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History for Railfans and Future Railfans alike!
By Mo Karnage
If you have ever taken 14th Street and crossed the Mayo Bridge, heading into Manchester on Richmond's Southside, surely you have noticed the building on your left, with the signs saying 'Richmond Railroad Museum CLOSED.'
Well, the museum isn't shut down, although it seems that folks all around Richmond get that impression.
In fact, the Richmond Railroad Museum is open on Saturdays from 11-4 and Sundays from 1-4. The brevity in open hours are because the museum is entirely volunteer-run. The museum has existed in the old Southern Railway Passenger Station since 2011, when the Old Dominion Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society moved and expanded into the space.
The window of opportunity to visit is small, but the price is right. Admission is free, although donations are welcome, and it is a good idea to bring some money to spend on unique gifts and historical items in their gift shop.
The Railroad Museum is a great place to take kids, older folks, history nerds, train nerds, and also, dates!
Railfans are people who are railway enthusiasts, and they often go to great lengths to research and learn about a variety of trains. They collect photos and artifacts on trains. Some specialize in certain lines or regions or time periods. What they all share is a passion about trains. At the Richmond railroad Museum, Railfans share their passion and knowledge with anyone who comes in. Who knows, maybe you will catch train fever!
One of the first displays that will catch your attention, as soon as you park in their lot, are the train cars set up outside. You can go inside several of the different cars. If you want a guide, one of the volunteers might be available to tell you about the functions of various aspects of the train cars. All the cars have been carefully restored by the ODC.
Inside the museum, there are multiple rooms with displayed artifacts. The largest room is the Freight room, and has artifacts from around 150 years of train history in Richmond. There are items from the six different train companies that used to operate in Richmond. There are old documents and maps as well, which are neat little windows into our past.
The Stationmaster's Office is quite charming, set up like it would have been when the station was in use.
Like many good places, the best thing about this museum are the people. The volunteers who run the museum are some of the most knowledgeable and passionate railfans in the Richmond area. If you want to get the most out of the Railroad museum, be sure to start up a conversation with one of the volunteers. They can tell stories about the history of railroad in Richmond which lay a foundation for understanding where Richmond comes from.
One of the newest features of the museum is the giant Model Railroad Room. Some work on the intricate display is still in progress, but it is already quite impressive. Members of the ODC Model Railroad club have put immense amounts of time and money into the trains and completely built from scratch landscape. Little kids and big kids alike will get a kick out of watching the tiny trains make their rounds.