The Jefferson Depot Village, Jefferson, Ohio

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There are numerous living history museums across the United States of America.  Very few of these museums are centered on the railroad.  One of these museums can be found in a little town in northeastern Ohio.

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Welcome to the Jefferson Depot Village in Jefferson, Ohio.  The village is built around the original Jefferson train depot that was served by the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is comprised of different structures from the region that were brought here to create a living history museum.  The construction of the depot, the only structure on the property that is in its original location, began in 1863, but regular passenger service began in 1872.  Passenger service ended in 1956, and freight service ended in 1961.  Instead of letting the depot go to waste, it was restored and was made part of the village.

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Today, you can visit the Jefferson Depot Village.  A costumed tour guide will take you on a guided tour of the house, a schoolhouse, general store, a tavern, a pharmacy, a church and church barn, a post office, a carriage house, a blacksmith shop and, the most important part, the old Jefferson depot.  (A Victorian house is currently being brought to the village soon.)  Oh, while in the tavern, the tour guide may play a song on the piano.  There is also a red caboose from the Pennsylvania Railroad that you can tour.  The depot is mainly set up as if it were a working depot with the freight room hosting various displays.  You can even sit and look out along the tracks (that is still in service as a spur line) and get the same view as he had years ago.  You may forget what year you are currently in.

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The Jefferson Depot Village is located at 147 East Jefferson Street in Jefferson, Ohio.  Please be advised that it is only open from June through mid-October.  The hours are 10:00am to 4:00pm Monday to Thursday and 1:00pm to 4:00pm Saturday and Sunday.  Admission is only $10.00.  You can go to http://www.jeffersondepotvillage.org to find more information.  This place is truly a treasure worth visiting.

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Agecroft Hall and Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

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Here you are.  You are walking up to an English style majestic Tudor mansion.  You stroll through the gardens and watch the tulips and the flowers, and you get a great view of the river.  You enter the house, and you see the dining hall and the many carvings on the walls and on the railings of the staircases.  You have the experience of being in England… except that you are not in England.  You are in Richmond, Virginia.

Welcome to Agecroft Hall and Gardens, a Tudor mansion, the only one of its kind in the United States, that was originally built in England, but to save it from demolition, it was taken apart and brought over to Richmond.  Today, it is open to the public as a museum where there is a guided tour of the house and can stroll at your leisure through the gardens.  You can also get a great view of the James River.  A visit to Agecroft Hall and Gardens will give you the feel of England without paying the airfare.

Now some of you are saying, “That is very interesting.  It is nice to know that you can experience England style life on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean.  However, this place has no railroads.  Therefore, I will not be visiting this place.”

You are absolutely right.  There are no railroads at Agecroft Hall, but the railroad is a big part of the Agecroft Hall.

Agecroft Hall was built in Manchester, England.  Through years of neglect, it was set to be demolished, but it was eventually bought.  The mansion was taken apart, and it was put on a ship bound for America.  When it arrived at an American port (the port is currently unknown), it then had to be brought to Richmond.  How was that done?  It would take over a thousand horse and carriages to do that.  The answer was the railroad.  It was put on a train, and it was brought to Richmond and assembled.  You can see that the railroad is a big part of the history of Agecroft Hall.

Agecroft Hall and Gardens is located in the Windsor Farms community in the western part of the city of Richmond, Virginia at 4305 Sulgrave Road.  It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm and Sunday from 12:30pm to 5:00pm.  (It is closed on Monday and major holidays.)  Tours of the house are guided, but the grounds are self-guided.  You can get more information about admission and about upcoming events at http://www.agecrofthall.org.

Visit Agecroft Hall in Richmond, Virginia, a home brought to us by the railroad.

The Railroad Museum of Virginia, Portsmouth, Virginia

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When you think about the Hampton Roads Region and Tidewater Region of Virginia, you think about the many numerous ports through the many waterways.  The region consists has many busy ports to include Norfolk and Hampton.  With all of these ports, getting the cargo inland was a challenge.  The railroad answered that challenge.

