Monday, December 12, 2011

Yet Another Train Museum: Roanoke, VA

For a couple years N. has longed to go the the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, VA, so we took a day trip there Saturday.  Although the collection was smaller than we expected, its stock was very clearly labelled (unlike that of the North Carolina Transportation Museum!) so we learned a lot.  The museum collection includes two important engines that are the sole survivors of their classes, the J class and the A class.  Both classes were built in Roanoke and were among the most powerful modern steam engines; they were the last steam engines in regular service in the United States (Norfolk & Western abandoned steam for diesel in 1960).  Another gem in the collection is the iconic Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric locomotive, with streamlined sheath and paint scheme designed by Raymond Loewy in 1930s.  The J and the GG1 might be our new family favorites!

We then proceeded to the O. Winston Link Museum, housed in the former N&W passenger station in Roanoke (built in 1904 and redesigned in the late 1940s by Raymond Loewy!).  Link took incredible photos in the late 1950s of the soon to be defunct steam trains and life in the towns along the rail lines out of Roanoke.  Some of these are collected in The Last Steam Railroad in America, a longtime favorite book of N's.  (We'd also seen an exhibit of Link's photographs last year in a local museum; that show was the occasion for N's first movie, The General).

Another small gallery in the passenger station was devoted to the work of industrial designer Raymond Loewy, who is responsible for the look of so much of 20th-century American life, from Coke bottles, to trains, to Greyhound buses, to Studebakers, to the Exxon, Shell, Post Office, and Lucky Strike logos... We learned a lot and our interest was piqued enough to take a look at his autobiography Never Leave Well Enough Alone, for a possible text in Tim and N.'s autobiography curriculum!

Bonus reading: Wikipedia article about the GG1


Anonymous said...

fun stuff--sounds like they had some gems there!

Mom and Kiddo said...

Needless to say, my boys would love the train museum. You'll need to bring N to NYC to ride on the vintage subway trains the MTA runs during the holiday season. He'd love it.
Thanks for linking up.