News & Reviews News Wire News Wire Year in Review: The year in preservation

News Wire Year in Review: The year in preservation

By Bob Lettenberger | December 20, 2023

| Last updated on February 2, 2024

Big bucks for big buildings were a theme in 2023

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from brands. Sign-up for email today!

Rendering of planned museum visitor center
A rendering of the planned visitors’ center at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City, as shown in a video screenshot.

Add it up — a million here, a million there — and soon you’ve got some serious money. Looking back on 2023 in railroad preservation, the large sums secured for new museum facilities adds up to be the biggest story.

The tally sheet shows the State of Nevada budgeted $23 million for a new visitors’ center at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City. The state earmarked an additional $7.6 million to remodel the freight barn at the Nevada Northern Railway and $800,000 to stabilize the depot at the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum.

Rendering of front of brick museum building
A rendering of the planned redesigned museum entrance at the South Car Works building. B&O Railroad Museum

CSX Transportation set the pace for the B&O Railroad Museum’s campus transformation with a $5 million contribution and landed Joe Hinrichs, CSX president and CEO, to serve as campaign chairman. The South Baltimore Gateway Partnership added $1 million. The goal — $30 million — will create a new museum entrance, amphitheater, and renovate the 33,000-square-foot South Car Works into exhibit, archive, and educational space. The new facilities will open for the 2027 bicentennial of American railroading.

Three trolley cars in front of building
Three cars from Pennsylvania Trolley Museum’s collection congregate on the double-track trolley street in front of the museum’s new Welcome & Education Center on Nov. 10, 2023. Dan Cupper

The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum opened its new $15 million, 21,000-square-foot welcome center. Fundraising had been in progress since before the COVID pandemic, with delays causing the total cost to balloon by 40%. The new facility features interactive science and technology exhibits related to trollies, education space, and the museum store.

The Texas legislature’s budget contained $10 million for track work, including rail, tie, and ballast replacement, on the Texas State Railroad, a tourist line in Palestine, Texas. Some of the rail to be replaced is over 100 years old.

Expansion plans at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wis., got a boost when the state chipped in $7 million toward a 32,040-square-foot addition to the Lenfestey Center, its main exhibit hall. The addition will allow for expanded exhibits around newly restored pieces and more space for educational programming and events.

The planned 20,000-square-foot exhibit building at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, Calif., got a $1 million boost from a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. The facility will house 10 to 16 pieces of rolling stock and serve as a disaster evacuation center.

These projects alone represent a $69.4 million investment in American rail preservation.

The past year also held a number of significant anniversaries.

It was Aug. 2, 1873, when Scotsman Andrew S. Hallidie launched what would become a symbol of San Francisco — the cable car. It was 150 years ago that Hallidie’s first cable car ran along Clay Street.

In England the celebration was for the Flying Scotsman, an A1-class 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive, that reached the century mark. The Scotsman, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley for the Great Northern Railway, is the first British locomotive to achieve a verified speed of 100 mph. The locomotive entered service Feb. 24, 1923.

Large crowds around steam locomotive
Crowds mill around Santa Fe No. 2926 during its appearance at an Albuquerque brewery in May, its first trip — albeit a short one — away from its restoration facility. Alex Gillman

Restoration work continued in 2023 on numerous steam locomotives. Several big-name engines were put back in service. Count among this number Pere Marquette No. 1225 and Santa Fe Nos. 2926 and 3751. Smaller and less heralded, but noteworthy in terms of perseverance, is the return to operation of SMS Rail’s Alco 0-6-0, completed after 14 years. The locomotive, built for the U.S. Army, will see excursion duty in 2024.

Diesels increasingly made preservation news, with a growing number of units donated to museums or otherwise securing restoration. Leading the list of internal-combustion headliners were Nickel Plate PA No. 190 and Union Pacific DDA40X No. 6936. The former Santa Fe and Delaware & Hudson Alco was acquired by Genesee Valley Transportation from preservationist Doyle McCormack for use on the company’s office-car train and other special moves; the 6936 will be the only operational DDA40X thanks to the restoration work of Railroading Heritage of Midwest America at its Silvis, Ill., facility, after donation by UP last year.

In January, the new year, only 10 days old, was marred by the death of preservation feline Dirt, the Nevada Northern Railway Museum’s shop cat. Dirt was 15 years old and had been a fixture in the shop since found there in 2008. The Facebook obituary post to date has been “liked” by more than 36,000 people, has garnered 5,400 comments, and 17,000 shares. Dirt was laid to rest near the museum depot in Ely, Nev. Although there is sorrow over Dirt’s passing, the museum has adopted a new shop cat, DJ — Dirt Jr.

Previous News Wire coverage:

“Dirt, famed Nevada Northern shop cat, dies at 15,” Jan. 11, 2023.

“Genesee Valley Transportation acquires PA locomotive for office car train and excursion operation,” March 2, 2023.

“Santa Fe No. 2926 to make short trip for Albuquerque fundraiser,” May 1, 2023.

“San Francisco kicks off 150th cable car anniversary,” May 5, 2023.

“Western Pacific museum receives grant for display building,” June 7, 2023.

“Nevada rail museum in Boulder City receives $23 million for new visitor’s center,” June 8, 2023.

“CSX makes $5 million gift to B&O Railroad Museum,” June 8, 2023.

“Texas budget includes funding for heritage railroad,” June 12, 2023.

“Silvis shop continues work on several projects,” July 11, 2023.

“Santa Fe No. 3751 to appear at LA Union Station event in September,” July 13, 2023.

“B&O Museum receives $1 million for South Car Works Building project,” Sept. 27, 2023.

“National Railroad Museum to receive $7 million for expansion project,” Nov. 2, 2023.

“Pere Marquette No. 1225 returns to service after wheel and running gear rebuild,” Nov. 9, 2023.

“Pennsylvania Trolley Museum opens $15 million interpretive center,” Nov. 13, 2023.

“CSX’s Hinrichs to chair B&O Museum capital campaign,” Nov. 14, 2023.

“SMS Rail Lines 0-6-0 returns to steam, certified for operation,” Nov. 25, 2023.

“‘Flying Scotsman’ celebrates a century,” Dec. 8, 2023.

Coming Thursday: The year in transit.

You must login to submit a comment