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Arkanas Railroad Museum plus more from this state 4/21/2021

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I woke up at the Best Western and after we checked the Internet, we went down the elevator and I had a waffle and sausage while my lovely wife had cereal. We both enjoyed the orange juice. We then finished packing and checked out then drove to the station in town.

The Pine Bluff Missouri Pacific/St.Louis Southwestern Union Station built in 1906.

Union Pacific 5924 West at Pine Bluff.

We then drove over to the Arkansas Railroad Museum and met Elizabeth Gaines who opened up the gates and then we parked. She unlocked the shop building and I took this picture before we went inside.

Arkansas Railroad Museum History

Arkansas Railroad Museum is located on Port Road in Pine Bluff, Arkansas at the former Cotton Belt yard. The former SSW shops are occupied by the historic collection of railroad equipment. This museum is about an hour's drive from Little Rock, AR, and is one of the largest displays of historic railroad equipment in Arkansas. Between the disappearance of SSW in 1992 into parent Southern Pacific and the size of the collection, Arkansas Railroad Museum can be considered an upper-level railroad preservation facility. The Museum is operated by the Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society and local volunteers. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 2 PM and on Sunday afternoon by appointment.

Arkansas Railroad Museum is most famous for stabling SSW #819, the last steam locomotive built by the Cotton Belt. The 819 was restored to operation in 1986. It operated on 13 excursions between 1986 and 1993, but is currently out of service pending completion of an overhaul mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration. A collection of historical passenger cars, mostly lightweight Pullman-Standard equipment, is also kept for use behind 819. The 819 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The equipment is mostly housed in the former SSW shops, which was the main heavy repair and erection shop for SSW during the steam era. The shop has such heavy repair equipment as pits, massive overhead cranes, and tools for servicing large railroad equipment. On the east side of the former shops is a transfer table that is still operable. The transfer table is used to move exhibits from time to time. The best time to see the exhibits outside is the first weekend in April (unless that weekend is Easter) when the Museum has its annual show. Many of the exhibits are taken outside so that tables can be set up inside the museum for vendors.

Our Visit

We waited and Elizabeth told us all the history of her group and their steam engine 819. Mr. J.T. Dunver offered to show us the building. He is one of the volunteers that work tirelessly to keep the railroad history of the area alive.

St. Louis Southwestern caboose 2214 built 1920.

United States Army Snow Plow SN 87.

View of the St. Louis Southwestern Shop building.

They also have a fire truck.

A telephone booth.

Display boards.

This coal stove is not for sale. We next were taken into the front room and Elizabeth and I both were amazed at what we saw there.

The whole shop complex back in the days of operation.

Dining Car china.

Public railroad timetables.

Railroad memorabelia.

Model trains and soldiers.

Railroad Lanterns.

Railroad pictures and maps.

China and silverware.

Pictures of Cotton Belt engine.

There is more railroad memorabelia to see than can be seen in one visit to this great museum.

Timetables and conductor uniform buttons.

Porter jackets and hats.

Railroad memorabelia and Railroads Less Traveled.

Cotton Belt history pictures.

The clown was a railroad employee who was six feet four inches and made kids in the hospital very happy.

Steam railroad pictures.

Shortlines in Arkansas.

Railheads over time.

Museum view.

Rock Island Railroad.

Gould Southwestern Railroad.

More railroad memorabelia.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Railroad pictures.

Watch repair bench and tools.

Modern day lanterns and model trains.

Railroad lantern display cases.

AT&T and Bell items.

Kansas City Southern in Arkansas.

Missouri Pacific in Arkansas.

Cotton Belt in Arkansas.

Rock Island in Arkansas.

Frisco in Arkansas.

Eureka Springs Railroad.

Frisco and other steam railroads.

Frisco railroad pictures.

From Sails to Rails.

Cotton Belt 819 photo.

Railroad pictures.

How Steamboats Shaped Arkansas.

Humphrey station board.

Railroad bridges.

Track gauger for curved track. Next we will go back into the shops.

Click here for Part 2 of this story!