Railroad Museum of Virginia

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Oct 30 12:42:09 EST 2006

October 30, 2006

Thanks, Ned, for the referral. Too bad the Railroad
Museum of Virginia can't join forces with the Virginia
Museum of Transportation to have at least one really
good railroad museum in the Commnwealth on solid
financial footing.

If you're ever in Portsmouth, can you write down the
car numbers? I suspect these are storage mail cars,
not Railway Post Offices.

Best wishes,


Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2006 09:31:09 -0800 (PST)
From: "Ned Wright" <parkview12004 at yahoo.com>
Subject: Suspect you already know of these Mail
cars...(Saw them from a distance on Saturday)
To: "Frank R Scheer" <f_scheer at yahoo.com>



Rail enthusiasts working to engineer museum site
By JANIE BRYANT, The Virginian-Pilot
© February 12, 2006
Last updated: 8:40 PM

PORTSMOUTH — For three years, the cars sat on the dead
end of a downtown track like ragged ghosts of their
rail-running days. Not too long ago, those relics
started taking on a new life.

First, two 1928 mail cars took on a fresh coat of the
old Norfolk and Western Tuscan red. Next, a dining car
will be restored and wear its original Wabash Railroad
Co. blue.

And one day maybe a locomotive will lead the pack.

However, Willard J. Moody Sr. and his band of railroad
enthusiasts don’t plan to wait for an engine to roll
out the Railroad Museum of Virginia.

For that matter, they don’t plan to wait for a
building. Once the trains are completely restored, the
group will welcome people on board for a journey into
the state’s railroad past.

“It’s basically restoring those cars to as close to
the original condition as we can,” Moody said.

The Portsmouth lawyer and former Democratic state
senator has been leading the charge to build the
Railroad Museum of Virginia since 1998.

The organization’s goal is to build a
train-depot-style building on a small piece of land
next to the track, in the shadow of the nTelos
Pavilion at Harbor Center. Members had hoped to break
ground about a year ago.

The city is leasing a small portion of the property to
the organization for $1 a year. T he state owns part
of the property, and because the site is near the
Downtown Tunnel, the project also needs federal

T hat’s where building efforts have stalled.

Initially, the railroad cars will probably serve as
the museum, Moody said. A fire-engine-red caboose was
restored more than a year ago by FBS Inc. of
Portsmouth. L ate last fall, the same company started
work on the other cars.

FBS usually does ship repair, but this isn’t its first
train, said Tommy Gray, general manager. The company
has done work on trains at Busch Gardens and also on
the Pokey Smokey at City Park, he said.

The work here has included steel repairs, replacement
of side panels and windows and the rebuilding of the
sliding doors.

The company hopes to finish the exterior work within
the next 30 days, weather permitting.

“The next step, we think, is to put up walkways and
access to the railroad cars,” Moody said.

Donald Burnett, a former president of the Tidewater
chapter of the National Railway Historical Society,
walked around the trains recently, surveying the work.
He donated one of the two mail cars.

“I forgot what I paid for it, $2,000 or something,” he
said. “It was going to scrap, so I just basically
saved it from the cutting torch.”

The diner was originally a Wabash car that was
converted for use with the Decatur Wreck Train . It
was used to feed the maintenance crews that traveled
to wreck sites.

Burnett said the organization hopes to put more tracks
in at the site and to acquire more cars.

The historical society has taken on several railroad
cars over the years, restoring them and sometimes
selling them to other collectors and museums. F or
years, members dreamed of a museum here.

“We went to every local city,” he said. “They all
thought it was a great idea, but they didn’t want
anything to do with it. They said, 'You do it.’”

Years later, Moody took up the cause, and a nonprofit
formed and began steaming ahead.

The organization has yet to formally kick off a
capital campaign but has raised more than $100,000
privately and $300,000 in state funding.

This year, two local legislators have proposed budget
amendments that would give the museum an additional
$500,000 over two years.

“I’m optimistic that the legislature will help us out
to a certain extent,” Moody said.

On a recent afternoon, board members gathered downtown
for an update. A couple of doors down High Street, the
city’s smallest visitors were playing at the
Children’s Museum of Virginia. From the window of
their conference room, board members could see the new
Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

For a long time, the organization has worked in the
background, waiting its turn in a city that is
juggling four city-owned museums and a hefty
commitment to the privately owned sports museum.

Members think Portsmouth’s railroad past makes the
city an appropriate place for the story of trains in
Hampton Roads and Virginia.

The museum would be on the Path of History that the
city is forging from Norfolk Naval Shipyard to the n
aval h ospital. Between those historic sites, the
railroads once ruled, carrying goods and passengers to
the downtown waterfront.

Much of it is gone, but Moody and his crew plan to
keep its history on Portsmouth’s tracks.

Reach Janie Bryant at (757)446-2453 or
janie.bryant at pilotonline.com.

© 2006 HamptonRoads.com/PilotOnline.com

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