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Museum of the American Railroad

Long Term Strategic Outlook Minimize


Museum of the American Railroad
Dallas, Texas
November 4, 2006  

Museum Consultant: 
M. Goodwin Associates, Inc.
Marcy Goodwin, President
145 N. Altadena Drive, Suite 201
Pasadena, CA  91107
Phone  (626) 229-0910
Fax      (626) 229-0912
Cell      (323) 646-4012

Bob LaPrelle
President & CEO
Museum of the American Railroad
PO Box 153259
1105 Washington Street, Fair Park
Dallas, TX  75315-3259
Phone  (214) 428-0101
Fax      (214) 426-1937




The mission of the Museum of the American Railroad is to share with the general public the heritage, as well as the current and future development of American Railroading through artistic, cultural and educational programming.



          “... my trip was not in vain, Dallas is a bright young town, full of promise.”

These words were recorded in a letter by an early traveler upon his arrival in Dallas. His journey was by train. The year was 1873, and the railroad had just reached Dallas from the south a year earlier. This burgeoning town would soon become the intersection of the first east-west line due to skillful maneuvering by local politicians. The arrival of these two major rail lines set the stage for a period of growth, ultimately making Dallas the center for commerce in the Southwest, unprecedented for a city without a major river or seaport!


The Museum of the American Railroad (MARR) is poised to initiate the most important steps in its 42-year history.  These steps will make it one of the top eight rail transportation museums in the US, will bring thousands of tourists to Dallas, will provide the people of the Dallas-Fort Worth region with a new, educational resource center and will offer a dynamic, exciting experience for all visitors.

When complete, MARR will have a signi?cantly larger site with a minimum of nine and one half acres of exhibits, activities, education and family fun. On this site the museum will showcase its 30- plus examples of meticulously-restored twentieth century rail cars and locomotives, and will have a 63,000 gross square feet (GSF) museum building with educational, interpretive exhibits, education classrooms, special events spaces, an archive and library, and a small auditorium as well as food service and catering facilities.  The site will also showcase an operational, visitor-viewable working railroad repair shop, a large, open festival and performance plaza, as well as shaded exterior picnic and education areas. A small children’s playground will round out the available visitor activities.

Despite its four-decade history, the museum is essentially a new entity – new in mission, governance, vision and board leadership.  It seeks to expand to a more prominent regional-national status.  The time span needed to fully accomplish the program is perhaps eight to ten years. First the site must be acquired, and all of the necessary city and railroad access agreements, policies and infrastructure put into place.  This may take one to two years. 

Next will come the building program, architect selection, and design program, which may take two and one half to three years.  Construction may take another two to three years.  Then after five to eight years of development and construction, the new museum will be fully operational, welcoming all visitors.

Funding for the museum will come from a variety of sources. MARR is an independent, non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization, and, unlike most other large rail museums is dependent on its own resources to secure funding.  The capital campaign is likely to be in the $40 to $50 million range, and donors will be secured from the private sector (individuals and businesses), from foundations (many foundations are already donors to MARR), and from local, state and federal government entities.  MGA strongly recommends that there be no cost associated with land purchase, and that the land either be loaned or donated for one dollar per year for 99 years.  This type of land acquisition program is the standard for the museum profession.

The capital campaign will include provisions for the full package of needs: site development, train/rail infrastructure, landscaping, building, design and construction, exhibit design and fabrication and program development costs.

MARR currently has an annual attendance of 54,500, which includes 24,500 general on-site visitors and over 30,000 during special events including the six-day “Day Out with Thomas.”  The new site and facility will allow MARR to anticipate a minimum of 100,000 annual on-site visitors and a maximum of 250,000 to 350,000 annual visitors.

Education is the primary baseline for all of MARR’s programs. MARR will present intensely hands-on, multimedia activities, docent tours, re-enactments, festivals, classes, lectures and films for fully multi-generational, multicultural audiences. The interactive exhibits will utilize the extensive collection to show a range of subjects – from explanations of how trains work, to large scale demonstrations of how the railroads defined the shape of all the localities where we live and work.  Visitors will gain insights into the social, political, economic, architectural, geographic and cultural histories related to the railroads and their effect on the nation.

