TEMPLE – Nestled inside the beautiful and historic Santa Fe Depot, the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum is a great solo or family visit, especially for those fascinated by trains.
The entrance is located in the middle of the long building. The gift shop sells very reasonably priced tickets and offers military discounts. The entire museum is located on the second floor of the historic train depot. The elevator doors open to the temporary exhibit, but photography is not allowed, so I went to the main exhibit because I didn’t want to be tempted to take a photo and end up in jail or something like that.
The museum is packed with stuff, but still very open and pleasant. It starts with a candy red arm car. I’ve only seen handcars on TV or in movies and I guess I always thought they were bigger than they actually are. It was cool to see in person and imagine someone pushing the handle to make it move.
There is a section dedicated to the Fred Harvey Company, which opened a restaurant in Temple’s Santa Fe Depot in 1899, to serve travelers. Most train station restaurants served poor quality food, if at all. Diners stopping at Temple had a choice of formal dining or counter lunch. They also opened Harvey Dairy, which produced milk, ice cream, eggs and poultry for restaurants, as well as dining cars and local hotels.
The museum has an exhibition of tools used on the railroad. They have the biggest key I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m sure if it’s found in any future archaeological digs, they’ll think there were giants among us.
An area highlighting how the trains helped move troops deployed overseas during World War II featured several photos and information about how the trains transported both troops and equipment. Service members were first served in dining cars on trains and in restaurants along the route. They were also provided with sleeping cars before non-military passengers. Since Fort Hood is home to III Armored Corps, I found it interesting to learn that it took 2,221 wagons to move an entire armored division. I certainly wouldn’t want to wait for that train to pass.
At the end of the visit, there is a room presenting a model of a city with two trains. I sat amazed at the amount of detail in the small town when I noticed a sign encouraging people to come forward. Suddenly, the two trains came to life and began to spin around the miniaturized world. It was truly amazing and I can’t even imagine how long it took someone to build this model exhibit.
Overall I was impressed with the museum. I’ve never been there before, but I’m definitely planning to bring out-of-town visitors.
The museum is located at 315 West Avenue B in downtown Temple. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, visit http://www.templerrhm.org.