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Dallas Fair Park's "Museum of American Railroad" moving to Frisco, TX

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  • Michael McMillan
    This Museum in downtown Dallas is the one I visited which has a Fred Harvey Dining Car. Bob LaPrelle, mentioned in the article, gave me a tour of the Budd
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2009

      This Museum in downtown Dallas is the one I visited which has a Fred Harvey Dining Car. Bob LaPrelle, mentioned in the article,  gave me a tour of the Budd Lunch Counter Diner some months ago.

      Imagine moving the world's largest steam locomotive [1.2 million pounds] over 40 miles of track when it hasn't moved at all in 40 years.

      Unfortunately, this online article doesn't have the photos that the newspaper did.


      [There is a link to an 11-page PDF about the Frisco move on their web site.]

      Here's their info on the Harvey Dining Car:

      Lunch Counter Diner
      Built: 1948
      Manufacturer: Edward G. Budd Company
      Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway 1550

      Santa Fe's all - coach, extra fare streamlined El Capitan increased in frequency from bi-weekly to daily service between Chicago and Los Angeles in 1948. The large number of patrons on the El Capitan required two lunch counter dining cars to be used on each train.  Fourteen could be seated at the lunch counter and another 20 at tables, and the menu included a la carte and table d'hote meals by Fred Harvey. Lunch counter diners could be also be found in service on the Texas Chief and Grand Canyon, especially after the El Capitan was equipped with new hi-level equipment including 80 seat dining cars in 1956.  Lunch counter car 1550 was retired by the Santa Fe and was used as a restaurant, but still retains its original Southwestern inspired decor from its days on the Santa Fe. Santa Fe lunch counter diner car 1550 was purchased in 2005. Sister car number 1554 is also owned by the museum and was a gift from Katherine Schulz.


      Fair Park's Museum of American Railroad gathering steam for journey to Frisco

      Dallas Morning News, Sunday, June 28, 2009

      By VALERIE WIGGLESWORTH / The Dallas Morning News

      The Union Pacific Big Boy is the largest steam locomotive ever built, stretching 133 feet and weighing 1.2 million pounds.

      Moving it won't be easy, but that's the task before Bob LaPrelle.

      He leads the Museum of the American Railroad, which is departing Dallas for Frisco next year. LaPrelle is in charge of the Herculean effort to prep 36 locomotives and railcars – some of which have not moved in 40 years – for travel.

      That means replacing and lubricating wheel bearings, ensuring brakes are either working or won't hamper the move, and securing coupling devices so they'll hold up.

      "They all came in on their own wheels," said Richard Wainscott, the museum's chief mechanical officer and board treasurer. "We're hoping they all go out on their own wheels."

      Wainscott, an electrical technician by trade, will be doing a lot of the work to ready each locomotive and railcar for travel on modern-day tracks. Volunteers are being tapped for maintenance work. And the nonprofit museum plans to contract with one of the nation's top experts on running gear as well.

      "We want the move to be uneventful," Wainscott said.

      But before the 40-or-so-mile trip can begin, there is site work to be done. And enough track must be constructed to display the museum's behemoth collection that measures nearly a half-mile long.

      It will take months and cost about $1.5 million, with Frisco contributing $1 million and the museum providing the rest.

      "The way it works is 40 percent will move out easily, and 40 percent that we move out will take more attention and maintenance," Wainscott said. "That last 20 percent will kill us."

      In 3 phases

      The museum's agreement with Frisco details three phases for the move. The first involves constructing nearly a mile of track on land donated by the city and transporting the collection north by the end of next year. That would allow the museum to operate as it does now in Fair Park.

      The second phase calls for a capital campaign to raise at least $20 million – and possibly up to $50 million – to construct a main building reminiscent of the rail industry's heyday and other support buildings.

      The third phase includes building shop facilities and a four-stall roundhouse.

      When the work is finished, museum officials envision interactive exhibits that transport visitors back in time.

      The gritty sights, sounds and smells of a working railroad will contrast with the luxury travel accommodations of the Pullman first-class sleeping cars. And stories of the American railroad will unfold.

      One consultant ranked the Museum of the American Railroad at No. 5 nationally in terms of the significance and quality of its collection, which spans from 1890 to 1990.

      It attracts about 50,000 visitors a year when including its signature Day Out With Thomas event in Grapevine. Officials plan on attracting as many as a quarter of a million visitors to their new home in Frisco.

      "We're about history and education," LaPrelle said.

      That meshes well with Frisco, which began as a water stop on the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway in 1902 and honors its history with a heritage district and museum.

      Not just trains

      The railroad museum will bring to Frisco several of its historic structures. There's the Dallas Depot of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad built in 1900. And the Santa Fe Railway interlocking tower, which served the busiest rail junction in Dallas for 90 years and is listed on the Texas Inventory of Historic Structures. The museum also has a host of railroad signals, baggage carts, handcars, freight car trucks and other artifacts that must be handled with care.

      A lot of the rolling stock will travel on its own power. Some will be pushed or pulled along because it isn't up to today's safety standards.

      Crews from the Dallas, Garland & Northeastern Railroad will conduct the move. It will be done in two to four trips at speeds of 5 mph to 10 mph during off-peak hours. That way, any derailment is less likely to disrupt regular rail schedules.

      The Frisco steam locomotive No. 1625 and the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Caboose No. 11 are the only two from the museum's collection that will have to be transported by truck or atop another rail car. The 1918 locomotive was built for export to Russia but never sent. Though it was later used by the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, it has wheels that can't run on most modern tracks, LaPrelle said. And the all-wood caboose from 1896 is just too frail for the rigors of such a trip.

      Room to grow

      At the end of the line is Frisco – and high hopes.

      "What train stations were in their day was the center of the community, and we want to be that here," LaPrelle said of the move to the suburbs.

      That hasn't been the case in Fair Park, where the museum was crammed into a 1.8-acre site and long ago ran out of room to grow. About a quarter of the museum's railcars and a host of artifacts remain in storage because of space constraints. But that's about to change.

      "Going from 1.8 acres to 12.34 acres, you can do some pretty cool stuff," LaPrelle said. "I see us being among the top museums in the country. We have the collection. We just need the building."


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