Today, train lovers, history buffs and people of all ages are invited to climb aboard a piece of history during Arizona Railway Day being held from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., at the Arizona Railway Museum located in the southwest corner of Chandler’s Tumbleweed Park, 330 E. Ryan Road.
The free public event will include tours of vintage railcars, plus displays of artifacts and memorabilia. Visitors will learn about the importance of railroads from museum volunteers who will explain the type of work that is required to restore and refurbish these railcars to keep them “alive.”
Private railcars rarely open to the public can be toured, including a caboose that has been maintained in the same condition as when it was used in the 1970s. Guests can blow the horn on a diesel locomotive, and might even get the opportunity to blow the whistle on Chandler’s historic #2562 steam locomotive.
The idea to dedicate a museum to the restoration of railroad equipment primarily from the southwest grew from a trip taken in the early 1980s by five local “rail fans.” They observed that there was no official or organized attempt to preserve and protect the artifacts relating to Arizona’s railroad history. A chance meeting with representatives of the City of Chandler resulted in a partnership.
The museum started in 1983 with only a caboose and steam engine displayed on a modest one acre park site provided by the City in the downtown area. In the mid-2000s, the museum was moved to its current location, a six acre site in Chandler’s largest park, where it has become a world renowned collection of railroad equipment, with almost 50 pieces of rail cars on display and in various stages of restoration.
The museum’s standard entrance fee is waived for Arizona Railway Day; however, donations from the public and local businesses are greatly appreciated. Visitors should access the event on Ryan Road, from Arizona Avenue or McQueen Road. Parking is free. Food and beverages will also be available, with all proceeds benefitting the Arizona Railway Museum and Chandler Lions Club charities.
The Arizona Railway Museum is normally open from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through May 17, closed during the summer, and reopens in early September. More information on the Museum is available at www.azrymuseum.org.