Evansville Museum Transportation Center
*Admission is included in Museum admission
and must be purchased at the Evansville Museum front desk
STEAMING THROUGH THE 21st CENTURY
The Evansville Museum Transportation Center is a dynamic part of the Museum’s campus. The exhibitions of EMTRAC interpret transportation in Southern Indiana from the latter part of the Nineteenth Century through the mid-Twentieth Century.
Divided into four areas, visitors first enter River/Rail/Aviation Hall. Highlights of this exhibit include an interactive riverboat pilothouse, an exhibition recalling Evansville’s first contact with aviation, and a turn-of-the-century waiting room that overlooks the Museum’s historic railroad.
Upon departing River/Rail/Aviation Hall, visitors step out onto a train platform that is home to the Museum’s train. On exhibition at the Museum since 1967, the train provides people with an opportunity to examine the exterior and interior of three historic railroad cars--a 1908 0-6-0 steam switch engine, a fully equipped 1926 club car, and a circa 1900 caboose.
Upon reentering EMTRAC, visitors step into Transportation Hall where select vehicles from the Museum’s collection recall travel in the period prior to the 1920s. Of special interest are: a hearse from the 1880s used by Alexander Funeral Homes; a steam powered fire pumper utilized by the City’s Fire Department; a high wheel bicycle; and a Sears Motor Car built by Evansville’s Hercules Buggy Company. The backdrop for the vehicles is a mural depicting rail stations and other scenes from Evansville’s past.
Transportation Hall also features EMTRAC’s anchor exhibition, Charlotte’s Evansville. This is an intricate model railroad reflecting the City of Evansville in the late 1940s. Recalling an era when steam locomotives were giving way to diesel power, this diorama interprets the City through the use of model railroads, representations of significant Evansville structures of the era, and a visitor activated voice narration which provides an overview of the exhibition and the history of the period. The unique setting for the diorama is a 1920s railroad car connected to the EMTRAC facility. This former Louisville and Nashville car serves as an amphitheater for the model railroads.
EMTRAC and its attendant exhibits provide a unique travel destination in the Tri-State.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TRAIN
The idea of bringing a vintage train to the City was born in the 1950s as local railroad enthusiasts attempted to attain a steam locomotive for the community. Though the effort was temporarily unsuccessful, the concept of a train exhibition lived.
By 1965, Mr. Roscoe Whitlow of the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad located a Milwaukee Road Switch engine for the Museum. In early 1967, a tavern-lounge car and a caboose were acquired.
MILWAUKEE ROAD 0-6-0 STEAM SWITCH ENGINE
The first car acquired for the Museum’s train was a 1908 Milwaukee Road 0-6-0 steam switch engine. Built in Milwaukee by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, it was originally used to move rail cars in a freight yard. Later, this engine was utilized in a sand and gravel yard near Terre Haute, Indiana. Purchased for the Museum from the Wabash Sand and Gravel Company, Inc. in 1965, this engine was refurbished by volunteers from the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad at their Yards on Evansville’s north side. It is believed that this is the last locomotive of its type in the Country.
TENNESSEE CLUB CAR
In late 1966, a 1926 tavern-lounge car (rebuilt 1954) was purchased from the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Capable of seating 38 people, this car was part of the Cincinnati to New Orleans passenger train the Pan American that was operated by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
The Tennessee Club Car also played a role in American politics. In 1952, it was used by General Dwight Eisenhower in his successful campaign for the presidency, and in 1964 it was utilized by Lady Bird Johnson as she stumped the South for her husband, President Lyndon Johnson. As the Tennessee Club Car was refurbished for use by Mrs. Johnson, it was in pristine condition when it arrived at the Evansville Museum.
Donated by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, a circa 1900 caboose was the final car acquired for the Museum’s Train. Equipped with a pot-bellied stove and washstand, the caboose served as home to the train's crew. Here, they ate and slept.
The caboose was also the office of the train's conductor and an important work area for the brakeman. Here, the conductor communicated with the train's engineer and kept records of each car’s contents and destination. The brakeman utilized the caboose's crow's nest to watch for overheated axle journal boxes--commonly referred to as hotboxes. Caused by excessive friction as a result of inadequate lubrication or the presence of foreign matter, a hotbox could cause a wheel to come off of a railroad car.