Trains seem to hold a fascination for many people. Maybe it’s the power of the locomotives or all of the history attached to them, and the role that railroads played in the shaping of America. Or maybe it’s nostalgia. Who didn’t have a model railroad when they were a little boy? Well, I didn’t, but that’s another story.
At any rate, there is no denying the attraction railroads have, and many RVers enjoy visiting railroad museums across the country. In fact, the Golden Spike chapter of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) is made up of railroad buffs who include excursions to railroad museums and railroad rides in the western United States at many of their events.
You don’t have to look very far to find railroad museums, it seems like there’s one in almost every state, if not more. One that we enjoyed visiting was the Railroad Museum of Oklahoma, located in the friendly town of Enid in the north-central part of the state.
Enid sprang up overnight during the Land Run in 1893, and railroads have always been a part of its history. When the engineer of the Rock Island line train carrying people into the region refused to stop, people jumped off the train to stake their claims, and by the afternoon of that first day, the population of the 80 acre town had soared to 12,000 people.
Occupying two city blocks of former railroad land just north of downtown Enid, The Railroad Museum of Oklahoma tells the story of the railroads and the railroad men, with a collection of well over a million pieces of railroad memorabilia, everything from locomotives, boxcars, and other rolling stock, to lanterns, 1,000 pieces of china and silverware from railroad dining cars, working model railroads, and an extensive reference library. It is one of the largest collections of railroad material to be found anywhere in the United States.
The best place to begin your tour is at the restored 1920s-era Santa Fe Depot, which has been placed on the National Registry of Historic Properties. Displays include railroad equipment like these early day lanterns that were used as signal devices, along with Morse code keys, signs, an impressive collection of padlocks used by the railroads, maps of different railroad routes, railroad-themed artwork, steam and diesel engine bells, postcards of railroad depots all over the country, and the museum’s HO, N-scale, and Lionel model railroads. Give yourself plenty of time to take in the inside displays, because there is a lot to see, and just breezing through quickly doesn’t do it justice.
Outside, in “the yard,” one of the most popular items on display is this Type 4-8-2 Baldwin locomotive built in 1925 and used on the St. Louis-San Francisco run. The locomotive produced 210 pounds of steam pressure from its massive engine, which weighs 342,200 pounds. The locomotive and tender were presented to the City of Enid in 1954 and placed on display in a city park, where it remained until it was moved to the Railroad Museum of Oklahoma in 1997.
Another interesting car in the museum’s collection is the Wanda Lee, car 3100, which was originally built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1954 to be used as an Army medical service car. Later, it was acquired by Amtrak and rebuilt into a Le Pub bar-lounge car to be used on the Montrealer. In another incarnation, the pub and dance floor were removed and Amtrak converted it into a cafe-lounge car. After it was acquired by the museum, the car was refurbished and repainted, then named in honor of the museum director’s late wife, Wanda Lee Campbell.
The museum has quite a few railroad cars on display, including five different kinds of box cars, two kinds of flatcars, a three-dome tank car, track service vehicles, a post office car, and nine cabooses. An old 50 ton G.E. switcher locomotive is still used to move the rolling stock around on the museum’s tracks.
Before coming to Enid, this Missouri Pacific caboose was on display at another railroad museum in Yukon, Oklahoma. It was one of a group of 28 surplus cabooses purchased from the Union Pacific Railroad by The Railroad Yard, Inc. of Stillwater, Oklahoma. Most of them went to museums, though some found their way into the hands of private collectors. In June, 2000, the caboose was sold to the Railroad Museum of Oklahoma and used with the caboose excursion train that had recently been created. The caboose features large open platforms that provided outdoor seating for passengers riding the train.
According to the Enid Chamber of Commerce, the Railroad Museum of Oklahoma draws more tourists than any other local museum, and it is easy to understand why. Even if you’re not a railroad buff, there’s something for everyone to see and enjoy. And if you do like railroads, this is a stop you have to make on your next trip through Oklahoma!
The Railroad Museum of Oklahoma is located at 702 North Washington Street in Enid and is open Tuesday-Friday from 1 to 4 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum is closed on Sunday and Monday. The museum is handicapped accessible and funded entirely by tax deductible donations ($5 suggested minimum) from visitors. For more information, call (580) 233-3051.
Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audio book of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ new Burt Bigsley mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – A hug is better than a thousand words to a broken heart.