Information on:

Oklahoma Railway Museum

3400 North East Grand Boulevard
405-424-8222

History:

The Central Oklahoma Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) was founded in 1972 by railroad enthusiasts, who had interests in modeling, photography, historic preservation, and riding trains. The Chapter discussed building a museum to be an outlet for sharing their hobby with the public. The museum would also be a central repository and display space for the many artifacts and equipment the group was collecting. A start was made when some equipment was displayed behind the Kirkpatrick Center until that space was needed for an expansion of that facility. This required the equipment to be moved from the site and stored on a leased siding at the Oklahoma City Schools Maintenance grounds. In 1987 the Chapter moved a portion of the equipment to Watonga, Oklahoma and began running the Watonga Chief Dinner and passenger trains on the AT&L Railroad. At the time this was the only operating passenger train in the state and lasted until 1991 when costs began to exceed revenues and required the operation to be shut down. Equipment was then stored at Watonga on the AT&L siding as there was no way to move it back to the Oklahoma City school siding, since the connecting track had been removed.

Members of the Chapter helped staff the Home Coming Trains that the state operated from Tulsa to Altus in 1990. The Chapter also crewed the Union Pacific trains that operated in eastern Oklahoma from Coffeyville, Kansas through Muskogee, McAlester and Durant to Ft. Worth in 1992. This gave the Chapter their first experience in working with the Union Pacific and their passenger car fleet. The Chapter made no money on the trips, but did cover their expenses.

Lessons were learned with the 1992 trip and the Chapter looked for a way to raise money to help provide a permanent home. Again, an opportunity was offered by the Union Pacific in the fall of 1995, with their historic E9 Diesel locomotives and passenger car fleet with seating for over 1600. The Chapter set about organizing a very professionally crewed passenger train with corresponding marketing efforts. This time over a snowy November 11th and 12th the Chapter sold out both the trip from Oklahoma City to Shawnee and the trip from Oklahoma City to Enid, as well as selling a good number of seats on the Oklahoma City to El Reno trips. As a result, the museum had the seed money needed to purchase a museum site.

In the spring of 1997, the Chapter began working with the Center for Non-Profit Organizations to develop a business plan for the establishment of a railway museum. A five year plan was developed and approved by the members in November, 1997. Also the Chapter began a partnership with the Central Oklahoma Parking and Transportation Authority (COPTA) for use of the old M-K-T tracks from NE 16th Street to NE 36st Street. In exchange for keeping the right of way, clean, mowed, and uncovering the track the group could use the track for demonstrations of their equipment. During the first year, volunteers donated over 890 hours to clean and restore the right of way which included the Oklahoma City school yard siding where equipment was stored. Thus, the ability to operate demonstration trains started. With this work underway, a piece of property was located along the line. The Chapter had approached the owners in 1997, but they did not want to sell at that time. They were again contacted in early 1999 and were now ready to sell. In July 1999, the Chapter at last had property they could call home. It was very overgrown with weeds and trees but now the volunteers were working on Chapter property. The seed money from the Union Pacific trips in 1995 financed the purchase along with help from about eight members who made small loans to the Chapter which were paid back in three years. This allowed the museum to get started with no real debt on the books.

The property was secured with a fence, a parking lot created, restrooms built, and the master plan for the museum began to develop. Members raised $50,000 to improve the site, purchase track materials, a 1905 depot, and to make plans to move the engines, freight, and passenger cars to the site. The Chapter at this time changed its name to the Oklahoma Railway Museum, Ltd., the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the NRHS (ORM).

Because the museum had done so well with the COPTA lease, the museum approached COPTA in early 2002 to renew the lease adding an addition ½ mile right of way south to the Union Pacific live track and extending it to the north one mile from NE 36st Street to NE 50th Street, which was the end of the track. Once again, based on the professionalism of the members, COPTA agreed to the new lease with the additional right of way. This allowed the museum to then clear and relay over 1600 feet of rail to tie the museum track to live rail resulting in a length of operation of 3 miles. Over the Christmas-New Year’s holiday season in 2002, with the rail tied in, the AT&L Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad moved the stored equipment from Watonga to Oklahoma City and onto the Museum’s track. The dream was becoming a reality. Without support and cooperation of COPTA the ORM would not be located where it is today.

Between 2000 and the present, the museum has grown from one operating locomotive to three with a fourth in the near future. The passenger car fleet and cabooses can handle over 350 passengers per train. A 7000 sq ft shop with two track bays was built and a 1905 Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient Railway Company Depot was restored in 2005. ORM is handling a growing number of passengers annually, from approximately 150 in 2003 to over 16,000 in 2008.

The efforts of the museum have been and continue to be supported by many people and organizations including; members of the Chapter, former State Senator Dave Herbert, the BNSF Railway, the Union Pacific Railroad, the A-OK Railroad, Farmrail, the Kiamichi Railroad, Bob Hussey Construction, Bags Inc., COPTA, the City of Oklahoma City and the many visitors who visit the museum annually. The museum is also a member of the Oklahoma Community Foundation which allows donations to be made and invested on behalf of the museum. The museum is a 501 c Non Profit tax exempt Oklahoma Corporation and as of this time, has no debt and operates with in its budget on an annual basis. The growing membership, of approximately 180 members, has around 50 active members. Railroad operations are under the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the museum is a member of the Association of Railway Museums (ARM), the Tourist Railway Association, Inc. (TRAIN), Frontier Country Tourism, and an associate member of the Adventure District of Oklahoma City.



Reviews

John Miller

Rating:
Thursday, July 26, 2018
My family visited here for something fun for the kids, but honestly I think I enjoyed it just as much if not more than they did and they loved it. It was neat to see the old engines and train cars, as well as getting to go through some and see a little bit of history. The toy train setup was great, the kids had never seen one that large with all the details. Everyone we met working there was friendly and full of information, it was easy to tell they enjoyed what they were doing! Definitely worth a trip, and something I'm sure we'll make our way back to at some point.

Michelle Schwoebel

Rating:
Sunday, July 29, 2018
My three-year old loves it here-he runs around from train to train for two hours before we drag him away. The volunteer staff is amazing and the train ride was fun: it was the first time in a train for most of our family. It's outdoors and only open certain days, but it's a great way to spend a morning and very unique. Zoos and children's museums are everywhere, but I haven't seen anything like this before.

Ashley Ray

Rating:
Sunday, July 15, 2018
We took our two year old on the train ride for his birthday and he had so much fun! It was the perfect trip length. About 40 minutes. Not too short, not to long. He also enjoyed playing around outside on the trains and the playground.

MagzOK

Rating:
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
We have been here countless times as our boys love coming here and climbing aboard the trains and checking out the running models. The grounds are very well kept and exhibits are well done. It's a neat place for the kids to learn about engines and how America was expanded by rail. They have several events throughout the year that amount to countless hours of fun for the kids like Thomas the Train and different holiday train rides.

Ellen Smith

Rating:
Monday, June 4, 2018
We stopped randomly and we all loved it. This museum (of sorts) is free to get in but completely run on donations. Be sure to donate so this piece of Oklahoma history isn't lost! There is one car dedicated to running model cars and some of the other train cars you can get in to and explore. Over all worth the pit stop off of the interstate.

Oklahoma Railway Museum is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media