HOW IT ALL STARTED
The actual founders of the museum were Dr. Forest Monahan, Dr. Theron Baber, Mr. Malcolm Vordenbaum, and Mr. R.E. Doc Waters. Dr. Monahan was the initiating and sustaining force during the founding years. They each contributed an initial $500 to start the process of incorporation.
A select few new members were invited to join the founders after about a year of slow going following incorporation. For lack of other identification, the term "Founding Member" was applied to the invitees. These people were a fortunate few. Dr. David Spencer, Lt Col Raul Ashby, Randy Duke, and Steve Reeves were the founding members.
The first piece of rolling stock was the Burlington Northern Caboose. It was donated to the museum by Mr. R. E. Doc Waters. The caboose was given to Mr. R. E. Doc Waters as a retirement gift when he retired from Burlington Northern Railroad.
At this time this organization was only a group of avid and dedicated Railroad Enthusiasts with visions of a Railroad Museum.
(........They built a museum.)
AS TIME PROGRESSED
The Wichita Falls Railroad
Museum was founded in 1980 to establish a museum of railroad, streetcar, and
pioneer history in Depot Square, part of an official National Register Historic
District of downtown Wichita Falls, Texas. Chartered by the State of Texas as a
non-profit corporation, the Museum was to obtain suitable rolling stock for the
project, while the City of Wichita Falls would make available land in Depot
Square, site of the former Wichita Falls Union Depot.
With practically no money and limited
membership, the Museum's original plan to acquire Texas Zephyr cars
proved unfeasible. The city eventually sold the Depot Square site to private
individuals. In 1986 a project by several local railfans to repaint the city's
deteriorating steam engine, then located in Rotary Park, renewed interest in the
museum concept. Soon, a revitalized Museum began collecting rolling stock --
including diesel switcher 1029, donated by the Katy Railroad -- and the City
repurchased Depot Square.
Raising enough capital to actually lay
track remained difficult, however, and the Museum concentrated on collecting and
restoring rolling stock at its temporary location in the Conoco complex on
Eastside Drive. In November, 1990, when road work threatened to close off
forever the Conoco spur, the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern railroads
graciously moved the Museum's equipment to a siding adjacent to Lawrence Road.
Here the Museum opened to the public for the first time. At least 2,000 people
toured the Museum in its first year of operation.
But when, in August of 1991, it was
learned that development would sever the rail to the Lawrence Road location, the
Museum once again faced a search for a new home. Shortly thereafter, the Wichita
County Heritage Society offered to help the Museum realize its long-term dream
of establishing a permanent display in Depot Square. By the time the Museum's
equipment was moved by Burlington Northern to temporary storage at the B. W.
Sinclair plant east of the city, the "Move It or Lose It" campaign was
in high gear. The Society obtained a ten-year lease of Depot Square and raised
some $78,000 from individuals, businesses, foundations, and the City of Wichita
Falls for construction of the Museum's three tracks and security fence.
Construction was completed in late summer of 1992, and again with BN's help the
Museum's equipment rolled into its permanent home.
The Depot Square site was dedicated on
September 25, 1992, during the 5th annual "Zephyr Days" train festival.
Since 1992 the celebration has included special tours and activities
at the Depot Square Museum as well.
Now the Wichita Falls Railroad Museum
once again focuses on preservation and restoration of the individual pieces in
its unique collection and on improving its site. Since moving to Depot Square,
the Museum has expanded its collection with the donation of two more passenger
cars, several small work cars, and numerous railroad artifacts. In April of 1997
the Museum, assisted by the City and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad,
moved the city's steam engine, Fort Worth and Denver No. 304, donated to the
museum by the Rotary Club and City of Wichita Falls and moved from Rotary Park,
near Cunningham school to the Depot Square site.
As always, the Museum's primary
objective remains the creation of hands-on history lessons for the people of
Wichita Falls and north Texas.
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