By Aaron Isaacs, HeritageRail editor
For any museum with limited resources, and that would be all of them, the best investment is covered storage of the artifacts. A small number of museums have everything under cover, but the vast majority have equipment sitting outdoors, subject to the weather and often vandalism and even theft.
So it was heartening to count up all the car storage buildings and shops that were constructed in the last year at these museums:
East Troy Electric Railroad
Illinois Railway Museum
Inland Empire Railway Museum
Minnesota Streetcar Museum
Monticello Railroad Museum
Old Pueblo Trolley
Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum
Shore Line Trolley Museum
I want to single out Illinois Railway Museum’s opening of Barns 13 and 14. IRM is known for its aggressive collections policy. Over its 60+ years, it has added to its collection an average of 8 pieces of rolling stock every single year. Not surprisingly, a lot of this has been parked outside, as carbarn construction has been unable to keep up.
What is overlooked is that IRM is catching up. It opened Barn 10 in 2005, Barn 11 in 2010 and now Barns 13 and 14. These are big buildings and they created space for about 150 pieces of rolling stock. Barns 13 and 14 have absorbed 79 pieces. I think that’s more new spaces than all other railway museums combined have built in the last several years. Indeed, most museums don’t even have 79 pieces.
Is IRM done? Not yet. Since the 2005 opening of Barn 10, they have added 59 pieces to the collection, not including buses. At last count there were still 100 pieces stored outside. However, about 80 percent of the collection is now inside, also a higher percentage than many other museums. This is an accomplishment worth cheering.