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franklin county times

Railroad museum steams ahead

By Staff
MODEL TRAIN – This model train will be one of many items on display at Saturday's Union Station Railroad Museum. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Penny Randall / staff writer
June 1, 2003
As soon as he hears the sound of a train, Bill Lindsay dashes out his home in Russell and waits for the Norfolk Southern to barrel down the tracks headed toward Meridian.
Lindsay has always been fascinated by trains.
He even remembers waking at night when he was 3 years old to the sound of The Rebel, as the state-of-the-art passenger train zipped past his bedroom window in the rural central Mississippi community of Tuscola.
Today, Lindsay works as director of the dental hygiene program at Meridian Community College. And he is one of many avid railroad enthusiasts excited to see Meridian open a railroad museum.
The museum, housed in the Railway Express Agency building on Front Street next to Union Station, officially opens at 10 a.m. Saturday. Plans are for the museum to open the first and third Saturday of each month. Railroad artifacts and memorabilia including china used on vintage passenger trains and maps of old train routes will be on display.
Railroads have long been an important part of East Mississippi. Lauderdale County's first freight line the Mobile &Ohio Railroad was built in October 1855.
Railroads, especially storied passenger lines, also played a large part in the early success of the Mississippi Grand Opera House in Meridian.
Railroad fans
To celebrate the Saturday opening of the museum, area railroad clubs will meet in Meridian.
Rail fans from the Baton Rouge, Hattiesburg and Birmingham chapters of the National Railway Historical Society will arrive in Meridian on the Amtrak Crescent.
Another group, The Smokey City Trails Club from Birmingham, will display its miniature train inside the building from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
Mick Nussbaum, president of the Queen and Crescent Railroad Club and a member of the railroad museum's advisory board, said the museum has been in the planning stage for seven years.
Strong interest
Interest in the museum was sparked at the recent Union Station Railfest at the Singing Brakeman Park next to the REA building.
Also excited about the museum is Collinsville resident E.T. "Slim" Pickens, who worked as a driver for the REA from 1968 to 1972. He delivered cargo that arrived on freight trains that stopped at the building.
Pickens said the old REA building is the perfect place to showcase railroad memorabilia.