101 Things To Do In Southcentral Kentucky: Visit The Historic Railpark
By Galen A. Smith Sr.Friday, June 27, 2008 5:04 PM CDT
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I remember as a young child growing up in East Memphis, Tenn., hearing the trains whistling as they traveled past our part of the city on quiet early Saturday mornings. Usually I was just waking up getting ready to go watch cartoons, bowl of cereal in hand. Nowadays as an adult and as a resident of Bowling Green, I can still hear trains whistle all hours of the day and night, as I just live right down the street from the CSX railroad tracks. The train whistles have become a part of my life so I hardly even notice them anymore. But on a recent Saturday afternoon, I decided to pay a visit to The Historic Railpark and Train Museum and L&N Depot located at 401 Kentucky Street.

You can’t miss the museum because it is a large, beautiful white limestone building which sits off the street next to the CSX railroad tracks. There’s a large parking lot where you can park at no charge. I have been to the L&N Depot many times in the past as this was once a branch of the Bowling Green Library before it moved out on Scottsville Road in the former Iron Skillet Restaurant building. But I knew that this trip would be special because I was going to a real museum to take a step back in time.

When I entered the building from the rear, I was greeted by Depot Coordinator Sharon Tabor. Ms. Tabor explained to me a little about the museum and then I took a tour of some real train passenger cars outside of the building led by a volunteer by the name of Mary Travelstead. I toured the Little Red Caboose, an authentic Pullman Sleeper car, the Famous Diner Car which is named “Duncan Hines” (I wonder why, huh?) and RR Presidential Office Car. Also, there’s even a 1921 Railroad Post Office car that is currently being restored on the premise. The museum is also waiting for their streamlined EMD E8 Diesel 796 Engine to arrive.

After walking back inside the Depot, I noticed a gift shop which offered books and coffee mugs among other nice items. Then, Ms. Tabor showed an enormous working model railroad layout which replicates Bowling Green and other parts of Southcentral Kentucky. The little miniature buildings, trees and hills took hundreds of painstaking man hours to produce. Then, it was on to the interactive exhibits. I had the opportunity to see a short video of Alfred Owens, a Pullman Porter who went to work for the railroad in 1926. He talked about “hauling Mrs. Roosevelt.” I was able to hear the sounds of different types of train engines and I heard the distinctive sound of the old Pan American speeding down the tracks as recorded by the WSM Radio station in 1934. These are just a few of the “Touch & Listen” exhibits.

My favorite part of the museum tour was was the wide screen L&N Theater located upstairs. Here I was able to take a few minutes and relax in plush, first class seats while watching an assortment of entertaining railroad films and classic news reels. When I arrived back downstairs, I entered the gift shop and purchased a Historic Railpark magnet for my wife, an avid magnet collector. She gladly added the magnet to her myriad collection which is displayed on the family refrigerator.

All in all, I was very impressed with The Historic Railpark, Train Museum and L&N Depot. It is a massive asset to Bowling Green and Southcentral Kentucky. We should be proud of this particular destination and of the people who have worked hard to get the railpark, museum and depot where it is today. I highly recommend a visit there as soon as possible and you won’t be disappointed especially if you’re a lover of trains.(Directions: If you are traveling from Interstate 65, you take Exit 26 west onto Cemetery Road and follow Cemetery Road three miles as it becomes 8th Avenue and turn right onto Kentucky Street. Then turn left into the museum parking lot. Hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Phone: (270) 745-7317 Web-site, http://www.historicrailpark.com/

Learn about author Galen Smith at www.myspace.com/galenasmithsr and http://www.galensmithjr.blogspot.com./

This blog was reposted with permission from Galen Smith, a Bowling Green resident who loves exploring the area and writing about his adventures.