use of wood and steel, serves as a predecessor for trains built during WW2, when steel was scarce.
The stylistic differences of the railcars allow visitors to appreciate the different ways that railroading shaped America. Visitors can learn about early versions of air conditioning on trains by examining the Glen Fee Sleeping Car. In the 1930s, ducts were added to this rail car, allowing air to pass over blocks of ice, which produced a cooling effect. Similarly, the Western Fruit Express Refrigerator Car, which was constructed in the late 1930s, transported perishable food items by virtue of the fact that it could hold up to 10,000 tons of ice.
To get a sense of how the movers and shakers of the day got around during the roaring twenties, visitors can examine the Anacapa Private/Business Car. It consists of three bedrooms, servants’ quarters, shower facilities, dining room, observation deck, kitchen, and parlor. The ornate design and the luxurious amenities speak to the optimism and innovation of the era.
The Galveston Railroad Museum also has two trains painted in the well-known Warbonnet paint scheme. The Warbonnet trains were first introduced during the 1930s, in a period now referred to as the streamliner era. Their unique design was the brainchild of Leland A. Knickerbocker of General Motors. Even today they stand out due to their colorful red, yellow, and silver paint as well as design features that pay homage to Native American culture.
The most recent exhibition at the Galveston Railroad Museum was titled The Waco, Trinity, Beaumont and Sabine Railway. This exhibit was curated by Ellen Rider and featured photos and documents of former workers.
In addition to the main exhibits, there is much to see and experience at the Galveston Railroad Museum. The restored semaphores, murals, and historical train car interiors all make for interesting photo opportunities.
Railroad enthusiasts often marvel at the model train layouts on display at the Galveston Railroad Museum. The museum is currently displaying an HO and an O-Gauge layout of model trains. These can be seen in the Sullivan Room, which was dedicated to Russell Sullivan, a mechanical engineer whose family donated 400 pieces of his model train collection to the museum after his passing.
In addition to viewing the model trains, visitors can also hitch a ride on the Harbourside Express train. These rides typically run until 1:45pm in the afternoon and are only available on Saturdays. It is advisable to check the schedule for these rides on the museum’s website prior to planning your visit as they are only available on certain dates and are subject to change due to weather conditions.
2602 Santa Fe Place, Galveston, TX 77550, website, Phone: 409-765-5700