Best Railroad Museums

4571 views
43 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    July 2006
  • 2 posts
Posted by DVPorter on Wednesday, November 6, 2019 3:31 PM

Age of Steam and Warther's are both excellent - might as well round it out with the Dennison Depot Museum also in the area.

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • 11 posts
Posted by Desert Rat on Wednesday, November 6, 2019 4:07 PM

Overmod

Why is NMOT in St. Louis absent from this list?

IRM is world-class; if you had to have just one 'number one' by most definitions of the term, I think they would qualify.

There's probably a parallel for trolley/traction museums: Branford, Seashore, Rockhill, and whatever that Electric City operation opposite Steamtown is are possibilities.  

 

 

NMOT needs a lot of help.  I went in August.  Many exhibits are rusted and fading.

 

As for IRM, steam locomotives are displayed with main rods missing.  Claim is that it eases movement.  But, how often are they moved?  It's like looking at the  "Mona Lisa" with the face cut out with a switchblade.  

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • 11 posts
Posted by Desert Rat on Wednesday, November 6, 2019 4:10 PM

Flintlock76

You've done better than I have LO!  From my own visits I'd say the top two on the East Coast are the B&O Museum in Baltimore and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg.  I haven't been to Spencer Shops in North Carolina in 25+ years so I shouldn't comment on it at this time.  I did enjoy it when I was there.

 

 

Last time I went, the B&O and Strasburg museums had exhibits rusting and decayed outside.  Even EA # 51 was in a dusty shed after decades on display indoors.

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • 11 posts
Posted by Desert Rat on Wednesday, November 6, 2019 4:13 PM

Gramp

https://nationalrrmuseum.org/

National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, WI. Another really fine museum. Almost a stone’s throw from Lambeau Field. (Maybe a little more).

 

 

NRM is a dud.  Inauthentic re-lettering and painting are the beginning.  See TripAdvisor on that one!  

  • Member since
    May 2019
  • 785 posts
Posted by Lithonia Operator on Wednesday, November 6, 2019 9:01 PM

It's a dilemma for RR museums. Everything cannot fit indoors, and everything that gets acquired cannot be refurbished in a timely manner.

It's inevitable that lots of equipment will be outside rusting away. Steamtown has LOTS.

 I suppose some museums need to be more realistic about what they will ever actually get to, and just sell some equipment off for the scrap value. But how many railroad lovers would ever want to do that?

 Me, I get a kick out of seeing the derilect stuff too.

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 15,608 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, November 7, 2019 8:35 AM

Rick Laubscher, CEO of San Francisco's Market Street Railway Association, coined the term "Museums in Motion" for the 50-year-or-more-old historic cars, some running regularly, some on special occasions including one over 120-years old, on San Francisco's E and F streetcar lines, providing regular transit service, and of course the cable cars.  This term certainly applies also to much of the Cumbres and Toltec, Nevada Northern, Strassburg, Grand Canyon Railway, and others.

  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 1 posts
Posted by KeweenawCentral on Thursday, November 7, 2019 12:21 PM
Western Railway Museum, Rio Vista, CA , TRACTION, TROLLEYS, a ride on old SN ROW down to Birds Landing.
  • Member since
    January 2008
  • 921 posts
Posted by Sunnyland on Thursday, November 21, 2019 6:52 PM

Thanks for pointing out NMOT, Overmod.  My hometown museum and has a fine collection, including one of my favorites Frisco #1522 and we do have a Big Boy too. Wish #1522 was still running. I'd add IRM, NCTM, Cheyenne Depot museum, CO museum in Golden, O. Winston Link and VMT. 

  • Member since
    December 2019
  • 1 posts
Posted by New Englander on Wednesday, December 25, 2019 4:12 PM

If you're interested in narrow gauge, I recommend the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum (wwfry.org) in Alna, Maine.  The 30-year-old museum has restored an 1891 two-foot gauge steam locomotive to service along with several rail cars and has reopened 2.6 miles of the original WW&F route, with restoration of a 3/4-mile extension underway that will open in 2021. 

  • Member since
    September 2014
  • 64 posts
Posted by ROBIN LUETHE on Friday, December 27, 2019 10:09 PM

Just getting a roof over most things will extend its life almost indefinitely. 

  • Member since
    May 2019
  • 785 posts
Posted by Lithonia Operator on Friday, December 27, 2019 10:20 PM

New Englander

If you're interested in narrow gauge, I recommend the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum (wwfry.org) in Alna, Maine.  The 30-year-old museum has restored an 1891 two-foot gauge steam locomotive to service along with several rail cars and has reopened 2.6 miles of the original WW&F route, with restoration of a 3/4-mile extension underway that will open in 2021. 

 
Thanks. Living in Maine, I am aware of it, but have not been there yet. I am somewhat more familiar with Maine Narrow Gauge, in Portland; as far as I know, they do not run steam super often, but I could be mistaken about that.
 
I generally have not been that drawn to narrow gauge, but am becoming more so.
  • Member since
    October 2001
  • From: US
  • 579 posts
Posted by petitnj on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 7:47 AM

Here we see the difference between a museum and an activity center (train/trolley ride). Museums don't make enough money from their visitors and need to provide an activity to boost their income. All of the above venues with train/trolley rides should be classified as an activity. Typically the activity takes in more than half of the organization's income and spends about the same fraction. But that does boost the income so the doors of the 'museum' part can stay open. We are fortunate that we can provide rides to bring in the money. Many museums, need special events, significant donors and government support to stay open. I find it amazing that there are any non-government supported museum/activity running in the train world. And as for artifacts, train/trolley museums have nearly the same problem as flight musuems: the stuff is large. It is impossible to get roofs over all the stuff so much of it looks like bone yards... Roofs are nice over everything, but there is another significant expense that railroads musuems have. A model train museum would make much more sense. 

 

  • Member since
    September 2010
  • 1,777 posts
Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 11:52 PM

One thing (of many) that impressed me about IRM was when they ran their Nebraska Zepher train using it's EMD E-5 on a special pair of round trips between Chicago Union Station and Quincy IL at track speed (79mph) and served food cooked on board in the dining car to the passengers. They had to meet BNSF and Amtrak and FRA standards. That is a hurdle that few museums could pass in my estimation. They are still acquiring equipment and when they do, it has to have a fund for a storage space to keep it protected. 

  • Member since
    July 2004
  • 2,303 posts
Posted by Paul Milenkovic on Thursday, January 9, 2020 8:05 PM

How did those articulated Budd passenger cars ride at speed, say, compared to an Amfleet coach? 

I was thinking about going to form impressions for myself, but sometimes thinking doesn't lead to doing.

They were somewhat more lightweight than the later AAR standard for "lightweight" passengers, which were standard until the Amfleet era.

If GM "killed the electric car", what am I doing standing next to an EV-1, a half a block from the WSOR tracks?

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy