A private, non-profit museum at 505 Nutt St., Wilmington [Map this], the Wilmington Railroad Museum preserves and celebrates the city’s rail history.
Its focus is on the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad (incorporated in 1834), which was briefly the longest stretch of railroad track in the world, and on its successor, the Atlantic Coast Line, which was headquartered in Wilmington until the summer of 1960. The ACL (now part of the CSX system) was the area’s largest employer for decades. As David Brinkley noted, in the 1930s, ’40s or ’50s, if you didn’t work for the Coast Line, you had a relative or neighbor who did.
That era began to end in 1955, when the ACL announced plans to move offices to Jacksonville, Fla. The move was completed in 1960, when more than 900 Wilmington families and their possessions were shipped south by train, along with carloads of company files.
Organization of the railroad museum was begun in 1979 by a group of former ACL employees and their spouses. In 1983, the museum opened in a former ACL Freight Office building. In 2007, it relocated to larger quarters around the corner from its old site, in a former freight warehouse dating from the 1880s.
Exhibits hold a large collection of Atlantic Coast Line memorabilia, including a re-creation of an old country station and ticket office, maps, railway workers’ gear, plus china and silver from ACL dining cars. A separate model train layout features an elaborate recreation of Wilmington’s old Union Station, the Wilmington freight terminals and the Smith Creek rail yards, much of which no longer exists.
Rolling stock outside the museum galleries includes an authentic ACL steam engine, “Old No. 250,” as well as a box car and a caboose. Also part of the complex are a children’s learning area and a gift shop.
For information about hours and admission costs, call the Wilmington Railroad Museum at (910) 763-2634 or visit the website at www.wrrm.org.
Date posted: March 27, 2009