MARR seeks to be relevant to today’s audiences and twenty-first century issues and will present the newest advances in railroading today – from bullet trains to the Dallas Railport. Unlike many rail museums, MARR will present programs that look beyond distant history. MARR will not look at technical or technological issues exclusively, but will address issues related to geography, sociology, urban planning, design and art.

When fully operational, the museum anticipates having 28-30 full time or FTE staff. However, it would be impossible for MARR to achieve all of its goals in a single step. There are several staffing and budget steps between the current staff of three to four full timers and the long term goal. As a result, the staff will need to be expanded in several jumps. Step one begins now, and would require a total of six to eight staff members by the end of 2009 or three years from now. Step two is the first interim start-up and would need a total of 12 to 15 FTE at the end of five years. The third or next step is from five years to eight years from today, 2011 to 2015 and approximately 24 FTE would be necessary. At MGA we call the period prior to opening day the ramp-up period, because the necessary staff will have to be brought in gradually. As finances are expanded, marketing is improved, programs become fully operational and the site approaches completion, the staff is brought on to enhance capacities. The budget will have to expand each year as fundraising ramps up and new staff members are added.

During the ramp-up period it will be necessary for the museum staff to occupy an interim headquarters. The current historic depot building is inadequate for additional staff members. The interim period will require a new office building that can serve as MARR’s base of operations for all staff activities, fundraising and community meetings. It will be important that this interim location have the appropriate distinction and credibility to successfully complete the fundraising program.

In addition to the need for additional staff offices, the existing MARR facilities have no community or meeting spaces. Any funding efforts will require meeting rooms, offices, a catering kitchen and basic facilities such as restrooms. As mentioned earlier, the MARR site lacks the above.

In order to complete the fundraising programs, MARR will have to present more tours, exhibit programs, live rail excursions, and educational interaction with the schools and families.

Some of these programs may take place on the existing site but the museum may need to utilize the interim site as a home for these types of presentations. Thus the interim site, if it is not a part of the long term site, should either be low cost to develop and operate, or if it is part of the long term site, could be used as an early phase, integral part of the museum’s long-term activities, thus retaining any capital value that was invested in fitting the space out for MARR’s interim needs.

Finally, with the larger site and expanded visitor service and education facilities, the museum’s attendance will grow exponentially. If there is a 63,000 SF Station Head House, a minimum nine acre site and site designed to host public events of all types, including festivals, special events, etc., the museum’s attendance may increase fivefold to sevenfold. This has been achieved at rail museums with similar collections, such as the California State Railroad Museum.


With a new site and expanded facilities MARR can at last attain its potential—offering a broad complement of visitor and educational programs and services that it is expected, and needs, to provide.

Until now, MARR has been diligent—assembling a superlative collection, improving its governance, changing its name and most importantly, finishing the work on this strategic plan. Last year MARR decided to postpone the start of fundraising for the expansion project until all four (collection acquisition, governance, name change and strategic plan) are complete. Today, these have been achieved, and MARR is positioned to initiate its first capital campaign. The next step is to contract with a fundraising consultant to provide a capital campaign feasibility study. This study will test the project’s local market support and will gauge the campaign’s strengths and weaknesses.

It is assumed that once underway, the capital campaign will take approximately four to five years to raise the funds. At the campaign outset, a series of privately raised lead gifts will be necessary to provide the campaign with a solid platform from which it can proceed. The smaller, or public access portion of the campaign will take place in the final 10-20 months. At the end of the public campaign, and while MARR is gradually ramping up staffing, programs, and activities – (things which MARR continues to produce and use to showcase its capabilities)—then MARR can offer memberships. Memberships will be a desirable portion of the campaign at the point shortly before opening day because potential members can acknowledge the museum’s accomplishments and then can participate in the larger vision. Memberships at this time will encourage the public to share in MARR’s new offerings.

