Railroad museum closes in Princeton

PRINCETON — An historic railroad museum in Western Kentucky has closed, and the building and contents are set to go up for auction later this month.

Memorabilia from the Caldwell County Historical Railroad Museum will be available for bid on April 13. The museum closed Sunday.

County historian Glenn Martin told the Kentucky New Era the museum closed largely because of the advancing age of the local railroad society's remaining members.

"I told them about five years ago, 'Let's keep it open as long as I'm mentally and physically able to keep it open,'" Martin said.

The building and some fixed items on the lot, like its two concrete railroad phone booths, will be sold at the museum site. The other contents will be sold at 11 a.m. April 13 at the former Quality Ford building on U.S. 62.

The closing ends two decades of historical tours for local residents and visitors from across the country who made their way to downtown Princeton.

Martin, or one of his peers in the Caldwell County Historical Railroad Society, would be on hand to show visitors around, to explain the collection of all sorts of railroad equipment and memorabilia on hand, and to share stories of the railroad and its history.

The railroad society was formed in the fall of 1994, and the museum was launched the following year. The building, previously used as a restaurant, was purchased at auction, and society members got it in order.

"We opened up in about April and told people in the community to bring their memorabilia," Martin said.

People responded immediately, and the collection continued to grow throughout the museum's lifetime.

"Right now, it's just about as full as you could get it," he said.

The Glenn E. Martin Genealogy Library will receive the bulk of the railroad documents being held in the museum. Those documents include the personnel file records for Illinois Central Railroad employees in the Memphis-to-Louisville division, including many former Caldwell County residents.

Those records will be stored at the genealogy library and will be accessible by staff members for families requesting information on ancestors who worked for the railroad.

The railroad society is down to six or so members and will likely disband once the museum is sold, Martin said.

"An end must come to all good things," he said. "I've enjoyed it all, but I'm just getting too old and worn out to be able to do the job anymore."