The Memphis Railroad & Trolley Museum (MRTM) celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 1914 grand opening of Memphis Central Station on Oct. 4 with an 11 a.m. ceremony and free Saturday admission from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m.
The event is the highlight of an activity-packed anniversary weekend:
- Exhibit trains: On Friday, Oct. 3, the Amtrak Exhibit Train will arrive and be open for tours by schools and groups from noon to 5 p.m. It will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. A Norfolk Southern Railroad exhibit car will be on display and will be open on the same schedule. In addition, tours of the Canadian National (CN) freight locomotive cab will allow visitors to go inside from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4, climbing up the locomotive’s front steps and entering the cab through the nose door to view the locomotive’s controls. They also can sit in the engineer’s seat to pose for pictures and ask the engineer questions.
- Folk music recording session: Visitors can take part Thursday evening in a live recording session of the Americana duo, The Grahams, who are connecting American folk music with its railroad heritage. The Grahams, producer Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and several notable Memphis musicians will be filming and recording live in Central Station’s Hudson Hall at 7:30 p.m. Doors will open at 7 p.m. Donations made at the event will benefit the Memphis Railroad & Trolley Museum. The Grahams are completing work on a live recording centered on the American railway system and its huge role in spreading American music across the nation. This will conclude their six weeks of riding Amtrak, crisscrossing America and writing their newest record.
- Historical presentation: Noted rail historian Milton Winter will related the story of Central Station’s century-long history and display vintage photographs, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Amtrak waiting room. Historians will be on hand to record the public’s comments and stories about their memories of Central Station. The public is invited to bring photographs that were taken at the station.
- Additional displays: Other scheduled equipment on display from the five Class 1 railroads that serve Memphis will be the Norfolk Southern Exhibit Car and locomotive, Burlington Northern-Santa Fe (BNSF), CSX Transportation and Union Pacific locomotives. Since 1971, more than 1.5 million people in 300 communities have been aboard the Norfolk Southern Exhibit Car, a restored 1926 Pullman passenger car that features the following attractions: A photo booth takes quick pictures of guests against a train backdrop and e-mails them. Other interactive exhibits include “Load the Line,” a game that challenges players to match freight products with the correct type of rail car, and a full-size locomotive simulator with a throttle, brake, and horn that puts guests in control of a virtual freight train.
- Special sales: The Gulf Mobile & Ohio Railroad Historical Society will host a Railroadiana Sale, featuring railroad collectables and model trains from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in Central Station’s boardroom. In addition to its usual offerings, the museum’s gift shop will also have a special commemorative T-shirt by Sache, highlighting the anniversary. It was silkscreen printed on site at the museum.
Ongoing museum attractions
Visitors are invited to browse in the museum through the numerous exhibits, interactive displays and operating train layouts.
Ongoing exhibits that are favorites for youngsters include Thomas & Friends, the 1/8-inch scale live steam model engine of the Illinois Central Hudson locomotive #2499, the On30 model train layout modeling “O” scale using “HO” track, and the Railroad Tool Wall.
Visitors can also enjoy:
- The ATCS Monitor, a live online view of train movements through Memphis on a dispatcher’s screen
- The historic 700-foot-long freight tunnel built in 1914
- The Kentucky Street CTC (centralized track control) board originally manned 24 hours, seven days a week, to control traffic over the Harahan and Frisco Bridges
- The story of two Mississippi River railroad bridges
- The Trolley Exhibit with the history of the trolley system in Memphis
Entrance fees are waived on Saturday, Oct. 4, only. The museum will also be open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday at regular admission prices of $3 for adults, $1 for children younger than 12, and free admission for children ages 3 and younger. For more information, call (901) 590-3099 or visit the website at http://www.mrtm.org.
The Memphis Railroad & Trolley Museum is inside Central Station at 545 S. Main Street, Memphis. It opened in April 2012 and has expansion plans that rely on donors’ generosity. Donations may be sent to Friends of the Memphis Railroad & Trolley Museum, Attention: Treasurer David M. Johnston, Suite #121, 545 South Main, Memphis, TN 38103, or they may be submitted online at http://mrtm.org/donate. Details on the GM&O Historical Society are available at http://www.gmohs.com.