MARR is poised to become one of the preeminent transportation museums in the nation, and a major destination in Dallas. We will soon embark on a major capital campaign to build a much larger permanent facility that will house and present our collection in a manner befitting of its heritage. This new museum will be a valuable educational resource that is international in accessibility and appeal. It will also serve as a cultural center and a source of community pride in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. We look forward to your participation in this project.


MARR will be a premier nationally-recognized, museum and resource center for rail transportation history and technology. The museum will present a wide range of exhibits, public programs, special events, and education and outreach programs, and rail excursions, all for the general public.

A. Education

Education is MARR’s primary focus. Strategic Goal 3.8 outlines the objectives for MARR’s educational programs.

To successfully deliver its educational programs MARR will need several important things, nearly all of which are building-related.

1.  Public Spaces. MARR currently lacks even the most basic visitor service and education infrastructure. It is essential for at least two classrooms to be built accommodating 30-40 people each, a small 60-75 person orientation room/lecture hall/theater, and adequate public restrooms. Also essential are restrooms, drinking fountains, handicap access to the trains, covered exterior assembly and picnic (or school lunch) areas, basic food service, exhibit areas and a larger public special events area. Without these spaces MARR cannot offer tours or public events on its site.

2.  Funding. Funding for the new building’s education spaces is the first criteria. The second education-related fundraising point is the provision for funding for the education program overall; for an educator, (currently on staff), funding to provide outreach programs in the schools, and funding to create much-needed multicultural and bilingual interpretative and tour programs.

3.  Strategic Partnerships and Collaborations with other Educational Institutions.

MARR’s goal is to develop innovative educational programs.

MARR’s education programs will relate to economics, sociology, land development, architecture and design, engineering, physics, US history, community history, and especially the many people whose personal stories framed, or were framed by, the development of the railroads. All of MARR’s programs will be developed for the general public, placing an importance on its ability to be responsive to the needs of the local school districts, and provide innovative programming.

Utilizing its existing relationships with Texas Woman’s University and Southern Methodist University as a starting point, MARR wishes to share its resources with scholars, historians, and college students. The goal is to develop a new vision of education about the relationship between the railroads, the West and the founding of Dallas and Fort Worth as well as other Texas cities. This will be accomplished in conjunction with strategic partnerships with existing local educational institutions. MARR will also show how the reation of the urban development patterns for these areas were formed by the railroads. This program may be done in collaboration with a local college or university urban planning department.

B. Cultural Tourism

The expanded MARR will enhance Dallas’ capacities as a cultural tourism destination. The museum aims to create for all visitors a full day of interactive experiences and programs, thus developing the site as a destination worthy of a medium or long distance trip. Among the experiences MARR will present are:

  • Emphasize active, entertaining hands-on or multimedia presentations throughout, for example: Show how driving wheels move; simulate airing the fire box, present the sound of the exhaust stack
  • Provide hands-on activities and accessible movement throughout the trains at the museum
  • Provide interpretive tours of the fully-restored, assembled trains – each with its complete array of cars: dining, sleeping, coach, baggage, etc. – with a full lightweight modern diesel or electric train from the 1950s, a heavyweight passenger train from the 1920s-1930s, and also a “live steam” exhibit, providing live steam to one or more of the museum’s three steam locomotives, along with the requisite whistles and appliances.
  • Audio-visual presentations throughout the interior and exterior exhibit areas. In the future there will be a full Amtrak-era 1970s-1980s train, and exhibits showing the future of rail travel – the transportation dreams for the US.
  • An actual, working, visitor “view-accessible” hands-on railroad repair shop
  • Art and design exhibits on subjects or artists related to the periods of trains in the museum’s collection, including Remington, the Streamlined Moderne, O. Winston Link, Edward Hopper, Raymond Loewy, etc. Objects and paintings would be on loan from art and history museums as well as corporate collections (i.e. BNSF, Union Pacific) from around the US.
  • Present a full range of interpretive experiences including sound and light dioramas and live enactments from subjects such as troop trains, presidential funeral trains, roundhouse workers, early Dallas settlers. Create exhibits showing Chinese contributions to the railroads and the expansion of the West, and the contributions of African-American Pullman porters and the contributions of Mexican-Americans in building and sustaining the rail system throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. The exhibits will feature personal stories and highlights of individuals’ experiences.

