ALL ABOARD! Railroad chapter preserves the past for the future

Chesterfield resident, Kim Young, had a chance meeting one day with a member of a small railroad club back in 2008 that has made him a devotee of the Richmond Railroad Museum.

The museum, located next to the 14th Street Bridge at Mayo down off the Maury Street exit of I-95, in Richmond, is an unassuming little place.

The Richmond Railroad Museum is a restored early 1900s southern railway station, a part of the NorfolkSouthern line. The museum reopened in November, 2011 due to the efforts of the Old Dominion Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

“People come to the museum and see history as it was, buy tickets and take one of our excursions,” Young, chapter member explained. Young, a greeter for Walmart, finds the experience with the trains “a great experience for me because I’m a people person.” He also is an active photographer for the Chester United Methodist Church and a computer guy — so all his people skills are put to work at these many, varied endeavors.

Young is an active member of the Old Dominion Chapter and the National Railway Historical Society. He wears many hats for the chapter – from member chair, ticket agent, social media director (Facebook), museum host to excursion host.

The Old Dominion Chapter has some 130 members on the roster and the chapter meets monthly on the third Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The chapter works with the members and many volunteers that keep the museum operational. Membership to the local chapter and the national society is $47 per year and the chapter is always seeking new railroad enthusiasts and volunteers.

The original Hull Street Station was open from 1917 to 1957 at the 102 Hull Street Rd. location. It ran eastbound to West Point, where they would board steamships for further travels. It also ran west to Danville where passengers changed to the Southern Railway mainline to further their destinations.

The restored museum features exhibits, operating model trains, archives and a gift shop. Young’s favorite part of the station is the second room of the four areas, the stationmaster’s office. The museum also has several railroad cars that are available to tour.

“We have a working telegraph on display in the stationmaster’s office and we have hoops there too,” Young shared. Hoops were large circle devices used to pass conductors and train personnel messages about how many cars they would be picking up at the next stop or other communications. He shared, “They would slow and the hoops would be passed over onto the train with notes and then once the train personnel had the notes they would toss the hoops back down by the tracks and this was their communication tool.”

The first room of the station is dedicated to exhibits and is setup like a freight area. “We even have original benches from stations around Virginia,” Young said. Then there is a small cozy gift shop. In the stationmaster’s office there are hoops on display and the telegraph machine which Young jokingly refers to as the “first text messaging.”

The chapter is currently working on the fourth room, setting up a model train layout. “We’re hoping to have that operational in the next few months,” Young added. Most of the exhibits are a mixture of recreation in some areas and original pieces, a blend of the past in the present, all for the future.

The station has seen many changes in recent years. Through a grant from VDOT, the chapter spent more than two years bringing the station back to life.  “The station was stripped to the bare walls and dirt and then renovated,” Young said. “The recreation is in the likeness of the early to mid 1900s.” Salvaged wood from the original station makes up most of the flooring in the current areas.

At the station there are several actual renovated train cars. The chapter has a number of different railroad cars and a few are on site for adventures. The newest is a caboose that was renovated as part of an Eagle Scout project. “The young man and his helpers did all the work from replacing the glass to painting all the original artwork on the side,” Young said. Also, there’s a boxcar on site and a tank engine. “The kids can climb on the tank engine with their host and see what a steam locomotive looks like,” he shared.

The chapter runs eight excursions a year. These fundraisers keep the museum going and fund their projects. There are three in the spring, three in the fall and two in December, called the Santa excursions. They work in conjunction with Buckingham Branch Railroad from Dillwyn, to offer the excursions each year. They fill five passenger cars and the spring and fall trips run about 1-1/2 to 3 hours and the Santa trip runs about 45 minutes. On most rides the chapter is joined by western re-enactors, who stage a gunfight. “It’s a great show the cowboys and outlaws put on,” said Young. The costs are $20 for the Santa trip, $24 for the spring trip and $28 for the fall trip.

The profits from these trips support the museum to be able to operate. Their hours are Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1p.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is free for the tours. The museum is available to rent for weddings and parties. Call (804) 233-6237 for more information or check their website at odcnrhs.org. The museum’s website is :http://www.richmondrailroadmuseum.org/   There are also Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/odcnrhs. If you’d like to make a donation, the email is odcdonations@gmail.com. The chapter is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, so all donations, both monetary and artifacts, are fully tax deductible.

All aboard to a magical time and journey…make time for you and your family to see a piece of history, visit the Richmond Railroad Museum at 102 Hull Street or call 233-6237.

Eastern Chesterfield railroads timeline

1831 – Gravity powered – hauled coal Midlo to South Richmond *
1834 – Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac (RF&P RR) Now CSX.
1867 – Bright Hope – Midlo to Chester (Shops at Chester).
1881 – Bright Hope converted to narrow gauge (3’-0” wide tracks).
1891 – Bright Hope extend to Osborne’s (new VEPCO plant) Shops at Chester.**
1898 - Richmond and Petersburg Electric Railway Company, (street car passed thru Chester) ran 33 years.**
1900 – Seaboard Air Line (now Linear Park) had station at Womack Rd. & Lee St. **
** Three RR crossed at Chester at same time

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