I had the opportunity to travel down to Galveston, Texas recently and made a point to swing by the Galveston Railroad Museum. It had been a few years since I last visited – in fact , it had been before Hurricane Ike had devastated the Island in 2008 – and having a rare afternoon off, what else would I do but find a train related site to entertain and spark my imagination for new layout or modeling ideas.
Arriving at Galveston
The museum is easy to spot , as the Art Deco office building that towers over the Union Station that was the home to the former Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway, can be seen from just about anywhere on the island and I quickly made me way through the Cruise ship traffic, and parked in the near empty Museum lot. Although the museum has made a lot of progress since the hurricane and the flooding, much of the damage is still obvious, and many of the displays – including their HO scale layout – were destroyed, or like the china collection and many of the paper archives , severely damaged. Many of the displays in the old Santa Fe Freight House, as well as the theaters that showcased early films of the Station, early Texas Railroad history and the story of Galveston were still very much in ruin.
Much work has been accomplished on the rolling stock, but there is still much to do, and the most seriously damaged equipment has been scrapped or is destined to be in the near future. Unfortunately, at the far end of the museum yard, I came across a few workers in the process of cutting up the Museums former Texas Limited #100 & #200 F-7A units as they were being put to the torch and cut apart for scrap.
Under the Torch
I can still recall that as a little kid, I could see these beautiful engines pulling not only freight, but sleek and shiny stainless steel passenger cars in long threads at the many train crossings that Dad’s old Pre-War Buick would stop at during my family’s travels in the Mid-West in the early 1950’s. Heck, these engines were practically brand new back then!
It was obvious that the toxic and highly corrosive effects of the salt water that had covered most of the Museum property with about eight feet of seawater had taken a severe toll on these units – when the roof steel was removed, the frame of Unit #200 literally bowed downwards.
Let’s be realistic – eight to twelve feet of sea water pushing everything in it’s path, mixed with every toxic liquid that was spilled in the wake of this hurricane, along with many years of existing in the corrosive sea salt and moisture laden air of Galveston simply made the inevitable end of these engines come that much sooner. Diligent – and costly – preventive maintenance might have given these grand beauties a more years than were their eventual fate, but Hurrican Ike hastened the end.
All of which is to say, when you have the opportunity to visit these living repositories of our railroading heritage or are approached to support the efforts financially or in another volunteer capacity, dig a little deeper and forgo a few cups of Starbucks or buying one more hopper to add to your already well-appointed consist string and put some dollars where your heart is to protect and preserve these great monuments to the might and beauty of these wonderful machines! Give generously, before we lose them all!