C. What Is Needed

In terms of identity, the museum has made many important steps toward greater public prominence and accessibility. The name change from the Age of Steam to the Museum of the American Railroad, brings MARR to a public acknowledgement of what it actually is – it is not an exhibit about the Age of Steam – it is a nationally significant public institution devoted to the past, present and future of American Railroading.

MARR’s focus is on a nationwide system of transportation, invention, achievement and lifestyle best seen via the passenger cars and locomotives of the Twentieth Century. The museum’s stories emphasize travel by train and all of the rail destinations. The museum looks to educate the public about all of American railroading, not just steam. Thus the new name. To support all of these changes, the museum’s governance has now been revised to allow it to focus on professional, rather than volunteer staffing. With the new governance, MARR can now cultivate and encourage all funding opportunities and capacities.

MARR has many resources: an extensive collection, impressive scholarship, excited supporters – it needs only a few more things to ensure the national prominence it has been working so hard to achieve. It needs broader audiences and to secure protection for the precious objects in the collection.  These two needs are achieved via the same path. It needs more – much more – space. And it needs drastically improved spaces. The museum can only address the broad public if it has public facilities which include basic visitor service conveniences. With a large enough site, education spaces and adequate signage, it can welcome many more visitors.

What is needed to do this? In order to be an active railroad, center there must be places for the activities. Again, the primary need is for space. The spaces needed are numerous and are outlined in this report in Section 5. The museum’s spaces must work together as an integrated, interdependent whole. For example MARR cannot have a Station Head House exhibit building without the exterior train sheds, tracks, and repair shops. And to have exhibit spaces without staff offices and work spaces would be impossible. So in terms of space, the museum requires the full component of spaces to provide visitor services, to present balanced, exciting exhibits, and to preserve the collections and house the staff.

The museum is now hidden inside an unmarked entry to Fair Park. The tiny 1.8 acre site is wholly inadequate to present the current collection and programs to the public. What is needed is a clearly identified entry sign, signage for parking, a site large enough to present all of the trains as coordinated, interpretive, historically accurate sequences; and places for exhibits, programs and visitor services. The site will need night access and lighting, sound systems, and all of the features and services outlined in Section A. Education, above.


In 2006 the Museum of the American Railroad (MARR) turned 43 years old. How has it changed dramatically since its inception in 1963? What are its most recent achievements?

  1. MARR’s collection includes over 30 of the nation’s finest examples of restored rolling stock (cars and locomotives) and structures, as well as extensive archives and historic objects related to the railroad.

  2. MARR has recently undergone a major governance change in which it professionalized its operations, adjusted its board, and set the stage for a larger scale frame of operations. The new governance structure facilitates fundraising, and is a forward-looking management tool.
  3. The museum has very recently changed its name from the “Age of Steam” Railroad Museum to the Museum of the American Railroad. This was done because the museum’s collection is national and focuses on the mid-twentieth century, which also used diesel and electric locomotives. The Age of Steam” reflects a specific, more historic period (approximately 1830-1940) in which steam was used as the locomotive force.
  4. For over five years MARR has presented “Day Out with Thomas,” its most successful day trip excursion, which is held in Grapevine, Texas, in conjunction with HIT Entertainment, the licensing organization for the Thomas The Tank Engine character. In 2006 over 30,000 (yes, thirty thousand) Thomas fans, young and old, attended over a two-week period on two weekends. The Thomas event is the museum’s biggest annual fundraiser.
  5. In addition to the “Thomas” event, MARR currently presents over 17 types of special programs and events, such as the Valentine’s Day Dining Car “Romance on the Rails,” The Kid’s Train Festival, Railroading 101, Native Americans and the Railroad, the Whistle Fair, and many more. 
  6. The museum regularly rents out its rail car collection for private events and photo shoots. In the future, with improved sight lines and physical access, this revenue source can grow to be a significant stream of income and can include payments for live action film and video.
  7. Over the past ten years the paid, professional staff has grown from one to three, soon to be four.
  8. The collection is now fully owned by the museum.
  9. MARR is a year-round Fair Park Campus Institution and is slated to be on the City Bond issue for Fair Park, with a $2.75 million equity match appropriation.
  10. The museum now has an annual operating budget of $150,000.
  11. The museum regularly receives funding from donors, grants and foundations such as:
  • Meadows Foundation
  • Communities Foundation of Texas
  • Dallas Foundation
  • Hoblitzelle Foundation
  • Hillcrest Foundation
  • McDermott Foundation
  • BNSF Foundation
  • Union Pacific Foundation
  • Dallas/Fort Worth-based corporations such as ExxonMobil, Texas Instruments, etc.
  • Public Funding has been received from:
    • City of Dallas, Office of Cultural Affairs
    • City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department
    • South Dallas Fair Park Trust Fund
    • Texas Commission on the Arts Grant
  1. There are 11 current board members. The board has voted to expand to 24 to encourage broader civic participation and greater fundraising capacity.
  2. Over 24,500 people now visit the museum in Fair Park each year. This is in addition to the 30,000 paid attendance at the annual “Day Out with Thomas” event in Grapevine.
  3. The museum regularly presents over 150 school tours over the course of a school year. These tours serve more than 7,500 students each year.