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Welcome to the Railroad Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth, Virginia, a suburb of Norfolk.  The museum sits at the end of line where the first railroad to the region was built.  Originally the eastern terminus of the Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad and later the Norfolk and Western, the museum consists of the old Portsmouth Station platform, a maintenance car, a caboose which serves as the admission office, an old dining car which holds artifacts of the railroad, an old baggage car which houses a model train display, Norfolk and Western steam locomotive 1134, and old signal and a hand car.  It may not be as large as many other railroad museums, but it does sit at an important place of railroading in the region.  The museum’s mission is to preserve that history.

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The Railroad Museum is located at the intersection of Wythe Street and Harbor Center Way just south of Old Towne Portsmouth and just off of the exit from Interstate 264.  It is only open on Friday and Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm.  Admission is only $7.00 for adults.  Please note that only street parking is available on Harbor Center Way.  It is a great compliment to your visit to the Hampton Roads region.  You can get directions and read more about the museum at http://railroadmuseumofvirginia.com.

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Make your way to Portsmouth, Virginia and see the place that shaped the history of Virginia railroading.

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The Model Train Exhibit at Merchants Square, Allentown, Pennsylvania

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You have model train displays, and you have the Model Train Exhibit at Merchants Square in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

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Now some of you are saying, “Yeah, I know.  You go and see a model train as it goes around and around and around.  It is nothing new.  It is the same old same old.”

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Welcome to the Model Train Exhibit at Merchants Square.  You pay your admission, and you enter into the display area.  Yes, you will see large displays of model trains going around and around and around, but then you realize that it is night.  Wait a minute.  It was daytime when you entered, but now it is nighttime.  You hear thunder, but you are inside, but there is a flash of lightning.  It gets cloudy, and it starts raining.  After a few minutes, the storms cease, and it is sunny again.  You see the trains go around and around and around.  It is at that time when you realize that this is not your same old model train display but something so much more.

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The Model Train Exhibit at Merchants Square has three large model train displays and four subway displays.  Each display has numerous features to include a ski resort, a farm and a lake that has real water.  The experience it set up to where you will see day and night and even a thunderstorm.  Each show is thirty minutes long starting on the half hour, but if you enter in the middle of a show, you have nothing to worry because your admission allows you to stay until closing.  If you are a local, you might be making many visits to this place.  Along with the model train display there is also a room available for birthday parties.

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The Model Train Exhibit is located on the second floor of the Merchants Square Mall in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  (It is handicap accessible.)  It is located at 1901 S. 12th Street less than ten minutes from Interstate 78.  It is open Friday from 12:00pm to 6:00pm, Saturday from 10:00am to 6:00pm and Sunday from 10:00am to 4:00pm.  (Please note that there are closed in April, May and June to do maintenance on the displays.  Admission is just $8.00 for adults.  You can learn more about the exhibit at http://modeltrainexhibit.com/.  A visit is well worth it.

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Fort Monroe, Virginia

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You may have heard of many forts across the United States of America, but very few of you may not have heard of Fort Monroe.  Known as ‘Freedoms Fortress’ and the largest stone fort in America, it is a historic military fort built on a peninsula with the Chesapeake Bay on the east side and Hampton Roads to the south.  It was designed to protect the entryway of the Chesapeake Bay and the Hampton Roads waterways during the early years of the nation.  It was also used during the American Civil War.  Today, Fort Monroe has been deactivated as a military installation, and there are restoration efforts to preserve the fort to its original state.  Although much of the fort is not open to the public for tours, the Casemate Museum, which is operated by the Fort Monroe Authority of the Commonwealth of Virginia, is where you can see the history of the fort and read about the soldiers who were stationed or imprisoned there.  Once you have visited the museum, you can look around and see the fortifications and get a view of the Chesapeake Bay and the Hampton Roads.  You can even see the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse.  (Please note that the lighthouse itself is not open to the public but remains an active navigational beacon owned by the Coast Guard.)  Fort Monroe, a National Historic Landmark, is a historic place that has much history that begins even before the United States became a nation.

Now some of you are saying, “That is so amazing.  I myself have never heard of this fort.  I am so glad that they were able to save this place.  However, I do not think that I will be visiting this place because there are no railroads here.”

