Day Trips

The Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple exhibits items from the golden era of railroading

Day Trips
Photo by Gerald E. Mcleod

The Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple tells the story of the steel rails passing through Central Texas by preserving the tools of the trade, both big and small. From locomotives to lanterns, the museum exhibits items from the golden era of railroading.

The beautiful Santa Fe Depot which houses the museum was built in 1910, when locomotives moved large numbers of people and goods around the country. The red brick and stucco depot is still an active Amtrak station serving the Texas Eagle. The large waiting room in the center of the two-story building is mostly silent now, but you can almost feel the ghosts of travelers from past generations. The polished wood walls, marble floors, and unique lighting fixtures are reminders of a time when trains were the luxurious way to travel.

Taking up most of the second floor, the exhibition includes everything from from 100-year-old communications devices to tickets, uniforms, Harvey House dishes, and tools. In the days before handheld radios, the engineer's lantern was a primary method of communicating with the engine. The exhibit showcases how this simple method served the needs of railroad men for many years.

Outside the station, the museum displays 10 vintage railcars, including some that are quite rare. The black-and-white 1937 diesel engine was one of only 14 Santa Fe diesel locomotives built and may be the oldest surviving. It served the railroad for 30 years before being retired to the Temple museum.

The museum also features one of the last cabooses built before the tradition was replaced by advanced technology and three Pullman cars ranging from 1913 to the 1960s. The Pine Mesa sleeper car was part of a generation of passenger trains that offered long-distance travelers more comfort after World War II. It was once part of Santa Fe's Texas Chief that ran from Chicago to Houston from 1948 until 1967.

To a large extent, Temple owes its existence to the railroad. The original town site was a railroad construction camp in 1880, and the town was named for a railroad official. The depot was headquarters for the Southern Division of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. Much of the town grew up around the rail yard and maintenance shops, a tradition that continues today.

The Railroad & Heritage Museum offers a fascinating look at a romantic period of American travel. The museum is at 315 W. Avenue B in downtown Temple and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm and on Mondays from 10am to 2pm. The facility also includes a railroad research library and a gift shop. Every third Saturday of the month is family day, with reduced admission and special events. For more information, call 254/298-5172 or go to www.rrhm.org.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Railroad & Heritage Museum, Santa Fe Depot, Temple, Texas, Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad

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