If MARR’s goal is to be a nationally recognized railroad museum, its current challenges, or impediments must be acknowledged. These challenges, while numerous, are neither fully restrictive nor permanent.

The primary challenge is the current site. The Fair Park site presents several issues, primarily its drastically inadequate size, – a tiny 1.8 acres. Only three-quarters of the museum’s rolling stock collection will fit at the site, the others being stored elsewhere. The site is barely enough to squash the railcars together in a condensed configuration. The site does not allow enough space to build platforms between or to the sides of the cars, it prohibits viewing areas to allow the overall viewing of the cars and the train sequence, and it is extremely restrictive of rail car movement. The cars are now like a beautiful herd of horses crammed into a corral the size of a living room. In addition to restrictions on rail car viewing, placement and access, the site offers no footprint to build a permanent museum building such as the Station Head House, or even enough space to build a repair shop. The site is so small there is no space for an event space, a public lobby or even adequate restrooms. In short – if the museum has ever been criticized for inadequate visitor service capacities, the site’s micro size is at fault.

The second challenge is the governance and operating environment the museum faces at Fair Park regarding the museum’s use of the site. Fair Park is an odd amalgam. It is owned by the City of Dallas, while major portions or all of the site are held in a favorable long term lease with the mammoth State Fair operation, yet most of the other buildings are operated year-round as independent, non-profit museum entities (or museum-like attractions). Thus, the museum is a subsidiary entity in a subsidiary situation. The State Fair actively uses Fair Park and the surrounding property only 24 days per year, but its economic and governance impact is such that the Fair, the one-month per year user — is the year-round decision-maker on the use of all Fair Park facilities and adjacent land. The year-round permanent institutions have no say in the operations and disposition of the site. The State Fair also has deleterious effects on any long-term strategic and capital plans the other museums may have because of the annual space and operational restrictions due to the Fair. Each year during the Fair’s 24 days of operations, the year-round institutions are unable to encourage their regular visitors. The museum, even though it is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) organization charged with paying its own way and raising its own funds, is not in control of its own destiny. It is not able to determine its own:

  • Access
  • Signage
  • Graphic Identity
  • Site use or site size
  • Event Scheduling

MARR works all year to invite and sustain its visitors, yet during the State Fair’s active period, the museum finds itself within the boundaries of the fair and wholly at its mercy. Thus MARR must actually overcome a disincentive to visitation during this time, because MARR patrons must pay the State Fair’s admission to gain access to the museum. During many fair days MARR’s admission funds do not adequately cover the museum’s costs. Indeed, the State Fair’s patrons are funneled to other parts of Fair Park and during the Fair’s open period, MARR is a small novelty attraction. Thus during the month that the State Fair is open and active, some of MARR’s regular, general patrons actually avoid visiting the museum due to the heavy traffic and lack of parking. This situation is not only detrimental to MARR, it also hurts all of the other Fair Park museums and public entities.

