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Gold Coast Railroad Museum 1/27/2022

by Chris Guenzler

We awoke at the Holiday Inn and checked out before going to International House Of Pancakes for breakfast. The two adventurers then drove to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Fort Myers.

The Gold Coast Railroad Museum History

The Gold Coast Railroad Museum was founded in 1956. The museum was built on the former Naval Air Station Richmond. With over three miles of tracks, the old base was an ideal place to build a railroad museum.

It is one of three Official State Railroad Museums in Florida and joined the existing two in 1984 when it received statutory recognition by the Florida Legislature as meeting the four statutory criteria that: its purpose is to preserve railroad history, it is devoted primarily to the history of railroading, it is open to the public, and it operates as a non-profit organization.

The Museum promotes historical trains and railroads. It houses over 30 historic trains including classic railroad cars like the Western Pacific "Silver Crescent" and Florida East Coast steam engine 113." The Museum strives to teach railroad history with the use of artifacts, movies and railroading materials. The Museum includes a number of interactive displays.

The Museum's train rides allow guests to board vintage trains and get a taste of the past. On certain days, guests can ride in standard gauge railway cars and can also ride in the cab of the train's locomotive. The separate 2 foot narrow gauge Edwin Link Children's Railroad also offers ride.

Our Visit

We arrived twenty minutes before they opened and we waited in the car until they did so.

A mural on the wall.

A frame, upon which a caboose used to be displayed, in front of the museum.

A canopy to wait under during bad weather.

The main entrance to the museum.

The Official State Museum plaque. We went inside and told the staff we were from and they gave us a map of the museum and told us that the displays were outside.

Florida East Coast Railway 4-6-2 153 built by Alco in 1922. This engine pulled a train carrying President Calvin Coolidge to Miami in 1928. In 1940, it was sold to the United States Sugar Corporation in Clewiston then in 1957, it was donated to the University of Miami and stored on the Gold Coast Railroad Museum's site at Port Everglades. There, it operated every Sunday from March 1957 until November 1966, when the museum moved to Fort Lauderdale and it received a $10,000 major overhaul. In 1984, it moved with the collection to the current site and had further restoration work from 2000 to 2002.

Seaboard Air Line coach/tavern car 6300 built in 1939 as SAL 30. It became Seaboard Coast Line 5810, was sold to Amtrak in 1971 and became buffet-lounge-coach 3810 (as buffet lounge coach) and ten years later, was acquired by GCRM.

Port Everglades Railroad Track Section Car 4706.

Florida East Coast caboose 715.

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad caboose 0322 built in 1923 at the ACL Shops in Waycross, Georgia.

Florida East Coast Railway passenger coach 136 built in 1925 which played a role in the evacuation of a portion of the Florida Keys as part of the preparations for the Labor Day hurricane of 1935.

NASA SW1500 2, nee Toledo, Peoria and Western 305 built in 1970 and acquired by NASA in 1983. GCRM obtained it in 2014.

Former Seaboard Air Line Sleeper-Lounge Car 54 "Henderson" built in 1955 as "Silver Palm".

Florida East Coast Railway 4-6-2 113 built in 1913 and was sold to the United States Sugar Corporation at Bryant, Florida in 1938. In 1968, it was donated to the museum at Fort Lauderdale and after moving with the rest of the collection to Miami in 1984, it hauled a one-time special from Miami Zoo to Homestead, Florida in 1986.

NASA S-2 1 was built in 1943 for the U.S. Army. Acquired by the Department of Defense along with two other S-2s (numbered 2 and 3) to work at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, it was used to move space craft components and fuels on Space Center property. The thirty-eight mile NASA Railroad, built by the Florida East Coast Line in 1963, connected its mainline to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Because of its hazardous operational nature, NASA bought the line in June 1983. That year, NASA also bought three EMD SW1500 switchers built in 1968 and 1970 from the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway to replace the aging S-2s, which were then donated to the museum.

Seaboard Air Line Railroad Combination baggage-coach 259 and is one of the Jim Crow cars because of its segregated seating areas. It has 18 seats in the front section and 24 in the rear. It was donated by SAL and restored by the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in 1958. The National Park Service named the car as a Historic Rail Object in 2001-2003, and in 2007, through a State of Florida Grant, a History of Segregation on the Railroads exhibit was placed in the baggage portion of the car.

Southern Railway baggage-express car 359 built in 1926.

Presidential Pullman passenger car "Ferdinand Magellan" U.S. Car 1. The Ferdinand Magellan is unique among Pullman railroad cars in that it is the only car ever custom-built for the President of the United States. Originally built in 1928, the Ferdinand Magellan was one of the last cars ever built as a private car and was one of a group of six cars named after famous explorers. The six cars were Ferdinand Magellan, David Livingstone, Henry Stanley, Marco Polo, Robert Peary and Roald Amundsen. These cars were all placed in the Pullman general service pool at about the same time and were operated by the Pullman Company over many of the nation's railroads.

Western Pacific "California Zephyr" Vista Dome "Silver Crescent" built in 1948. The California Zephyr was a train that ran from Chicago to Oakland between 1949 and 1970. The route covered 2,525 miles each trip and averaged 2 1/2 days to complete, for an average of 45 mph. It was donated to GCRM in 1981.

Interior of the Silver Crescent.

United States Army Hospital Car 89436 used heavily during World War II. The car was to carry one doctor, two nurses, four service personnel and could carry up to 33 patients. It was majorly used to move military patients between medical facilities. This car was built in 1945 by American Car & Foundry, and was part of a U.S. Government 100 Car Order (USA 89400 - USA 89499). Declared surplus in 1969, it was acquired by the museum through the State of Florida Federal Surplus Program.

Interior of United States Army Hospital Car 89436.

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad sleeping car "Silver Vale" built by Budd in 1956. It became Burlington Northern then was sold to Amtrak in 1971 as 2675 and planned for conversion to HEP 2876, but this was cancelled and the car was subsequently stored until sold in 1991 to GCRM.

Seaboard Air Line dining car 6112 built by Budd in 1947, then became Seaboard Coast Line 5917, Amtrak 8017 in 1971 and was sold to GCRM in 1984.

Florida East Coast Railway maintenance-of-way car built by American Car & Foundry in February 1965 as a coach for the Union Pacific. It was purchased by the FEC for use in work train service. In 1996, it was renumbered 1996 to coincide with the City of Miami's & FEC's Centennial. The FEC 1996 contains an exhibit of South Florida railroad photographs. This car was donated by the Florida East Coast Employees as a gift for the Post Hurricane Andrew Recovery Effort.

Atlantic Coast Lines lounge-observation 254 built by Budd in 1941. Later, it became Seaboard Coast Line 5833 and Amtrak 3333.

Interior of Atlantic Coast Lines lounge-observation 254.

Southern Pacific sleeping car 9001 built in 1950 as SP 10 roomette-6 double-bedroom 9001. 10-6 sleepers were built as part of the re-equipping of the Sunset Limited. Sold in 1971 to Amtrak as 2681, it was converted to HEP 2443 in 1980 and became "Walnut Grove".

Florida East Coast Railway coach "Belle Glade" built in 1946.

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Slumbercoach "Silver Slumber" built in 1956 as CB&Q 24 duplex roomette-8 double roomette Slumbercoach 4901. It became Burlington Northern, then sold to Amtrak in 1971 and 2021 and converted to HEP 2085 in 1980.

Helium Transportation Car MHAX 1202.

NASA Shuttle Rocket Booster "Skirt" NALX 171.

Western Pacific Baggage Car "Silver Stag" built by Budd in 1948.

Original Miami Peoplemover on display with the remaining concrete supports for the 51 wooden truss arches of Naval Air station hangar 1.

An unknown baggage car.

Seaboard Air Line dining car 6112 built by Budd in 1947.

Chesapeake and Ohio power car 914101, originally baggage-mail car 34.

Locomotives on display.

Track maintenance equipment.

A box car set up with a historical mural.

A railroad wheel set.

Winston Company 0-4-0 48, a 36" gauge steam engine built by Alco in 1922 for the Winston Company, of Edgefield, South Carolina. It may have been built as a tank locomotive and later converted. 48 passed through many owners, including Bona-Allen Inc., of Buford, Georgia, the Georgia Lumber Co., Lake Lure Scenic Railroad, the Daniel Boone Railroad and James Wells of Fairfax, Virginia, before arriving at the museum.

Museum scenes.

Naval Air Station Richmond Historical sign. Having photographed and looked through all the museum exhibits, we went inside and asked if we could take pictures of the equipment behind the gates. Jose willingly took us down to that part of the museum and interesting conversations were had.

Seaboard FP10 4033 built in 1946 as Gulf, Mobile and Ohio 800A, then Illinois Central Gulf and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority 1101. In the early 1990s, it was sold to the Cape Cod Scenic Railroad before being bought by the museum in 2003.

Gold Coast Railroad Museum RS-1 106 was built by Alco in 1951 for the Savannah River Site, a nuclear facility next to the Savannah River in South Carolina. The site was built during the 1950s to refine materials for nuclear weapons and is owned by the US Department of Energy.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy E9A 9913 built in January 1956 and it was the last of the railroad's E-units. Renumbered 9983 when the Burlington Northern was formed in 1970, this unit was rebuilt in 1973 by Morrison Knudsen, renumbered 9913 and redesignated Class E9AM. It transferred to Chicago's Regional Transportation Authority (later METRA) in 1974 and hauled commuter trains as #9913 until it was retired in 1992. It was bought by Indiana Transportation Museum in 1994 and then sold to Tennessee 200 Inc., in 1996. Repainted, it hauled the state's bi-centenary exhibits that year, and was finally bought by the museum in 2002.

Burro Crane Model 15 built by the Cullen-Friestedt Company of Chicago. The history is unclear, however small cranes like this were commonly used for maintenance of way work, such as lifting rails and ties, installing signalling equipment or point systems. The boom can be fitted with different tools depending on the assignment, from the simple hook hanging upside down here to an electromagnet.

Seaboard Coast Line Railroad box car 126307.

Illinois Central caboose 199477.

This 150 ton steam operated crane was built in 1919 for the Atlantic Coast Line as 65157 by Industrial Works of Bay City, Michigan, later the Industrial Brownhoist Corporation. The crane became 765157 with formation of the Seaboard Coast Line in 1967 and retained that number when the Seaboard System was formed in 1983.

Belcher Oil Company (BEPX) Tank Car 105.

Belcher Oil Company (BEPX) Tank Car 121.

Metra Cab Car 8723.

Metra Coach 7670.

Atlantic Coast Line GP7 1804 built in 1951.The 1804 was one of twenty GP7s built for the US Army Transportation Corps in 1951. It then worked hauling both freight and passenger trains on the Alaska Railroad as 1834 for most of its life, later renumbered 1804. 1804 was then sold to the Santa Clarita Railway. It was bought by the museum in 2002 and painted in the former Atlantic Coast Line livery. It is regularly used on switching at the museum's yard, and provides cab rides at weekends.

United States Army side-dump ballast car.

Seaboard Coast Line 10 Section-2 Double-1 Compartment 765348 which was converted to maintenance-of-way service.

Seaboard Coast Lines tool car 765310 originally a sleeping car.

Long Island Railroad Coach 2916.

Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Slug C had three slugs, or cabless auxiliary units, rebuilt from Alco S-2 switchers. They were assigned letters of the alphabet: A, B and C. C was rebuilt from RF&P S-2 71. The railroad rostered twenty-two S-2s purchased between 1942 and 1948. 71 was the last in an order of ten delivered in 1948.

Illinois Central caboose 199479 built in 1970.

Chicago and North Western 174 built in 1971 later Metra Bi-level Coach 7667.

Chicago and North Western bi-level coach 37 built in 1950.

Chicago and North Western bi-level coach 177 built in 1961.

Chicago and North Western bi-level coach 47 built in 1961.

Florida East Coast E8A 1594, originally Pennsylvania Railroad 5794, but it has been repainted as FEC 1594. Built in 1952, it was one of forty-six E8As delivered to the Pennsy that year, bringing the PRR's final roster to seventy-four of these passenger units bought between 1950 and 1952. They joined Penn Central in 1968 when 5794 was renumbered 4254. It retained that number under Conrail in 1976 and later under the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. It was then sold to the Santa Clarita Railway in Saugus, California, a movie prop company. At some point, 4254 was leased to Tennessee 200 Inc., a company set up in 1993 to prepare for celebration of Tennessee's 200th anniversary in 1996. Along with ex CB&Q E9A 9988, it was painted in the old Louisville & Nashville blue and cream livery and lettered Spirit of Tennessee. The units toured with trains of bi-centenary exhibits that year. 4254 arrived at the museum in 2002.

A rail maintenence crane.

Very satisfied after having a complete tour of the museum, we thanked Jose and returned to the gift shop and museum. After purchasing T-shirts and mugs, we looked around the museum area and I saw a familiar picture but could not, at first, work out why it was here -- the Blimp Hangars from the Santa Ana Air Station that I see from riding trains in Southern California. But then I remembered that this museum site used to be the Richmond Naval Air Station and there was a map of the country showing the various Naval Air Stations. Elizabeth and I then departed for a non-railfanning adventure.