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Historic railroad museum slated to relocate to Tomball in late 2016

The city will have an opportunity to further tap into its early 1900s railroad roots when the Texas Railroading Heritage Museum relocates to a 3- to 4-acre tract just south of the Tomball Historic Depot Plaza within the next two years.

During its June 1 meeting, Tomball City Council unanimously approved a contract with the Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society to relocate its museum to Tomball.

“My big thing is history, and so much of this country and especially the West has originated from the railroads,” said Chris Beetle, past president and member of the Gulf Coast Chapter. “I think [the museum] will have a big impact on the area. There’s a lot of people that come through the Tomball Depot. I think if we have railroad cars there it should be a nice display.”

The Gulf Coast Chapter opened its railroad museum 37 years ago on the north side of Houston and eventually relocated a few times around the city, Beetle said. In early 2014, the exhibit—formerly known as the Houston Railroad Museum—was renamed to reflect the broad scope of the collection, he said.

“I think [the museum] will have a big impact on the area. There’s a lot of people that come through the Tomball Depot. I think if we have railroad cars there it should be a nice display.”

-Chris Beetle, past president and member of the Gulf Coast Chapter

The museum features a number of historic railroad cars and locomotives as well as a post office car, baggage car, coach and caboose from the Southeast Texas region, Beetle said. The oldest railroad car in the collection dates to 1915, and the most recent was built in 1956, he said.

Nearly two years ago, the museum temporarily closed and moved into storage after the company that owned the building opted to expand, he said.

“We had been looking at a number of sites all over the Houston area, searching for a new home,” Beetle said. “Somebody told us to talk to state Rep. Allen Fletcher. One of our board members lives close to him, and [Fletcher] put us in touch with the people in Tomball.”

The next big step for the Gulf Coast Chapter is to increase momentum for the museum’s fundraising campaign. The chapter has raised $400,000 of the estimated $1.6 million needed to relocate the museum, purchase new equipment and install a temporary switch on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line in Tomball, Beetle said. The switch will allow the relics to be delivered to the site and displayed for visitors.

The chapter is in the early stages of accepting donations and is still discussing the entry fee for the museum. To operate the museum and aid in fundraising efforts, the group established a new board, which consists of three chapter members and five new members from the city of Tomball, Harris County and other yet-to-be-determined entities, Beetle said.

“Tomball will have a good turnout,” Beetle said. “We have all kinds of desire to buy new equipment. If we have to upgrade what we have, we’d like to leave one of the cars empty to build a display. Another fundraising goal we have is we want to modernize the museum with fancy displays.”