Western Maryland Railway Museum, Union Bridge, Maryland


You are driving along, and you come to the Town of Union Bridge in the northern part of the state of Maryland.  You see the old houses along the main street.  You come upon the railroad crossing, and you see a red brick Greek style train depot.  You think about the time when the passenger trains came along to pick up and discharge passengers, but you just see a lonely old train depot next to the tracks.

Well, it is an old train station, but it is not a lonely station.  Instead of passengers waiting for the train, you see railroad historians.

Welcome to the Western Maryland Railway Museum.  You go inside, and you see artifacts and memorabilia from the Western Maryland Railway to include photos from various places along the railway, old caller boards and a CTC panel.  In the basement, you will see a model train display of the various locations along the Western Maryland routes.  Everything you need to know about this railroad will be found in this museum.

The Western Maryland Railway Museum is owned and operated by the Western Maryland Railway Society and is totally run by volunteers, and they are one of the few to run their own museum.  It is located at 41 N. Main Street (Maryland Route 75) in the town of Union Bridge, Maryland.  It is open every Sunday from 1:00pm to 4:00pm.  Admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted.  Along with the museum, they are also at various model train shows in the region.  You can learn more about the museum, the history of the railroad and the organization at www.westernmarylandrhs.com.


The Irish Railroad Workers Museum, Baltimore, Maryland


The day was February 28, 1827.  The city was Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America.  The first railroad tracks were laid.  The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had begun in Baltimore, and it would spread across the continent.  A roundhouse was built to service the trains to keep them running.


It was at this very place where the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum was erected, and that roundhouse that once was a repair shop is now home to the oldest collection of rolling stock in America from locomotives to old freight cars to passenger cars to include a few locomotives that changed the course of railroading history.  Oh, you can visit the museum without riding a train along the first mile and a half stretch of track laid in America, and you can ride part the Mount Clare House, the home of Charles Carroll, Barrister who gave some of his land for the railroad to be built.  After you ride the train and see the collections, you think that you are done here… but you are not done yet.  What else could there be?  You have seen everything, right?  You have not seen everything.


To answer that question, you must first ask, “Who built all of this?”  Who laid the track?  Who built the roundhouse?  Who serviced the locomotives and rolling stock?

As the roundhouse and the first tracks have been preserved, so has the neighborhood north of the museum.  It was where the railroad workers lived.  One block from the B&O Railroad Museum is another museum that tells the story of the workers who built America’s first railroad.


Welcome to the Irish Railroad Worker’s Museum also known as the Irish Shrine commemorating those who built America’s first railroad.  It is here where you will see the stories unfold.  Erected in a few old row houses where the workers once lived, the museum shows the story of the Irish worker’s family life.  The one section show what the worker’s home would have looked like.  The second section shows the workers socialized and how they worshipped.  The story of the first railroad is truly told in these few houses.

The Irish Railroad Workers Museum is located at 918 and 920 Lemmon Street in Baltimore, just one block from the B&O Museum.  It is open on Friday and Saturday from 11:00am to 2:00pm.  Admission to the museum is free, but donations are greatly appreciated.  Along with the tour of the two houses there are also neighborhood tours as well as special events that go deeper into the history of America’s first railroad builders.  You can get more information at www.irishshrine.org.  In case you are wondering, you do not have to be Irish or have Irish descent to appreciate this museum.  You only need a love for the history of the railroad.

Whenever you visit the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum, take a little time to see the Irish Railroad Workers Museum.  It is all a part of the beginning of the railroad in America.


Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum, Suffolk, Virginia


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.

Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum, Hagerstown, Maryland


Hagerstown, Maryland is a railroad lover’s haven.  It is a town that is a major railroad hub that once served the Western Maryland, Pennsylvania, Norfolk and Western, Baltimore and Ohio and the Hagerstown and Frederick railroads but now serves CSX, Norfolk Southern and the Winchester and Western railroads.  The Western Maryland Railway had a roundhouse here as well as testing facilities and offices, but they were demolished in the late 1990’s.  A small foundry was purchased by the Western Maryland Railway, and this small foundry houses the Hagerstown Railroad Museum.

When you arrive here, you will already find yourself surrounded by trains.  The CSX yard is just hundreds of feet from you, and you may be fortunate enough to see a passing train.  You have an old locomotive from the Western Maryland Railway.  You have a few cabooses.  You can see and old streetcar.  You have seen so much, and you have yet to go inside.

Finally, you go inside.  You see old photos and memorabilia plus numerous displays.  Of course, you came to see the model trains, and there are five big displays here.  (One of them is their Christmas display that is open from Thanksgiving weekend to mid to late February.)  You stand and watch the many trains go around and around and around.  You see a model of what the original roundhouse looked like when it was in operation.  You see many old structures from various locations in the region.  It may be the only part of the roundhouse that remains, but to you, it is the best part of the roundhouse.

The Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum is located at 296 South Burhans Boulevard (U.S. 11) in Hagerstown, Maryland.  They are open year round on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 1:00pm to 5:00pm.  (They will close during snow emergency days.)  You can get visitor information and information of upcoming events at www.roundhouse.org.  Wherever you are coming from, it is worth your drive to see a great remaining piece of railroad history.


The Train Room, Hagerstown, Maryland


You are driving north along U.S. 11 in Maryland, and you enter into Hagerstown.  You see a small building with the words ‘The Train Room’ on the side.  Curiously, you pull over.  It is a small place.  What could be here?  You decide to go in.  You see a store full of model train supplies for sale.  You first thought is that this is just your average model train store.

