18 Jan 2010, 12:37pm
History Railroads Uncategorized

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2010 prospects for the Texas Transportation Museum

1925 Baldwin 0-4-0 steam locomotive

1925 Baldwin 0-4-0 steam locomotive

I thought I might take a moment to let y’all know about how things are going at the Texas Transportation Museum here in San Antonio.  Founded on January 1, 1964, TTM is gearing up for its 50th Anniversary.  There are a number of projects that have the potential to elevate the institution from a relatively small city concern to a statewide attraction.

 The activity with the greatest potential is our ongoing efforts to return our 1925 Baldwin 0-4-0 steam locomotive to service.  This effort has, not insignificantly, brought in the first major grant to TTM in its forty-six year history.  Thanks to the support of the Brown Foundation the remaining work, most of which must be done by accredited professionals, should be finished within two months.  Following the granting of a boiler certificate by the state and volunteer operator training, live steam passenger operations will return to TTM as early as the summer.

 While having live steam will be a big draw in and of itself, the museum experienced 5.3% attendance growth in 2009, not a small achievement in a tough economy.  Our bank balance has never been healthier.  This means that a number of long desired improvements can now be paid for without any need for borrowing, which is fantastic place for any institution to be.  We have been upgrading our facilities slowly but surely over the last few years, especially in terms of ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliance.  On a forty acre site with unimproved roads there will always be any number of projects that we would like to undertake but we are also aiming to upgrade a number of our major exhibits as well.  Particular attention is going to be paid to upgrading the interiors of our railroad business and passenger cars which already received huge improvements in 2009.

Ford Model T magneto fly wheel

Ford Model T magneto fly wheel

 Just yesterday I had the opportunity to see our 1924 Ford Model T truck in a state of disassembly.  It’s quite educational to see such a primitive machine reduced to its constituent parts.  We need to get its sixteen large magnets recharged so the magneto can do its thing.  Some babbitt, a relatively soft white metal used in areas of high friction, was found in the oil pan so we are looking to install some new “sleeves” at the same time.  I had the opportunity to see the museum’s 1929 Ford Model A truck similarly stripped a few years ago.  It’s amazing how much more modern of a vehicle the A is compared to the T.

 This, of course, is part of our mission; to maintain and operate old transportation equipment and provide an opportunity for people to learn how our modern vehicles are only the latest stage in a long history of development.  It is often a costly business.  We maintain a certain amount of pride in the fact that we receive no government funding of any kind, be it city, county, state or federal.  We are entirely dependent on the goodwill of our customers and a small number of donors.

 Finally we are adding a fourth show to a pretty crowded calendar of major public events we either host or participate in.  At the museum itself there is a multi evening Christmas show, a two day Ford Model T show in May and a military vehicle show in September.  We also take part in the all three Fiesta parades, the Folklife festival in June and San Antonio Founder’s Day plus put on the city’s biggest train show at the Live Oak Civic Center in the October.  Joining this line up will be a two evening Halloween show.  Holding such an event at TTM has been under discussion for some time but it is now going to happen.  I look forward to sharing details at a later time.  Fir right now, I am just proud to say that the outlook for the future at TTM has never looked better.


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