Fun for Kids Goes Full Steam Ahead at the Train Museum

Imagine the glory days of rail travel in these beautifully restored cars.

  • Publication date March 16, 2021
  • Categories History
The Greenwood Railroad Heritage Center is showing off updates to visitors through private tours for individuals and groups.

Karen Jennings and the team at the Greenwood Railroad Heritage Center have been working on updates and exhibits for visitors to the Railroad Heritage Center.

The center’s season for regular tours usually begins mid-May, with private group tours by appointment all year. In the off season, the staff has been catching up on to-do lists, bringing some new projects on board for a bigger, better experience. 

child looks out train window

The team worked on a lot of projects in the museum, including setting up some new exhibits. The exhibits coordinator has been busy creating new permanent exhibits with items that have been in storage waiting for their time in the spotlight.

“We have a loom from the textile mills that were here, an 1885 hearse, linotype from the newspaper,” Karen says. The founder of the museum had a large mineral and gem collection, but very little of that has been on display. With three new display cabinets from a jewelry store, those items are finding a new home in the public eye.  

The Railroad Center is a great spot for group events.
child walks through train aisle
Children love to explore the lovingly restored train cars.

Greenwood locals always look forward to the holiday season, with wooden figures, a gingerbread house in the old “hat house” on the grounds, and lots and lots of lights. “We’re like the Griswolds,” says staff member Nickie Murphy 

Children (and parents) love the annual North Pole Express, and the entire community is usually part of the production. With stories in the passenger car, snacks in the diner, and even some dancing elves, the center has previously relied on high school theater students, the culinary department at Self Regional College, and “elves” from a local dance studio.

A grant for several improvements to the Railroad Center funded a concrete pad, paved pathways and a lift to make the trains more accessible, opening up the diner, sleeper and the rear of the Carolina car to visitors with mobility challenges. Historic seats have been restored, and other restoration plans are moving forward. 

trains then and now

The Railroad Center began when two area railroad buffs bought a 1906 Baldwin steam engine, a 2-8-2 “Mikado,” which had been doing short runs from a nearby quarry but was no longer needed, as more steam trains were being replaced by diesel engines. Those train buffs were gifted with several other cars, and the collection now includes a Piedmont & Northern Interurban unit and caboose, a Seaboard Air Line Coach, classic Pullman diner and sleeper cars. The most luxurious of the collection is the Piedmont & Northern “Carolina” car, fitted out in brass and mahogany paneling with walnut inlays. The museum started as a private collection but was gifted to the Museum of Greenwood in 2005.

The local community is known for supporting Greenwood’s growth and success; that native generosity was very evident during the difficulties caused by COVID-19. Support from both corporate sponsors and individuals has been crucial in keeping cultural treasures like the Railroad Center on track.

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