Fort Monroe was a fort used during many wars, and, as mentioned, the Casemate Museum details the history of the fort throughout its years as an active military fort.  It also has a model display.  Yes, you have read correctly.  There is an HO model train display.  Fort Monroe was once a terminus for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, and that is what is shown on the display.  Additionally, during the late 19th century and for much of the 20th century, Fort Monroe operated its own military railroad to move supplies and armaments around the post.  Unfortunately, very little evidence of a railroad at Fort Monroe remains as the tracks and the structures are no longer there.

Fort Monroe, one of the nation’s newest National Monuments, is located in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia.  It is just minutes from Interstate 64.  The Casemate Museum is located on the south side of the fort.  It is open year round, but hours do vary during the year, and admission is free.  You can go to http://fortmonroe.org/visit/casemate-museum/ for directions and hours, and to learn more about the history of the fort itself.  In partnership with Fort Monroe National Monument, the Casemate Museum hosts the JR Ranger and the Passport Stamp programs.

Now you have a reason to visit Fort Monroe.  It is a fort with much American history… and a little railroad history too.

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The Baltimore Streetcar Museum, Baltimore, Maryland

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The major streets of Baltimore, Maryland, like many cities in America, were where you could find streetcars running north and south and east and west.  Passengers were able to board the streetcar and go anywhere they needed to go in the city day or night.  In Baltimore, like many cites, they streetcars were taken off of the streets, and they were gone never to run on the streets again.  Today, the people of Baltimore will never see streetcars again… or can they?

Welcome to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum was erected.  Running along old Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad track, visitors can ride the old streetcars of yesteryear between two loop terminals.  When the rides are over, you can walk to the barn and see some of the other cars some of which are under restoration.  You can go inside and see old photos and memorabilia plus a model of a streetcar line.  There is even a gift shop.  A visit to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum will take you back to experience the days and life of the streetcar.

The Baltimore Streetcar Museum is an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff.  They are devoted streetcar lovers who want to keep the memory of the streetcar alive for generations to come.  They are open Sundays between March and December and on Saturdays between June and October.  The hours are from 12:00pm to 5:00pm.  Admission is $10.00 for adults and entitles you to unlimited rides and, when possible, a car house tour.  They are located at 1901 Falls Road in the northern section of the city.  You can learn more about the history of streetcars and the museum at https://www.baltimorestreetcarmuseum.org/.  It will be a visit that will take you back in time.

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The Baltimore Society of Model Engineers Train Display, Baltimore, Maryland

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Baltimore, Maryland is a city that was the birthplace of America’s national anthem.  The first Catholic cathedral in America is located here.  It is where railroading in America began.  It is a city with many great historic sites and museums.  With all these great sites, it easily overshadows another place that is a few blocks from the Inner Harbor on Saratoga Street.  It is in this upper room where you will find a few model train displays operated by the Baltimore Society of Model Engineers.

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The Baltimore Society of Model Engineers opens their doors to the public very second Sunday of the month (except in May) where they have two large displays (HO and O) plus a few smaller ones.  They depict scenes from the urban city to the rural areas, and they have steam trains, diesel trains, passenger trains, freight trains and even trolleys and streetcars all operated by dedicated and hearty volunteers who love operating their trains and showing it off to everyone.  You can say that they enjoy playing with their trains.  During your visit, you will enjoy watching them at work as much as you enjoy watching the trains.

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The Baltimore Society of Model Engineers was formed in March of 1932 in Baltimore, Maryland.  They are the oldest excusive model railroad club in the United States of America and the third oldest in the entire world.  They are open to new members regardless of model train experience.  They gladly train newcomers in the art of the hobby.  They are, as mentioned, open the second Sunday of each month except May from 1:00pm to 5:00pm and is located at 225 W. Saratoga Street in Baltimore, Maryland.  Admission is free, but they gladly accept donations to keep their trains running for many generations to come.  Please note that you will need to climb a long flight of stairs to get to the displays and, unfortunately, due to the fact that is it an older structure, the display is not wheelchair accessible. Parking is metered street parking which in not in effect on Sundays.  You can learn more about their society and about becoming a member at http://www.modelengineers.com/.  They will be so glad that you stop by.

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