Dining car added to
La Grange’s train museum
The 1929 vintage car was restored,
donated by Prospect couple
LA GRANGE, Ky. (September 2013) – A new attraction has come to La Grange in the form of a 1929 railroad dining car. Over the past few years, the Ohio Valley Railroad Historical Foundation Inc. has been working hard to establish a museum and lasting legacy of what has always been the heart of the city.
Bob Widman, chairman of the foundation, has been persistent in carrying out his vision of preserving and bringing railroad cars to La Grange. His latest venture brought a vintage 1929 dining car to town on Aug. 1.
The interior of the car is “completely set up,” said Widman. The car contains its three original sinks, a complete kitchen, restroom, seating and tables.
Photos by Helen McKinney
This 1929 dining car arrived
in La Grange in late August
and is now on display at
the Train Depot and
Museum. Bob Widman
(below) says the interior
has “the complete set up.”
“It was used as a work train to begin with,” said Widman, who lives in nearby Pendleton, Ky. “In 1994 a couple bought it and completely redid the inside. It’s a fabulous looking dining car. It even has the original stainless steel sinks.”
Lynn and Bob Jones of Prospect, Ky., purchased the dining car, renovated it and has now donated it to La Grange. The 83-foot dining car was part of a series of 36-seat dining cars built by American Car & Foundry from 1921 to 1930.
Jones, a former L&N employee, used it for three years before taking it to Charlestown, Ind., to the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant. The color is faded, but Widman and his organization plan to restore the color and add a sealer.
“We’re not really sure what we’re going to do with it,” he said. Possible plans include turning it into a soup and sandwich shop, use it for catering purposes or a museum.
According to fellow foundation member Randy Poche, Widman was “responsible for making it happen. He got everything donated,” including the more than 161,000-pound dining car. Two jitneys also sit on the tracks. Each is a six-cylinder engine containing a seat and steering wheel that sits on the rails to move box cars.
The dining car resides between a caboose and a steam locomotive. The caboose was donated by James Padgett Sr., owner of Padgett Inc. in New Albany, Ind. This car may be used as a sort of hobby shop in the future, selling supplies for train enthusiasts.
The steam locomotive, known as the Flying Duchess, was built in 1952 in England by the Robert Stephenson & Hawthorne Co.. It was used by the Meaford Power Station until it was sold in the early 1970s to the Boyne City Railroad in Grand Falls, Mich.
When this railroad endeavor failed, the Flying Duchess was then sold and moved to Tennessee in the early 1980s. In 2000, the locomotive again was sold and moved first to Indiana and later to a scrap yard in Louisville, Ky, before ending up in La Grange.
The three railroad cars and jitneys sit on a portion of railway installed to hold them in place near the old L&N Train Depot, located at 412 E. Main St. in La Grange. The depot, built around 1910, serves as the home of the Oldham Chamber & Economic Development offices on its upper level and houses the foundation’s museum in the basement.
“Every piece of equipment on the rails has been donated,” Widman said. Something like this “was sorely needed in this area.”
Widman now has his sights set on acquiring a box car. It is his hope that the railroad cars will enhance the foundation’s small museum. Presently, the group is “concentrating on getting the museum up to scale in what we want to see in it.”
The museum is open the second Saturday of each month. It houses displays of railroad memorabilia, photographs, maps and model railroads. The foundation plans to take part in the upcoming Railroad Festival in La Grange on Oct. 6.
• To learn more or contribute to this project, contact Bob Widman at (502) 930-9430 or visit: www.Lagrange-RR-Museum.org.
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