“Would you like to see ‘The Train Room’?”

You see the man at the register.  You walk over to him.

“Would you like to see ‘The Train Room’?”  He asks you.

Thinking about it, you accept the invitation.  You then enter ‘The Train Room’.  You see a large model train display with trains going round and round and round and round.  The walls are full of trains.  Then you see more trains and more trains and more trains.  Before you know it, you are surrounded by trains.  Trains are here and there and everywhere.  Trains are to the left and to the right.  They are ahead of you and behind you.  They are above you and below you.  There are old trains and new trains.  You see nothing but trains, but… then… you exit.  You are standing next to the man at the register.

“What was that?”  You frantically ask.

“That was ‘The Train Room’.”

You come to realize that this is not your average everyday model train store.

It does appear small on the outside, but do not let that deceive you.  There is much on the inside.  The Train Room features a model train supply shop and a museum.  It is located at 360 South Burhans Boulevard (U.S. 11) in Hagerstown, Maryland.  You can get their hours plus more information at http://www.the-train-room.com.  The Train Room was also featured in Classic Toy Train Magazine.  You can read the article on their website.

The Railroad and Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina

Biltmore Ashville North Carolina

There are many great mansions in the United States of America.  One of the greatest mansions is Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina.  Built by George Washington Vanderbilt III between 1889 and 1895, it is the largest privately owned house in the United States.  When George passed away in 1914, his family continued to live there until 1930 when the mansion was opened for public tours for the first time.  With its gardens, two high-end hotels, and Antler Hill Village and Winery, Biltmore is a major attraction, and today the estate welcomes more that 1.5 million guests each year.

Now some of you are saying, “Wow!  That is a cool thing.  The Biltmore mansion is so amazing.  It is one of the most beautiful places in the world, but there is one big problem.  Biltmore has no railroads.  Because there are no railroads here and the fact that this place has nothing to do with railroads, I have absolutely no interest in this place.  You will not be seeing me here.”

You are right to say that there are no railroads here.  To say that Biltmore has nothing to do with railroads is not correct.

As mentioned, the mansion was built by George Washington Vanderbilt III between 1889 and 1895.  Mr. Vanderbilt’s family was in the railroad and shipping business.  Some of the construction workers who worked on the mansion stayed in nearby Biltmore Village.  (Biltmore Village remains today, and you can visit the village without visiting the estate.)  With the village being two miles from the estate, Vanderbilt had to get the workers from the village to the estate.  It would take over an hour to walk between the two places, and they would be too tired to work.  The horse and carriage could help, but they would need numerous carriages to transport the workers.  What would be the best way to get the workers between the village and the estate?  A railroad existed that went through Asheville, and a depot in Biltmore Village existed.  Mr. Vanderbilt built a private rail spur from the depot to what is now the front lawn of Biltmore House to transport workers and supplies.  Every morning, the workers boarded the train in the village, and they rode to the estate.  When the work was over for the day, the rode the train back to the village.  Sadly, when the mansion was completed, the railroad was no longer needed, and the tracks were taken up.

There you have it.  The railroad was a big help to build the largest and one of the most expensive houses in the United States of America.  Therefore, a railroad fan has a great reason to visit this world class site.

Biltmore is located in Asheville, North Carolina.  The property is very large so you will need plenty of time to visit this place.  Along with the Biltmore House, which will take you hours to explore there is also the gardens and Antler Village.  If you need a place to stay, you can stay at the The Inn on Biltmore Estate or Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate both located on the property.  You can also visit the Biltmore Village which is just outside the entrance of the property, and with the old rail line passing through the village you may see a passing train.  Go to www.biltmore.com to see what visitor packages are available.

Biltmore, an amazing place made possible by the railroad.

Kinzua Bridge State Park, Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania


It was one of the highest train trestles in the world.  Built in 1900, it was an engineering marvel spanning a huge valley with Kinzua Creek below.  Since its construction, freight trains and passenger trains rolled across the bridge.  When the tracks were decommissioned, the Knox and Kane Railroad ran passenger excursions across the bridge giving passengers one of the most incredible views in America.  For train enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts, it was a ride to remember.

On the afternoon of July 21, 2003, everything changed.

The Knox and Kane Railroad had temporarily suspended excursions across the bridge for bridge maintenance.  On that day an F-1 tornado touched down in the state park, and it struck the bridge tearing a good chunk of it into twisted steel.  From that day on, the bridge was decommissioned for train travel, and it was never repaired.  The days of the Kinzua Bridge were over.

Well, those days did not end.

Welcome to Kinzua Bridge State Park in Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania.  The section of the bridge that the tornado did not destroy was converted into a skywalk.  Now you can get the incredible views of the valley that train passengers had when trains ran across the bridge, and you can even hike down into the valley below.  You can view the twisted steel that once held the bridge up.  You can go into the museum and see the story of the bridge and how the bridge was built and how it was a great service to the railroad back in the day.

Kinzua Bridge State Park is located north and east of the town of Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania.  The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and it is open all year round although the park may close due to ice and snow.  The skywalk is wheelchair accessible.  (The trails below are not accessible.)  Admission to the museum and skywalk is free, and there is plenty of parking on site.  For directions to the park and for more information on the history of the bridge, go to http://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/KinzuaBridgeStatePark/Pages/default.aspx.  Be advised that the views from this bridge are incredible.