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Galveston Railroad Museum: A Fascinating Look Back in Time

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Inside view of the Galveston Railroad Museum

Inside view of the Galveston Railroad Museum

Galveston Attraction

Through the years my husband and I have often taken out-of-town visitors to the Galveston Railroad Museum. I am happy to report that they have always found it to be as interesting a place as have we. It is one of many attractions in the City of Galveston that makes visiting there a great experience.

This museum was originally funded by Mary Moody Northen and the Moody Foundation. Due to their efforts, this beautiful art deco structure was saved from demolition. The location of the railroad museum is situated at the head of the historic Strand area in Galveston.

My aunt seated among the life sized figures inside of the Galveston Railroad Museum

My aunt seated among the life sized figures inside of the Galveston Railroad Museum

Railroad Cars on Display

The railroad museum has a large number of railroad cars on display. Some of them are appointed lavishly on the inside of the cars as was the custom years ago when railroad travel was more common in the United States. It was interesting to see the detailing in some of those luxurious cars with the paneling, upholstery and so forth.

We got to tour the cars and saw the compact kitchens in which meals would be routinely prepared as the trains were traveling through the countryside between destinations.

They have on display three steam engines and also three operational diesel engines in addition to a collection of passenger and freight cars. Visitors to the museum can take a 15-minute train ride during times of operation (most Saturdays from 11 am to 2 pm) for a cost of $5.00 in addition to the museum admission charge. Children ages one and under get to ride for free.

Life-Sized Figures in the Station

What particularly interested us was the beautiful railroad terminal. That is where people would have been disembarking from the trains or waiting to board trains to start or continue their journey.

The creators of the Galveston Railroad Museum did an ingenious job of furnishing the 1930s railway station terminal waiting area with life sized white figures. They depict every type of person waiting for the arrival or departure of the next train. Real people dressed in 1930s clothing were used as models for these white clad individuals.

  • These include children teasing their siblings.
  • Soldiers calling home and talking to their parents or loved ones.
  • Business men planning their next meeting.
  • Vacationers eager to start their next exploration of sights unknown to them.
  • It even included people catching a catnap.

Just as present day terminals would have every type of passenger, this railroad museum in Galveston portrays them with these perfect white plaster molded figures. They are called the "Ghosts of Travelers Past."

But it does not end there!

An Eavesdroppers Paradise!

Studying history as a child is sometimes not the most interesting of subjects. Most adults who have lived a bit longer develop more of an interest in the subject as they mature and learn a bit more perspective over time. I now love history and enjoy learning from it.

But what if history were presented in the form of actually listening to conversations between engaging people right in front of one...even if those people are presented in white static human form? This is what the creators of the railroad museum in Galveston, Texas accomplished.

Every visitor is able to pick up a land line telephone and overhear conversations as if they were just taking place at that exact moment in time. The time period dated back to earlier days and soldiers were going off to war.

Politics is not immune from being discussed. In fact interesting conversations can be overheard with one person favoring one political party or the other. They discuss what is being accomplished regarding political action taken by the President or new laws being passed by Congress.

Conversations also ran the gamut of everyday discussions. The smallest of trivia to momentous occasions just as people would ordinarily talk to one another is portrayed via audio by picking up a telephone.

I believe when my aunt was visiting from Wisconsin we lingered long enough to be able to listen to every conversation in the terminal. When visiting the Railroad Museum with others, depending upon their interest, we sometimes moved a bit faster through the exhibits.

There is something for everyone interested in trains and that mode of travel. This includes looking at dining car menus, published timetables, even the dishes and glassware people would have utilized while on the trains. There is extensive memorabilia from the 1950s and 1960s for people to see. In addition model trains are also on display for young and old alike to enjoy.

Information posted from the photo featured above: "The south half of this building was constructed in 1913 to serve as a central passenger station for Galveston's railway system and to house the general offices of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad's Gulf lines.

In 1932 an 11-story tower and 8-story north wing were added, incorporating elements of the art deco style. In 1964 the Galveston office of the Santa Fe Railroad closed, and the company's last passenger train stopped here three years later. Today it serves as a railroad museum and commercial offices."

Railroad Museum in Galveston

Railroad Museum in Galveston

General Information for Visitors

  • Parking is free with museum admission.
  • Audio tours are now available. They feature multiple points of interest.
  • Call to arrange the rental of this museum, including some of the dining cars, for different types of functions. It is a fantastic place to host a wedding reception, birthday party, dinner, business meeting, or other events.
  • Click on the source link at the bottom of this post to know the admission pricing and hours of operation.

Hurricane Ike

In September of 2008 Mother Nature unleashed her fury in the form of Hurricane Ike. Much damage was done in Houston but it paled in comparison to what the good folks experienced in other areas located closer to the Gulf of Mexico.

Most of the buildings in the Strand had anywhere from four to even ten or more feet of water in them following the storm surge from Hurricane Ike. Needless to say the power of all that moving water did much destruction. About eight million dollars worth of damages was sustained by the railroad museum in Galveston, Texas.

The museum had to be closed for quite some time until they could raise funds and do damage control following the hurricane. The Center for Transportation and Commerce a non-profit organization now owns and operates it.

My mother,  aunt and me at the Galveston Railroad Museum

My mother, aunt and me at the Galveston Railroad Museum


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Peggy Woods

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