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Building a new museum

By February 13, 2017Features

By Aaron Isaacs, HeritageRail editor

Construction of a new railway museum is starting in northern Arizona. As an organization, the Arizona State Railroad Museum has been around since 1998, but hasn’t had a home. Now it owns a site and will start developing it this year.

Developing a new site from scratch puts it in the same company as several long-established museums that have had to move, including Museum of the American Railroad, Texas Railroading Heritage Museum, Golden Gate Railroad Museum and Inland Empire Railroad Museum. 

It grew out of the desire to co-locate a railroad museum with the Grand Canyon Railway’s home base in Williams, Arizona. To that end the museum has acquired a 21-acre site abutting both the GC tracks and I-40.


Site work begins this year, thanks to a $500,000 grant from The Kemper & Ethel Marley Foundation. This includes laying track into the property, with assistance from the Grand Canyon Railway. Funding has yet to be secured for the on-site buildings. The site is scheduled to open to the public in 2018.

The museum has been quite active acquiring a collection and beginning some restoration work. This is being funded by two Transportation Enhancement grants totaling $825,000, plus a $50,000 Rural Tourism Development Project Grant from the Arizona Office of Tourism.

The museum has assembled a 32-piece rolling stock collection. Motive power includes Saginaw & Manistee Lumber 3-truck Shay 5, Tucson Cornelia & Gila Bend GP30 26, TC&GB NW2 52, Phelps Dodge NW2 426, and Black Mesa & Lake Powell E60C electric 6001. There are 22 freight cars.

On its way to the museum, Black Mesa & Lake Powell E60C electric locomotive 6001 passes under a welcome arch made from a pair of cantilevered Santa Fe signal bridges.

Two of the museum’s freight cars are currently displayed at the Williams Railroad Park, located just east of the Grand Canyon Railway depot, and a couple of blocks from the new site.

One of the museum’s boxcars has been converted into a pedestrian bridge in a small park off Railroad Avenue near the depot.

Besides rolling stock, there are some significant archival holdings. They include the collection of the late railroad historian David Myrick, whose multiple volumes on the railroads of Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and eastern California are the definitive works on those subjects. Also in the archive is the Aitchison, Topeka & Santa Fe’s corporate collection of over 150,000 documents (engineering drawings, specifications, field survey notes, traffic data) and photographs. There are 18 boxes on the harvey Houses. The Waide Vintage Railroad Advertisement Collection includes more than 1200 artistic broadsides.

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