GALLIPOLIS — It’s been a long time coming, said Museum Vice President Jerry Davis, but the Gallipolis Railroad Freight Station Museum’s restoration efforts are steaming forward with all the essential utilities coming to play, access to heating, power and water.
The museum was recently able to turn on its light fixtures on the exterior of the 918 Third Avenue building as a proverbial celebration of its utility connections.
“It never fails to amaze me the support we get from the community,” said Davis. “It’s not uncommon for folks to stop by and ask us if we’re open. We aren’t officially, of course, but we’re happy to take them through and see what progress we’ve made…We’ve been focusing on completing our office area to use for work and we’ve finished two bathrooms, got running water, power and we’ve got our heat going.”
Heating ducts and light fixtures have yet to be added to the main storage area inside the freight station building, but power has been run throughout the structure.
Davis said the museum is gearing to once again apply for Ohio capital bill funding as it’s allowed to reapply every few years. Previously the organization had been awarded $125,000 in March 2018.
“If we get the grant again, we could potentially finish the freight area and open,” said Davis.
Among other achievements, the museum added a former Ringling Brothers’ and Barnum and Bailey’s circus passenger car to its growing collection of railway vehicles in February 2019. The car was placed on rails behind the museum via a crane in July, last year.
According to information provided by the museum’s board of directors, “The RBBX 41307 (the car’s formal designation) was built in 1949 (then numbered) Pennsylvania RR (PPR) No. 8267, named the ‘Lewiston Inn,’ (and built) as a 21 roomette slab-sided stainless steel sleeper by the Budd Company, using the Pullman Floor plan 9513.”
The 10-by-86 foot car was rebuilt in 1963 as a 64-seat coach with a 12-seat smoking lounge and was renumbered PPR 1505 before then becoming Penn Central (PC) 1505 in 1968. It was eventually sold in 1976 to New Jersey Transit and renumbered NJTR 5439 before being traded to a private car owner in 1992 who then in turn sold it to the circus. It ran in the circus’ blue unit with a house number of 186 and reporting marks of 41307.
The car was received from private owners Nelson and Borden Black McGahee at a location in Huntington after selling the car to the museum for around $22,000, said board members.
Museum board members continue to seek grant funding opportunities and they’re looking to potentially acquire another caboose and passenger car from the West Virginia State Farm Museum.
Museum Board President Dallas Jim Love first approached Gallipolis City Commission about turning the aging station into a museum in April 2016. According to him, the station had served as an old freight house and was built in 1901 by Hocking Valley, a rail company of the time. The building is 118 years-old and Love had once served as the building’s telegrapher. It closed in the early 1980s.
The circus passenger car joins a caboose and a fireless steam locomotive at the museum. The first was acquired June 2017 from Wheelersburg and the second from Point Pleasant, W.Va., in August, last year. The locomotive had no firebox and was filled with steam to be utilized for a few hours in areas that could not have open flames. It was built in the 1940s while the caboose was built in 1969.
More information can be found at gallipolisrailroad.org.
Dean Wright is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at 740-446-2342.