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The Virginia Museum of Transportation is a museum devoted to the topic of transportation located in Downtownmarker Roanokemarker, Virginiamarker, U.S.A.marker.

History

The Virginia Museum of Transportation began its life in 1963 as the Roanoke Transportation Museum located in Wasena Park in Roanoke, Virginia. The museum at that time was housed in an old Norfolk & Western Railway freight depot on the banks of the Roanoke Rivermarker.

The earliest components of the museum's collection included a United States Army Jupiter rocket and the famous N&W J Class Locomotive #611, donated by Norfolk & Western Railway to the city of Roanoke where many of its engines were constructed.

The museum expanded its collection to include other pieces of rail equipment, and a number of horse-drawn vehicles including a hearse, a covered wagon, and a Studebaker wagon.

In November 1985, a flood nearly destroyed the museum, and much of its collection. It forced the shutdown of the facility and the refurbishment of #611.

In April 1986, the museum re-opened in Norfolk & Western's freight stations in downtown Roanoke as the Virginia Museum of Transportation. The museum has earned that title, being recognized by the General Assembly of Virginiamarker as the Commonwealth's official transportation museum.

Collection

The museum's current collection still features #611, but now also includes N&W's A class #1218. An aviation gallery and an automobile gallery are both slated to open in 2007.

Though the most prominent pieces of the museum's collection are the two Norfolk & Western engines, there are more than fifty pieces of rolling stock in the collection. Notable pieces include a D.C. Transit Company PCC Streetcar, a Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 locomotive, a Virginian Railway EL-C electric locomotive, and a Virginian Railway SA class steam locomotive, the last remaining steam engine from the Virginian Railway.

Smaller pieces include automobiles such as a 1913 Metz, a 1920 Buick touring car, a Highway Post Office Bus, and an armored car used to showcase the Bill of Rights in 1991.

Open Galleries

Automobile Gallery

The first exhibit to be featured in the Automobile Gallery is the "From Mud to Mobility: A History of the Virginia Department of Transportation." The gallery's floor has been painted to reproduce the theme of this exhibit, beginning with a dirt road and graduating to a full-fledged interstate highway. The Virginia Department of Transportation will sponsor this exhibit, featuring motorized dioramas, Birmashave signs, billboards, and a video history of the department. Many of the museum's antique automobiles are on display here as well.

Exhibits

Five on-going exhibits cover sundry aspects of railroad life in America, especially Virginia. In addition to these on-going exhibits, the museum maintains an O-Gauge train layout modeled after Roanoke, Salem, and Lynchburg, Virginia.

"Working the High Iron - A pictorial history of the N & W Railway"
This exhibit features many photos of the men and women who worked for Norfolk & Western throughout the years.

"The Claytor Brothers - Virginians Building America's Railroad"
Detailing the lives of Graham and Robert Claytor, this exhibit explores their past and their relationship that led to the merger of the Norfolk & Western and Southern Railways.

"African American Heritage on the Norfolk and Western Railroad - 1930-1970"
This exhibit is the result of an oral history project sponsored in part by Roanoke area businesses and individuals to document the often-ignored roles played by African-Americans on the rails. The exhibit includes pictures, artifacts, and recorded interviews with African-Americans who worked for the railroad.

"Big Lick"
This exhibit reproduces a 1930s rural train depot, featuring freight scales, a telegrapher's office, time tables, and a velocipede hand car used for servicing track.

Future Galleries and Exhibits

Aviation Gallery

This area will showcase aircraft past and present. Artifacts include a hot air balloon, a gyrocopter, as well as two experimental planes, and a hang glider. Various models and photographs flesh out this exhibit. In the works are plans to add an interactive cockpit model with flight simulators, and a U.S. Army Cobra helicopter.

References



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