Train station chugs along after changing tracks

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, February 15, 2018

The city of Suffolk has taken over maintenance and operation of the Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum from the Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society.

“On July 1, we shut the doors for cataloging and restoration, and it gave us time to get our vision for the museum straight,” said Tourism Development Manager Theresa Earles. “We are happy to have an attraction and allow open hours.”

The station was built in 1885 and served several railroads over the years. Its last passenger service ceased in 1968, after which the Seaboard Coast Line used it as an office.

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Seaboard and Chessie System merged in 1980 to create CSX, and CSX used the station as a freight office for several years and then abandoned it.

In 1994, a disastrous fire occurred, and the station was in danger of being demolished until the historical society raised funds and partnered with the city to reopen it in August 2000.

“We had originally planned on restoring it and moving on to a new project,” said Lee King, president of the Suffolk Preservation Society.

“We got carried away with loving it,” said Sue Woodward.

The museum, situated at 326 N. Main St., has a two-room HO-scale model of Suffolk. The model is based in 1907, and it features a handful of locomotives, the Cedar Hill Cemetery and plenty of houses on the land. The Tourism Department is putting together a peanut exhibit inside.

“We had a lot of railroads in Suffolk, and having six was a big deal,” Woodward said. “There are only a few buildings left, and it was such a big part of our history. We should always have a museum to commemorate it.”

The museum has received more traffic than the tourism department had anticipated, and it has become an extension of the Visitor Center.

“Adults like history, and they love the trains,” said Kevin Sary, Visitor Center supervisor. “It’s unique to see the award-winning model. It’s a nice asset to have for the city.”

Now that the city has ownership of the train station, it has much more regular hours, and they have the ability to put on more events than before. The train station is able to hold birthday parties and other social events.

The city also plans to keep rotating exhibits. They plan to keep the peanut exhibit for some time before they change.

“We are relatively new to this, but we are going as fast as we can,” said Earles.

The Tourism Department also hopes to expand the already long list of events that are held at the station. Earles hopes for concerts on the porch and even a small train-themed playground for the children.

While the city does have control of the building, they still seek help from those at the historical society.

“It’s a check and balances system. We know where they are,” Earles said.

“I’m most excited for when it will be perfect, but I know that will never happen, because there will always be changes and updates,” Sary said.