It was not easy to find, but after a few missed turns even with a GPS, my daughter Jennifer and I were able to locate this small museum and were a little early for opening. It is located across the James River at the end of the Manchester Floodwall Walk from the main part of Richmond, the capital city of Virginia. Manchester was once a city unto itself before being incorporated into the City of Richmond. It was a port city, primarily for the reception of slave ships and also to export tobacco and coal.
The museum location, hours, and admission prices are posted on the various signs photographed on the outside of the building. Parking is ample and free directly in front of the museum entrance. Their famous Santa Express Train Excursions will run on Saturdays Dec 4th, 11th and 18th for a $25 fee.
The Richmond Railroad Museum is in the former Southern Railway passenger station. This 100 year old station, with its cobblestone parking lot, has been restored to look as it did in its heyday after many years of flood damage and neglect. Built in 1901, it was the only major urban depot on the southern side of the James River. And this week, the only one to identify it as our mystery location was Professor Abe...to whom, congratulations!
With a few railcars and a small Porter locomotive outside and a few rooms with artifact exhibits inside, this museum can be easily toured in one or two hours. As we were the only ones there at opening time, one of the curators gave us a personal educational tour. Inside is also Richmond's largest HO scale model railroad and a gift shop.
The railcars are open and can be toured on the inside as well as outside. The Seaboard System Railroad was created in 1983 from a merger of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, both of which were formed in 1900, plus the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad formed in 1967. In 1986, the Seaboard System Railroad was merged with the Chessie System to form the CSX Transportation Railroad.
The Porter Steam Engine on display was much smaller than those normally used by the larger Class I railroads and were often operated by only one person. The gray Seaboard Line Caboose "SBD 21019" was a converted boxcar built in Jacksonville Florida and used as a mobile office and an observation area to monitor cars being pulled.
Inside are various exhibits of lanterns, uniform caps, uniforms, old time schedules, miscellaneous artifacts, station master's office, miniature caboose and iron railway toys. A few things I remember clearly from my younger days were those coin changers (also used on our Pittsburgh buses and streetcars) and Western Union telegraph stations.
Western Union was founded in 1851 and ran for more than 150 years and telegrams could be delivered within a day by a courier. I remember delivering those telegrams in the late 1960's and got looks of terror from families who thought the telegram would announce the death of their son or daughter in Vietnam. Luckily, none of the telegrams I delivered were death notices.
A few other interesting items included an 1800's kerosene oil headlight that was used before being replaced by an electric version, the official clock from the Richmond Main Street Station ticket window.
An assortment of railway lanterns, old and new, shows the same transition from kerosene.
Some yard and platform vehicles and a stationmaster's desk, and to cap it all off, a sizable assortment of caps!