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Southeastern Railway Museum Announces Exhibit Plans

For Immediate Release
March 1, 1999

The Southeastern Railway Museum has finalized plans for new exhibits to be on display when its new facility opens early this summer.

One of the three large industrial buildings on the museum's new site (on Buford Highway in Duluth at Peachtree Road, just north of Pleasant Hill Road) will provide 28,600 square feet of new exhibit space.

The huge exhibition hall is large enough to house two locomotives and four Pullman sleeping cars along with many other displays which provide a central focus through which the past of a region built and shaped by railroads can be recalled, interpreted and demonstrated.

Lesa Campbell, museum administrator, notes that "Atlanta was America's first landlocked city. Prior to Atlanta's development, all major U.S. cities were situated on the coast, along the shoreline of a large lake, or on a navigable river."

The museum's new exhibits present rail history as an evolving series of events and decisions that continue to influence who we are, where we live, what we eat, when we get up and when we go to bed, and why the world around us is as it is.

"The nation's railroads are usually thought of as key to the development of the west," Campbell says, "but they were equally important to the development of this region and the entire Southeast." Most of the towns in Gwinnett County owe their success, and many their actual existence, to the construction of the two major rail thoroughfares built through the county in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Campbell notes that many of today's common place occurrences were first possible due to the development of railroads in America. Some examples? "The railroads set up the time zones, so that coast-to-coast scheduling was efficient and accurate," she says, "and people living in New York didn't have lettuce for salads until the invention of the refrigerated rail car allowed transportation of produce from California without spoilage."

The museum owns an early wooden refrigerated rail car, and it will be on display when the new site opens. The renovated building will house two locomotives: the 1910 light pacific steam engine #750, built for use on Florida East Coast Railway's Miami-Key West route, and the 1949 diesel unit assigned to power Southern Railway's Crescent train until 1979.

The theme of contrast between early and modern periods of rail travel will continue with the display of the 1930 premier-class sleeper/lounge "Washington Club" and the 1911 Pullman private car "Superb" used by President Warren Harding, side-by-side with the 1949 silver-sided bedroom and roomette car "Tugalo River" and a 1924 office car renovated for private use during the 1980s.

Each locomotive or rail car will be accompanied by its own Exhibit Information Station, containing a specific history of that piece of equipment, including photographs.

Additional exhibits will use smaller artifacts from the museum's collection to show how track is constructed and maintained and to showcase signs and benches from Atlanta's grand Terminal Station, a victim of the wrecking ball in the 1970s.

The museum will begin to develop the non-rail "transportation history" portion of its collection with the display of a 1906 City of Atlanta steam-powered, horse-drawn fire engine and early 1900s steam tractors. A 1920s Atlanta streetcar and a 1940s Atlanta "trackless trolley" will be part of the expansion of the museum's exhibit hall late this year.

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