Just inside the flood wall on the south side of Mayo Bridge on Hull Street in Richmond Virginia is the Richmond Railroad Museum. The museum is operated by the Old Dominion Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. Since 1994, the RRM has steadily grown from a temporary space in a restored Railway Express Agency car into a collection housed in the restored Southern Railway station.
The RRM is slowly building on each success to preserve Richmond’s commercial history from the point of view of the railroads.
RRM mission is to preserve the knowledge of why railroads have been important to Richmond and central Virginia. Richmond has been served by several railroads during the past 175 years. The Richmond and Danville, the Richmond and York River, Seaboard, Chesapeake and Ohio, the Southern Railway, and the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac to name a few. These railroads left stations, ruins, bridges, and open spaces on Richmond’s cityscape. The passionate volunteers give tours to all visitors to the RRM where this history comes alive.
To preserve the railroad history of Richmond the RRM has been patient and goal oriented to grow their museum. The Old Dominion Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society was given the building and bought the land; however, their riverside location prevented restoring the Southern Railway station until the flood wall was completed. Their interim solution from 1994-2009 was a museum in a restored RF&P Railway Express Agency car. Finally, in 2011 the RRM opened their museum in the restored station.
The Hull Street Station houses a very diverse collection. The collection consists of photos, log books, uniforms, engines, rolling stock, signage, signals, and the building itself. The volunteer staff is slowly organizing the collection so the general public can learn how a railroad operated from the scheduling, to the communication, and finally to the engine pulling a train. In the stationmaster’s office an exhibit on the telegraph features an operating telegraph letting visitors try their hand at Morse code.
The cityscape of Richmond is also part of the collection. RRM offers a walking tour along the Flood wall to show how railroads contributed to Richmond’s history. The ruins, bridges, and open spaces on the north and south sides of the river is part of the commercial history of Richmond. Ruins of 3 railroad bridges are in varying states of decay exist because of war and weather. On the south side of the river is the current Norfolk Southern yard that used to be the yard for the Richmond and Danville Railroad that was bought by the Southern Railroad. This yard had a turntable and roundhouse. In the current yard, you see a large clump of green in the middle of a wide open space, which was the location of turntable. Taking the RRM walking tour teaches why Richmond looks the way it does.
After 4 years in the Hull Street Station, RRM is looking at how and where to proceed. The goal of the RRM is to use the archives to teach today’s generation why railroads will continue to be important for the region.
1. Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railway Express Agency car, 0-4-0 tank steam engine.
2. Maintenance motorized unit for track inspection and repair.
3. Oil burning headlamp from Engine #3 of the Old Dominion Iron and Nail Works that was on Belle Island in Richmond, VA.