That One Day At… Rosenberg Railroad Museum

We visited this museum earlier in the year with one of MaiTai’s unschooling groups mostly because we caught a good discount, but also because I knew how much he loves choo choo trains. Which is about as much as any kid. Unless they’re moving and whistling, then probably even more so.

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Place Stats

Website Link: Rosenberg Railroad Museum

Description: Via Wikipedia – “The Rosenberg Railroad Museum is a non-profit organization located at 1921 Avenue F, Rosenberg, Texas and maintains exhibits relating to local railroad history.”

Via RRM web site – “All year long there are opportunities at the Museum to educate our young people about the railroad heritage of Rosenberg and Texas.. their heritage. We take pleasure in seeing eyes light up when the kids hear a train and experience the joy in being up close in a safe environment. Plus… we haven’t met a kid yet who doesn’t love to learn about trains!”

Location: 1921 Avenue F, Rosenberg, TX

Hours: Wed. – Sat. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sun. 1 – 5 p.m. Check here for holiday hours.

Fee: $5 adults, $4 for senior citizens (55+), $3 for children ages 2 – 14, free for children under 2. Discounts available for members. Be sure to check Groupon for deals. (Note: $10 minimum on a credit card).

Food: Not available on-site, however there are cafes in town within walking distance. The Museum has plenty of green space with a dozen shaded picnic tables that are perfect for a to-go lunch.

Bathrooms: Yes.

Contact Them: (281) 633-2846

Other: The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes. The museum also hosts special activities, weddings, meetings and birthday parties. On the calendar: Annual RailFest, Fall Family Fun Fest, Educational Class schedules for Scouts, Model Railroad Camp, and the Wig Wag Learning Series for preschoolers and playgroups.

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Photos & Feelings

The museum and train tours are indoors but walking between exhibits is outdoors. The updated concrete sidewalks make virtually all exhibits (except the Quebec caboose) wheelchair accessible.

The museum has a strict photo policy, so I was unable to take my own shots of the exhibit interiors or activity occurring within (signing the photo release agreement and paying the fee seemed a bit overkill for my casual snapshotting intentions).

(Edited – Comment from an RRRM volunteer docent: “[T]he Museum’s ‘strict photo policy’ only applies to professional photographers who want to use the Museum as the setting for commercial photography. Visitors are welcome to take as many photos as they wish anywhere in and around the museum. And we always encourage sharing photos on our Facebook page or Instagram.”)

This little guy didn’t make me pay for his photo, thankfully (not sure what he charges for an autograph):

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The tour began in the Museum Gallery, where we were free to investigate various artifacts, displays, and watch a short film on the history of the American Railway Express. MaiTai and I skipped this part due to ants in our pants.

Credit BAC Photography

Next we ventured outside to Tower 17. The guide talked to us for a few minutes about how the man would sit up here and make sure only one train got through the crossing at one time and… some other stuff I didn’t catch… because I got busy hoisting MaiTai up to tinker with a giant reference board full of levers and switches. Pretty sure they were no longer functional. I hope.

Per the RRM web site:

“The tower’s function was to house the electro-mechanical interlocker, and the men whose job it was to operate the interlocker, which was a machine (shown below) that controlled the railroad signals and switches, setting the route for any train passing through Rosenberg. Only one route could be set up at any one time, which helped to prevent accidents by allowing only one train through the crossing at a time.  The electromechanical interlocker was, essentially, a 19th century analog computer using mechanical switches instead of the 1s and 0s used by today’s digital computers.”

Tower 17 received a new paint job, and with its original Southern Pacific Standard colors, it looks as good as the day it was first built.
Credit BAC Photography

The Mopac Caboose looks pretty classic, right? You won’t see anything like it in use on American railroads anymore as the train caboose went the way of the dodo by the 1980s. A caboose is a small box car that served as the conductor’s office and personal quarters.

We were treated to a view of all the cool stuff inside like a desk, restroom, cooking apparatus, bed, and emergency supplies. It was neat to imagine spending most of one’s time here.

Credit BAC Photography

The 1879 Quebec Railcar, which is a private rail car akin to a private jet for a corporation or businessman, is treated by the guide like the gem of the museum.

Per the RRM web site:

“The car itself was originally constructed entirely of wood, a practice that is no longer allowed, due to safety concerns. After the Canadian government purchased the Quebec for use as a business car, the entire structure was reinforced with steel plating, and the layout of the car was changed from a passenger car to that of a business car.”

The interior was truly remarkable. Fancy like the Titanic, except not as big, and evidently much safer. I wanted to run my fingers over all the drapery and delicate artifacts (as did MaiTai) but the guide discouraged such behavior. Little ones seem to be accepting of this restriction as long as you don’t linger too much in one area and focus on moving along.

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Credit BAC Photography

We headed to the Model Trains room next, which really is a feast for the eyes. MaiTai loved the miniature cities, landscapes and villages cut through by wandering model train tracks. I imagine it reminded him of the opening scenes in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the only show he’d ever known by that time.

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Adjacent to the Model Trains room especially for hobbyists is the Education Station Playroom, all set with train-related toys and a play kitchen and other fun things to grab and move especially by children. But never mind the free reign of new toys, MaiTai did not want to hang out here. He wanted to go outside. I think he sensed the rain coming…

Before the skies fell upon us, we managed to check out the Garden Railroad (a currently incomplete, larger-scale outdoor model railroad that’s a replica of Historic Rosenberg) and Wawa’s Train Playground (including a wooden play structure built by Amish craftsmen).

We took shelter from a downpour at the covered picnic tables that overlook the green area, playground, and offer perfect view of active-duty trains passing through this part of town.

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Closing out the visit with an impromptu honoring of Mother Nature thanks to puddle-muddling and a rain dance party.

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Other nearby ideas for those interested in trains and railroads:

 

 

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