Two great railroad museums in Florida
The Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish and the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami
In Florida you have great choices when it comes to rail travel: Intercity rail travel via Amtrak or commuter rail travel in the Miami area thanks to Tri-Rail as well as in the Orlando area thanks to SunRail. However, our great state has two railroad museums - both having the blessing of Official State of Florida museum status - in which you can travel back to the days when train travel was indeed the way to go in Florida before the era of Interstate 75, 275, 95, Alligator Alley and the Florida Turnpike. One museum is located in the small Manatee County community of Parrish (which is 35 miles south of Tampa) called the Florida Railroad Museum and the other museum is located on the grounds of Zoo Miami in Miami-Dade County called the Gold Coast Railroad Museum.
Founded in 1981 and operations began in Parrish in 1992, the Florida Railroad Museum is the museum where you ride the exhibits! The museum experience begins the moment you board the train, whether it may be for one of their regularly scheduled train rides or for one of their themed train ride events such as Murder Mystery Express, Day Out With Thomas or the North Pole Express just to name a few. For the price of admission you get a 13 mile round trip from Parrish to the Manatee County town of Willow which had its beginnings as a company lumber mill town in the 1920's and back. On most rides you will get an opportunity to see the crew in action as you approach Willow as the locomotive changes directions.
The Florida Railroad Museum is open year round with a two week break around the Christmas and New Years holidays. Train rides are given throughout the year on Saturdays and Sundays with special events held throughout the year ranging from Day Out With Thomas, Murder Mystery Express and the North Pole Express to smaller events such as the Hole In The Head Gang Train Robbery and Von Kessinger's Express (a World War II reenactment). Both the Day Out With Thomas and North Pole Express draw immense crowds; advance purchase of tickets for these events is highly recommended.
For more on the Florida Railroad Museum, click on this link.
Founded in 1957 on the site of a former Naval Air Station which is today the grounds of Zoo Miami, the Gold Coast Railroad Museum is a comprehensive railroad museum housing many historic trains including the Presidential railroad car, the Fernidand Magellan. On the weekends you can take a 25 minute train ride where you are acquainted with a brief history of the museum and of the railroad equipment being used, all taking place on the museum's own railroad track. Your experience begins when you enter the museum's gift shop and pay your grounds admission plus your train ride admission; you can elect to ride in a caboose, a passenger coach or even ride up front with the engineer in the locomotive cab.
The Gold Coast Railroad Museum is open year round, with events scheduled throughout the year. The Gold Coast Railroad Museum's major events include Day Out With Thomas in March as well as The Polar Express (a train event based on the motion picture of the same name) in December plus many smaller events that are scheduled throughout the year. Another event that draws crowds is the first Saturday of the month when grounds admission is free.
For more on the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, click on this link.
Memberships and Volunteering at the Railroad Museums
Both railroad museums offer a way to support their work of preserving Florida's railroad history by becoming a member. If trains are your passion why not consider becoming a volunteer on the operational train crew? In order to volunteer to be on the train crew membership in the particular railroad museum is required (this is for insurance purposes), but there are a lot of ways to show your appreciation. The volunteer train crew members at the railroad museums will be more than glad to give you the details on what it takes to be on the volunteer train crew.