When most people are asked about what the city of Norfolk, Virginia’s claim to fame is, a majority of the people will mention the naval base. Yes, Norfolk is known for the big naval base, and it is a major port city as well. With large bodies of water throughout the Norfolk region, it is hard to imagine that the city is a major railroad city. Shipping and railroads go hand in hand. Norfolk is also the headquarters of the Norfolk Southern Railroad, and you can visit a small museum inside the headquarters building, but before Norfolk Southern came along, it was the home for many railroads to include the Norfolk and Western Railroad, the Virginian Railroad and the Seaboard Coast Line.
West of Norfolk is the suburb of Suffolk. Near the center of the town is an old two story train station that is next to the railroad line. It is here where you will find the Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum.
The station was built in 1885 by the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad, and it was a passenger station served by different railroads through the years until 1967. It used as a freight office for CSX until the depot was finally abandoned and went into decay. In 1994, the depot caught on fire damaging much of the depot. The station was about to be demolished, but locals began a campaign to save the depot. The result of their efforts was the opening of the Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum which was opened in August of 2000.
When you see the depot today, you will see what passengers saw in 1885 as it remains unchanged from its original Queen Anne Victorian design. When you enter the museum, you will see much of the original walls and doors and fireplaces that were restored. You will see artifacts from the different railroads that served the depot on display. You will see a model train display depicting Suffolk in the year 1907. You can also go up into the tower by way of a spiral staircase and get a great view of the tracks in each direction. If you are fortunate, you may see a train go by. Once you are finished inside, you can take a look at the red caboose outside. It was originally from the Nickel Plate Road but painted with Norfolk and Western colors.
The Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum is located at 326 N. Main Street (Virginia Routes 10 and 32) in Suffolk, Virginia. (This is south of U.S. Routes 13, 58 and 460. You can take Business Routes 58 and 460 into the town center.) It is owned and operated by the Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society. It is open year round, and the hours are 11:00am to 4:00pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 10:00am to 3:00pm on Saturday and 1:00pm to 4:00pm on Sunday. (The museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday.) There is available parking at the museum. Admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted to keep the museum running for many years to come. You can read more into the history of the depot and get more information at www.suffolktrainstation.org.