The Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum is housed in Temple’s historic Santa Fe Depot. The permanent exhibits explore working and traveling on the railroad with an emphasis on the Santa Fe Railway. The museum also hosts a range of changing temporary exhibits, as well as education programs, and special events.
The museum’s collection of railroad equipment is displayed on the grounds, next to an active railroad yard where rail-fans can observe daily operations and traffic of the BNSF and Amtrak. The beautiful Santa Fe Gardens, Whistlestop Playground, and Temple Visitor Center are also nearby.
- Education: We put education at the core of our museum and seek to engage our audience in learning opportunities that are enriching, enjoyable, and authentic.
- Excellence: We offer a high quality experience to our audience and meet high museum standards.
- Integrity: We are open, truthful, and transparent. We make decisions that are ethical, fair, and respectful of all.
- Service: We are responsive to the needs of our audience and are a valued cultural resource for our community.
- Stewardship: We are responsible stewards for the historical resources in our care.
HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM
The Railroad and Heritage Museum was established as the Railroad and Pioneer Museum in 1973 as a private, non-profit organization. The Museum occupied a 1907 wood-framed depot that had been relocated from Moody, Texas and placed next to the Gober Party House and the ATSF 3423 steam locomotive on Avenue H. Members and volunteers donated artifacts, restored the depot, and created exhibits about local and railroad history. The Museum formally opened to the public in 1979.
Facing bankruptcy, the non-profit sold the Museum to the City of Temple for a small fee in 1985. The city agreed to pay for salaries and general operations, and the non-profit organization agreed to fundraise for restoration projects and special equipment. Over the next several years, the Museum collected a variety of rolling stock including cabooses, a Union Pacific boxcar, a troop sleeper, the ATSF 2301 diesel locomotive, the Clover Glade sleeper, and the Pine Mesa sleeper. Additionally, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas depot on the east side of downtown Temple was donated by the Union Pacific to the city in 1990 for use as an archive.
By the early 1990s, Temple’s Santa Fe depot had been abandoned by the railroad and was in need of extensive restoration. Through the efforts of several citizens and city officials, the construction work was funded, and work began in 1999. After restoration was completed in June of 2000, the Museum opened as the Railroad and Heritage Museum in August.
By 2000, the Museum had acquired a large archive collection, including the 1992 donation of Fred Springer’s railroad book and manuscript collection. In 2003, the Museum was named as the official repository for the Santa Fe Railway Historical and Modeling Society. Several major archival donations continued to add to the collections, and the Museum amassed one of the most significant railroad archives in the country, specifically relating to the Santa Fe railway.
In 2004, the staff and board of the Museum decided to separate from the City of Temple and operate the Museum under the authority and funding of the non-profit organization. The focus of the Museum shifted more heavily to the railroad and less to local history. During the financial recession that hit the country in 2008, the non-profit struggled to raise the necessary money to keep the Museum funded. The building also started showing cracks and shifts within the structure which indicated problems with the building’s foundation. Facing declining membership, fundraising shortfalls, and major facility repairs, the non-profit organization voted to return operation of the Museum to the City of Temple in September 2012.
HISTORY OF THE TEMPLE’S SANTA FE DEPOT
The Santa Fe Depot was completed in 1911. The current depot was the fourth, and most grand, of the depots built in Temple by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (known generally as the Santa Fe) or its predecessor the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe. The original depot was a simple boxcar that was replaced by a small one story building and, later, a two story building. As the city of Temple developed, it outgrew these earlier depots, especially after the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe was bought out by the AT&SF in 1896. The AT&SF decided to make Temple their Southern Division Headquarters and needed a new building to serve passengers and house their headquarters offices.
Construction on the Santa Fe Depot began in August 1909 and was completed January 29, 1911. Initial estimates of construction costs were $40,028.11 and later $65,264.35, but the depot ended up costing over $200,000.00. Materials used in the construction of the depot include redwood beams brought in from the Pacific Northwest and bricks from Kansas.
The Depot was in use from 1911 to 1989 when operations moved to a more modern facility located in the north yards of Temple. AMTRAK still utilized the building until the early 1990s, but the building was abandoned after they moved out of the depot.
Temple citizens developed an interest in revitalizing the depot, and the railroad agreed to donate the building in September 1995. The City of Temple purchased the surrounding eight acres for $176,000. To fund the renovations, the city secured a $2.4 million grant from ISTEA, a part of the Texas Department of Transportation. The City of Temple also voted to invest another $1.6 million in the project.
Construction began in September 1999 and was officially completed in June 2000. The depot became the home of Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum and officially opened to the public on August 26, 2000.
In 2013, the depot underwent additional restoration work to repair a damaged foundation. Around 2011, staff began to see major cracks the walls and shifts within the structure that indicated that there were major problems with the building’s foundation. Construction started in July 2013 to stabilize the foundation and the ground under the building.