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A Train Runs Through It

Group wants to create a
La Grange railroad museum

They envision it as a
future tourism attraction

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(December 2010) – With its long railroad history, Oldham County is the perfect location to establish a railroad museum, according to local train enthusiasts. It would be a missed opportunity, they say, for the town to not take advantage of the fact that it is one of only three towns in the country that has a working railroad running through the middle of Main Street.

Train

Photo by Don Ward

La Grange is unique in that a train
runs down the middle of Main Street.

In an effort to celebrate this train history and spread the word about the possibility of establishing a railroad museum, the La Grange Railroad & Antique Festival was held during the weekend of Oct. 8-10. Jim Zimmerman, organizer of the festival, said it was “very successful. Actually more successful than what we had anticipated.”
But on the downside, it didn’t have much impact on spreading the word about a museum. So it is up to members of the Ohio Valley Railroad Historical Foundation Inc. to see this dream to fruition.
“We plan to have the festival again in September next year,” said foundation member Bob Widman. Organizers felt there were too many competing festivals and events going on in October to draw in a good crowd, he said.
The foundation is in the process of looking into purchasing a caboose, said Widman. While it is in “excellent condition,” the foundation has to consider the cost of moving it to La Grange.
A future home for the railroad museum might be the Old Train Depot that currently houses the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce. Widman will know more about a permanent location after Jan. 1.
The depot currently belongs to Oldham County, said Zimmerman, also a member of the foundation. The Ohio Valley Railroad Historical Foundation is “ready to begin making it a tourist attraction,” if at all possible.
A railroad museum would “complement the three-day event,” Zimmerman said of the railroad festival. If the foundation could locate rail cars and a caboose, this would only add to the offerings.
Other museum attractions could include a gift shop inside the caboose and a dining car that could provide an area to sit and have a snack, said Zimmerman. The biggest hurdle to keep the museum going would be the “need for volunteers to man the facility.”
Other museums Zimmerman studied receive a lot of interest from volunteers, he said. He stumbled across one particular site in St. Louis, where he found a “small, quaint station in a beautiful setting.” A Christmas festival was going on at the time he was there, and he realized that La Grange could “build on a museum as a tourist package.”
Plans are under way for next year’s La Grange Railroad & Antique Festival to include a Miss Railroad contest, art show and quilt exhibit.
“There are still a lot of things to be worked out,” said Zimmerman. Grants and fundraisers are possible sources of income for operating a railroad museum.
Money is always the biggest concern when establishing a museum and was when setting up the Oldham County History Center, said incoming La Grange Mayor Bill Lammlein. “With museums, if there is enough interest in the community, it will be successful, and I think there is enough interest.”
Lammlein said that “hopefully, they will have benefactors step up,” and take part. Unfortunately, “no funding is available from the city that I’m aware of. Our budget is set until June 2011.”
But that doesn’t mean the city won’t support this project. “It has my full support,” he said. “And whatever the City of La Grange can do to help out, we will. I think the City of La Grange is the best location on earth for this type of museum.”

• For more information on the Ohio Valley Railroad Historical Foundation, Inc. or the museum and how to contribute to it, contact Bob Widman at (502) 930-9430.

Back to December 2010 Articles.

 

 

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