The Foley Railroad Museum is one of the best kept secrets in Alabama, as well as one of the most historical.
It plays a major role in the massive 250 acre downtown Historic district that has received national attention.
In the year 2005, this historic location was officially established in the National Register of Historic Places for two main reasons.
The reasons are the very distinctive architecture that is located there, as well as the historic nature of this architecture.
The Foley Railroad Museum and what it offers to its visitors is one of the major reasons for this national award.
This historic museum is located in the former Louisville and Nashville Railroad Depot.
It is owned and operated by the City of Foley, but the vast majority of the staff is volunteers.
Located in Foley Alabama, the Foley Railroad Museum has quite an interesting history.
Its history is all related to this small town’s importance as both a railroad center, as well as an agricultural center in the southeastern part of state.
In the year 1901, a businessman out of Chicago named John Burton Foley, was traveling to the funeral of the President of the United States, William McKinley.
On the way to the funeral, Mr. Foley, who the town is named after, learned from other businessmen that large parts of Alabama were for sale.
The next year he returned to southeast Alabama, where he made a purchase of over 50,000 acres of land.
His plan was to sell off large parcels of this land, but also to look for other business opportunities for it as well.
One of the first things he did was establish a small town, to try to take advantage of the booming agricultural business in the immediate area.
He soon realized however, that they only thing at the time that could make it successful was the railroad.
As a businessman, he knew that if he built a railroad station in this growing area, the railroad would come.
In the year 1905, three years after he made the large land purchase, he built a railroad depot using his one personal money.
He even used his own money to purchase the remaining crossties that were needed to finish the railroad line to his town.
Shortly after the depot was built, the Bay Minette-Fort Morgan Railway, which was considered to be a branch of the L&N, decided to use the depot.
It was a natural business venture for them as well, because of the booming agriculture business that was developing in southeastern Alabama.
However, a couple of years later in 1908, disaster struck, and the depot burned to the ground.
Mr. Foley again used his own money to rebuild it, and this structure survived and today is the home for the Foley Railroad Museum.
Mr. Foley’s persistence paid off, as the center flourished for several years as an agricultural shipping center.
It was the area’s top shipping venue for several crops including potatoes, gladiolas, as well as corn and other produce.
This thriving business lasted until 1971, when the L&N railroad made the decision to close the depot.
Slated for demolition, the owner of the Gulf Telephone Company, Mr. John Snook, bought it for the incredible price of 1.00.
After the purchase, he moved the entire building five miles west of the town of Foley, to a town called Magnolia Springs.
Once there, it was used by Mr. Snook as a warehouse.
However, in the year 1995 it was deeded back to the town of Foley, where it was slated to become the towns museum.
The Foley Railroad Museum has three major aspects to the building and surrounding property, and they include the following.
The Towns Archives
When the city of Foley decided to buy the structure back to build the Foley Railroad Museum, one of their first objectives was the town’s archives.
Because of the historical significance of the downtown area and its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the depot made the perfect place to put the history of the town’s records.
By placing them in a museum setting, they could highlight the recognition they had received with their downtown area.
The Museum Itself
However, the major reason the city wanted this building back was Foley Railroad Museum itself.
The museum is rich in history, as it tells the towns story of this historic depot.
It has several artifacts, photographs taken throughout the early and mid-20th century, as well as a lot of memorabilia.
This memorabilia helps to complete the story of the town, and its famous depot that helped to build it.
There is also a full-sized train that is located just outside of the depot, and it is also filled with several artifacts that help tell the story.
However, perhaps the most recognized part of the Foley Railroad Museum is the model train exhibit that is houses.
The Model Train Exhibit
Most visitors will agree that the model train exhibit inside of the Foley Railroad Museum is one of their favorite parts.
In the year 2005, the city approved for the museum to build an annex onto the depot, to house a model train exhibit.
However, this is not your average model train exhibit by any stretch of the imagination.
The model train was donated to the museum by Mr. Alan Goldman from Montgomery and it is something to behold.
It is a 1,440 square foot model railroad, which opened to the public in the year 2007.
It is made up of over a quarter of a mile in tracks, has three different double track routes that are fully operational, as well as 12 different trains.
However, as interesting as this huge model train is, the miniature models that come with it are just as interesting.
They include a model of the town itself with numerous houses, office buildings, as well as factories.
However, that is not all, as it represents the town in the 1950’s with restaurants as well as drive in Movie Theater.
Many of the replications came with the donated model train set, but a lot of them have also been made by scratch.
A lot of the volunteers at the Foley Railroad Museum are called the “Caboose Club’, which is made up of several retired men that personally made them.
There is also an attraction at the museum called the Charles Ebert Express II, which is a large model train that people can ride.
It is very popular with children and their parents, and visitors can ride in on Saturday’s year around from 10 to 2 PM in the afternoon.
The Foley Railroad Museum is open daily Monday through Saturday from 10 to 3 PM, and the admission is free.
All of these facts make it one of the best of the Alabama smaller museums.
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