West Florida Railroad Museum Features
Model Train Layouts and
Historic Train Station

A visit to the West Florida Railroad Museum in Milton is a must if you love trains and railroad history.

The historic train station is filled with artifacts and memorabilia of the days when the iron horse was the utmost in modern transportation. There are also model train layouts and a garden railroad that is maintained by the Emerald Coast Garden Railway Club.

Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad History
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, trains opened up the wild beauty of Northwest Florida to the rest of the country. For centuries, the thriving West Florida city of Pensacola had been accessible only by water or by a painstaking trek through the Florida wilderness. In 1882, the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad changed all that.

Chartered on March 4, 1881, the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad was created to connect Pensacola with the eastern part of the state beyond the Apalachicola River. Construction of the railroad began in August and the first train arrived in Milton, Florida a year later on August 15, 1882. Service from Pensacola to Jacksonville began in May 1883.

During construction, the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad had received financial backing from the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, or L & N for short. In July 1885, the Pensacola and Atlantic was incorporated into the L & N system which served the West Florida region for the next 97 years. Today, trains still travel through Milton, but the train station built to serve passengers and freight now has a different purpose.

West Florida Railroad Museum
Kids and other train lovers will enjoy visiting the West Florida Railroad Museum. Located in Milton Florida, the museum is dedicated to the preservation of the railroad history of Northwest Florida and South Alabama. Housed in the town’s historic train station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, are a variety of artifacts and memorabilia from the L & N, Frisco and other railroad companies.

The original railroad station built in 1882 was one of the first on the line. It burned in 1907 and the current depot was built in 1909 on the site of the old one. Inside, visitors will find the freight office as it might have looked in 1907, and the freight warehouse which displays lots of railroad artifacts, photographs, and model trains. The passenger waiting room is now a full model train store.

Outside, several train cars line the museum property, including a Frisco caboose built in 1927. L & N Dining Car #2722, the “Globe Coffee Shop” built in 1929, still serves diners who want to book special gatherings or birthday parties, and L&N Baggage-Dormitory Car #1652, a Pullman sleeper built in 1917, houses the museum office and archives. Also on site are a Bridge Tender’s House and a Tool House built around 1906.

Model Train Lovers Operate Here
The West Florida Railroad Museum is staffed and maintained by volunteers, train lovers who like nothing better than hanging around trains. The museum sponsors two model railroad clubs, The West Florida Model Railroad Club, which operates an HO layout in the Bridge Keepers House, and The Emerald Coast Garden Railway Club, which has constructed a 45 x 90 foot Garden Railroad layout across the street behind the museum.

Club members own their own model trains and bring them to the Garden railroad to operate them. Everything in the garden is weather resistant and the plants and buildings are to scale. The trains have digital controls, and as club member Paul Weston puts it, all the bells and whistles – literally. Club members can generally be found operating their trains on Saturdays between 9 AM and 3 PM.

The West Florida Railroad Museum is located about 20 miles east of Pensacola in Milton Florida, at 5003 Henry Street, right next to the railroad tracks. The museum is free (donations are happily accepted) and open to the public on Friday and Saturday from 10 AM to 3 PM. For information, call 850-623-3645.

Note: This article first appeared March 24, 2010 on Suite101.com.

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