Florida Railroad Museum

The beginnings of the Florida Railroad Museum (FRRM: reporting mark, FGCX) actually predate the museum itself. A form of the museum was started in 1981 and the museum itself was later recognized in 1984 as an official state railroad museum (it is also known as the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum). Located in Parrish (just outside of St. Petersburg) today the museum highlights railroading in general but tries to cover Florida’s rail history in particular. Along with featuring several pieces of rolling stock and locomotives (including a number of operational diesels) the museum also has several other activities you can take part in, such as excursion trips. If you are in the area please consider paying them a visit, it is certainly worth the price of admission.

While I suppose no railroad museum looks to date its presentation to a specific time period the Florida Railroad Museum predominantly features equipment that was operating between the 1940s and 1950s such as its Alco RS3 diesel locomotive and B&O "Wagon Top" caboose. However, in general, the museum is interested in keeping alive the history of the state's railroads, from their earliest beginnings in the 1860s to when larger companies came along such as the Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Air Line, and the famous Florida East Coast system. Since FRRM began operations in the early 1980s it has worked hard to provide an enjoyable experience for visitors, such as the construction of additional track to operate excursion trains.

One of these activities is an on-site tourist train, which operates six miles between Parrish and Willow and includes your choice of an open-air or air-conditioned car. The excursion train also offers a number of different options including chartering just a car or the entire train. The museum also offers caboose rentals for birthdays as well as cab rides and discounts for large groups. The Florida Railroad Museum also offers the unique chance to operate a diesel locomotive. The cost is not provided directly on the museum's website so if you are interested you will need to call. However, you must be at least 18 years of age to operate the locomotive and must complete a short class before actually getting in the right-hand seat.

Aside from the static displays and general train rides FRRM offers they also feature special events throughout the year such as allowing Dads to ride for free on Fathers Day, charters in their operable caboose (which provides for a 1.5-hour trip for up to 16 people, many like to take advantage of it for events like birthday parties), A Day Out With Thomas the tank engine, and holiday extras (particularly around Christmas, Easter, and Halloween). As for the future of the museum they hope to build additional track and displays to allow more of their rolling stock and equipment to not only be displayed to the public but also protected from the elements in the event monies can be found for their restoration. 

Preserved Florida Railroad Museum Locomotives

Steam Locomotives

Brooklyn East District Terminal (BEDT) 0-6-0T #12 (Built by H.K. Porter in 1916.)

Seaboard Air Line 0-6-0 #223 (Built the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1913 as St. Louis-San Francisco Railway/Frisco #3749.)

Diesel Locomotives

Cargill Incorporated NW5 #61 (Built by Electro-Motive in 1947 as Union Belt of Detroit (Fort Street Union Depot) #2.)

Florida Gulf Coast Railroad GP10 #8330 (Operational.  Built by Electro-Motive in 1954 as Union Pacific GP9B #183B.  Later acquired by Illinois Central, rebuilt as GP10 and numbered 8330.)

Florida Gulf Coast Railroad 44-Ton Switcher #100 (Built by General Electric in 1953 as U.S. Navy #65-00345.)

GO Transit FP7 #904 (Built by General Motors Diesel in 1952 as Ontario Northland #1513.  Currently carries no prime mover.)

Seaboard Air Line RS3 #1633 (Built by the American Locomotive Company in 1951 as New York Central #8277.)

Pennsylvania Railroad RS3 #8604 (Built by the American Locomotive Company in 1955.)

U.S. Army GP7 #1822 (Built by Electro-Motive in 1951.  Stored.)

U.S. Army GP7 #1835 (Operational.  Built by Electro-Motive in 1951.)

Most of the Florida Railroad Museum's preserved equipment includes pieces manufactured after World War I.  For instance, nearly all of their locomotives are diesels built in the 1930s or later while they possess a pair of steam locomotives; a small 0-6-0T "Saddletank" that spent many years operating along the New York City waterfront as well as another small switcher design (neither example is currently operational).  The organization's small fleet of cars include a few coaches, a sleeper, and commuter equipment.  Many of these are products of the Pullman company.  In addition, they own just a few freight pieces that include a few cabooses, a covered hopper, tank car, and refrigerated boxcar (reefer).

So, if you have any interest in Florida railroad history or would just like to help with a worthy cause please consider providing a donation or just volunteering to help out.   I know that they would very much welcome, and appreciate it!  All in all, if you are ever in southwest Florida and interested in railroads and/or history you should certainly consider a visit to the Florida Railroad Museum, it is a fine operation (one of the largest in the state, along with the Gold Coast Railroad Museum) with plenty of historic equipment and memorabilia on hand to see.  For information about the museum please visit their website.

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Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

Researching Rights-Of-Way

A popular pastime for many is studying and/or exploring abandoned rights-of-way.  Today, there are tens of thousands of miles scattered throughout the country.  Many were pulled up in the 1970's and 1980's although others were removed long before that.  If you are researching active or abandoned corridors you might want to check out the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Historical Topographic Map Explorer.  It is an excellent resource with thousands of historic maps on file throughout the country.  Just type in a town or city and click on the timeline of maps at the bottom of the page!

Studying Diesels

You will be hard pressed at finding a better online resource regarding diesel locomotives than Craig Rutherford's TheDieselShop.us.  The website contains everything from historic (fallen flags) to contemporary (Class I's, regionals, short lines, and even some museums/tourist lines) rosters, locomotive production information, technical data, all notable models cataloged by the five major builders (American Locomotive, Electro-Motive, General Electric, Fairbanks-Morse, and Baldwin), and much more.  A highly recommended database!

Electro-Motive Database

In 1998 a gentleman by the name of Andre Kristopans put together a web page highlighting virtually every unit every out-shopped by General Motors' Electro-Motive Division.  Alas, in 2013 the site closed by thankfully Don Strack rescued the data and transferred it over to his UtahRails.net site (another fine resource).  If you are researching anything EMD related please visit this page first.  The information includes original numbers, serials, and order numbers.