Three new exhibits are scheduled to open Saturday at the Martin and Frances Lehnis Railroad Museum.
“Two of these exhibits have been created to show visitors how much trains affect our lives every day,” said Mary Irving, curator for the museum. “The third exhibit, ‘Cabooses, A Railroader’s Home Away From Home,’ shows the story of the much-loved caboose, gone from the railroads since the late 1980s.”
“Freight Trains Bring Life to You” shows how trains carry products, or “commodities” from farms and manufacturing plants to market, Irving said.
“Everything from orange juice to corn syrup to cotton to coal to rocks are carried by train. Every day freight trains go through Brownwood carrying all kinds of products. Lumber is carried from the Pacific Northwest to build our homes. Automobiles are carried from both Detroit and Japan (via the Houston shipyards) to be sold to Brownwood residents. And even the 3M plant imports plastic pellets in hopper train cars to make all those reflective signs and license plate laminate.”
The second exhibit, “How Trains-Under-the-Tree Became a Tradition” tells the story of toy trains, and how they began and evolved into model train layouts of more and more complexity over the years, Irving said. “The two big giants, Lionel and American Flyer, were aggressively sold to pre- and post-World War II families, giving lots of youngsters wonderful childhood memories of their toy train sets.”
The caboose exhibit shows how in the early days of railroading the caboose was the office and home away from home for the conductor and train crew, Irving said. The potbellied stove was used for heating, cooking and gathering around when the crews relied on it during trips, Irving said.
“Drover” cabooses were used to carry the cowboy drovers who accompanied the train shipment of cattle to market, and train crews often shared the accommodations. To relate the caboose to today, it was the RV on the railroad, providing seating, beds, stove and all the comforts of home away from home.
Since this is the first Saturday in May, the museum will charge its family day rates, Irving said. There is a special discounted $2 admission for all visitors ages 5 to 105. The Saturday museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call the museum at 325-643-6376.