Railroad Preservation

Railroad preservation can take many forms – museums and historical displays, groups working to save and restore locomotives, cars and other railroad equipment, specific railroad interest groups like the Great NorthernSoo LineMilwaukee Road historical societies, etc., are all part of our railroad preservation community. Being in the business of producing railroad videos, I pay attention to what is going on in our railroad preservation community.

Railroad preservation can also include restoration and operation of heritage equipment. The Friends of the 261 has been in the news frequently as they have worked to bring back this beauty for another 15 year run. They were able to purchase the locomotive from the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, but were forced to spend the money they were intending to use for restoration to buy it instead. They’ve been working hard to raise more money for the work, which is never easy. They will succeed and we will once again be able to ride behind 261 in the not too distant future.

railroad preservation

261 thunders west on CP’s River Sub on one of many annual Fall Color Trips – Yard Goat Images Photo

Other famous locomotives, such as Pere Marquette 1225, face an uncertain future, and hopefully money and resources will eventually get this beauty rolling again. Soo Line 1003 had an uncertain future in 2010, with a boiler whose time was up in 2011. Fortunately, generous donations of money, talent, and sweat have brought a new life to this locomotive.

railroad preservation

GN Wooden Boxcar 5124 is outdoors but under cover, Lake Superior Railroad Museum, Duluth, MN – Yard Goat Images Photo

Railroad preservation for display and interpretation is also important in our community. There are countless steam and diesel locomotives in various stages of life; rusting away, in pieces, intact but no money for preservation, recently restored, or operational. There are streetcars, interurbans, passenger and freight cars, depots, roundhouses, and other structures. Not to mention historical documents, photo and map collections, engineering drawings, and other memorabilia worth preserving.

The good news in railroad preservation is that there are many people who have a passion for making things happen. They want to raise money to protect, preserve, and operate or display these objects. Many individuals and groups are donating not only money, but their time and talent to these causes.

We owe these folks our admiration and gratitude for what they are accomplishing. But do you know what? They can’t do railroad preservation without more help.




Railroad Preservation – YOU can help

Can you devote a few hours now and then to your local railroad museum or history society? They can always use an extra hand to repair a piece of equipment, digitize some documents, operate a locomotive, sell tickets, replace a tie….the list goes on. Stop by. Get to know them. Chances are you have a lot in common and you will enjoy working with them.

On a larger scale, consider writing an article, or serving on a committee of one of the many railroad historical societies. Many concentrate on just one fallen flag railroad, such as the Pennsylvania Railroad Historical Society or on contemporary railroads such as the Union Pacific Historical Society. Most of these organizations, in the name of railroad preservation, publish fine magazines as part of the membership package and have really interesting annual conventions. But they need authors and people to help organize the activities. As an individual you can help, often from your own home via the internet with many of the tasks.

How about money? If you’re one of those lucky people who still gets a paycheck, or maybe you have retired with some monetary cushion, how about some regular donations to one or more of your favorite railroad preservation organizations? Without money, even the most ambitious group of volunteers will not be successful in preserving our railroad history for future generations. Also, while you’re still of sound mind and body, consider adding some of these railroad preservation organizations to your will.

Let’s not forget about the future. Many of us grew up when steam engines and early diesels were common, or remember taking a ride on an interurban or streetcar. There was still a person working in that now boarded up railroad station. Generations that followed did not get the same exposure to railroading as some of us. Thanks to the likes of Thomas & Friends, YouTube, and efforts by our museum community to give children and families activities around operating rail equipment, many young people are now joining the railfan community.

You can help here too. Maybe you have nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or neighbor children. How about organizing a visit to your local rail or trolley museum, or a railroad gift such as a DVD, book, magazine subscription, etc.? Many young people are interested in technology and speed, so maybe you can get them interested in the latest light rail line, high speed trains, and technology advancements of freight railroads.

You get the idea.

Thanks for reading.

Steve Mitchell, Yard Goat Images

railroad preservation

Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum has done a fine job in railroad preservation with its fine collection of freight cars – Yard Goat Images Photo