Photos by Richard Schumacher
During our spring break road trip, Alex and I visted the Railpark Train Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The restored 1925 Louisville & Nashville depot is home to the museum, which is on the historic Louisville to Nashville mainline. When built, the depot saw over 20 passenger trains per day, and today CSX freights frequently roar by. The freight house and part of the depot are now occupied by businesses, but about half the depot, and the enclosed platform area at the rear of the depot, are used by the museum. A large running model railroad is adjacent to the gift shop and ticket desk. Admission includes the self-guided tour of the two-story museum and the guided tour of the passenger train.
On 450 feet of track behind the depot the “Friends of the L&N Depot” provide guided tours of a restored passenger train. The tour discusses the history of the L&N and the Bowling Green L&N depot, as well as the use and details of each car. The tour starts in a 1921 RPO (railway post office) which is filled with exhibits that illustrate the story of how the U.S. Mail moved by rail. The guide demonstrated how the hook was used to snatch mail bags from trackside cranes. The tour moved forward into a 1953 E8 engine which was restored and painted L&N in 2013. The diesel engines and generators have been removed from the engine compartment and replaced with exhibits on the history of passenger locomotives. The cab area allows visitors to sit at the controls to experience the view from the engineer’s seat.
The tour continues in the AC&F 1949 “Duncan Hines” diner and the PS 1953 “Towering Pine” Pullman sleeper (which has six roomettes and four double bedrooms). The tour ends in the 1911 Presidential Business Car which is the oldest surviving passenger car manufactured by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. This wooden car was rebuilt in 1942 with steel exterior sheeting and an AC&F ice-activated air conditioning system. Further down the track are a WWII Army Hospital Car (built in 1945 by AC&F in St. Charles, Missouri – the museum is collecting funds for a restoration), a 1911 “Jim Crow” coach (a central baggage area with separate passenger areas at each end), and a Chessie Class C-27 caboose.
Visitors are welcome to take photographs in the museum and during the passenger train tour. Find out more at www.historicrailpark.com.