The State Fair and the Fair Park joint management structure have also set up restrictive rules for signage and institutional identity. The MARR site entry sign says “Gate 3” which could signify a gate to anywhere. MARR’s site is not easy to find – in fact there is no MARR signage in the neighborhood, and no MARR naming signage at the gate. This identity ruling is detrimental to all of the year-round museums within Fair Park. MARR, in order to succeed, needs year-round full public access and full public signage on all nearby major streets and at the site entry.

The issues mentioned here have a tremendous negative affect on all of MARR’s operations: visitation, image, education, membership, public programs, community presence – but mainly to MARR’s fundraising. MARR’s physical (and seemingly subsidiary) situation is a daily impediment to fundraising. The situation says to a potential donor: “MARR is minor, rather than major” and is “probably not worthy of a major financial commitment.” If MARR is to succeed, this must all change.

With these challenges addressed, MARR can move forward, realizing its potential. Most importantly, MARR can attract funders via its stable long-term mission, identity and location – all of which will work together to build a great, relevant transportation museum for the people of Dallas and the Southwest.


The “Age of Steam” collection began life as a quaint exhibit during the 1963 State Fair of Texas.

The fair was themed “Our American Heritage” and featured displays which appealed to a growing interest in the nation’s past. The collection was established as a tangible reminder of the railroad’s enormous impact on the development of Dallas and the nation. The exhibit is still located within its original 1.8 acre site in Fair Park, adjacent to the Texas and Pacific Railway’s original main line to Dallas. Constructed in 1873, the T&P line intersected the new Houston & Texas Central Route built from Houston a year earlier. The crossing of these two railroads just west of Fair Park would set Dallas on a course of unprecedented growth and prosperity, eventually making it the center for commerce in the Southwest.

The original 1963 exhibit was a modest but significant start at telling the story of railroading’s golden age. It was a collaborative effort of Joseph Rucker, Jr., then Assistant General Manager of the State Fair, and Everett DeGolyer, Jr., an influential Dallas philanthropist who shared his father’s love of railroads and Western history. Rucker, who traveled exclusively by rail, had an interest in preserving the last vestiges of first class travel in a Pullman sleeping car. DeGolyer, charter member and president of the newly organized Southwest Railroad Historical Society was negotiating with the Dallas Union Terminal Company to acquire its venerable old steam locomotive, the “7 Spot.” In early 1963 the two men crossed paths over the interest in 7–Spot’s future and combined efforts to bring it to Fair Park. In August of that year, the State Fair of Texas also successfully bid on the soon-to-be displaced Dallas yard office of the H&TC Railway. A few weeks later, the circa 1905 wood frame structure was moved from the path of downtown Interstate 30 construction and relocated to Fair Park.

These two relics of rail history joined another steam engine already on display at Fair Park. T&P locomotive #909 was a gift to the City of Dallas in 1957. It was displayed on track originally constructed for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition Transportation Exhibit. The T&P had enjoyed a long relationship with the Fair; engine #909 replaced an earlier locomotive and served as a monument to the steam age while giving the T&P a presence at the State Fair.

The original “Age of Steam” exhibit was met with great enthusiasm and became a regular attraction among fairgoers in subsequent years. During the 1960s the State Fair made modest capital investments in the exhibit supplemented by volunteers from the Southwest Railroad Historical Society. Beginning in 1964 several “heavyweight” Pullman passenger cars were added, eventually making up a complete and 1920s era passenger train. Today these priceless cars are among the most complete and original still in existence, and continue to make up the core of the museum’s present collection.

While there is no evidence of a detailed master plan, the original concept of the exhibit provided for limited growth beyond 1963. Early correspondence between Rucker and DeGolyer reveals a mutually agreed upon plan for a rail themed attraction featuring complete passenger and freight trains along with a depot and supporting structures. By the late 1960s, the exhibit had certainly taken on this appearance although little if any consideration had been given to the long-term care and upkeep of the collection. A small cadre of dedicated volunteers provided basic maintenance but lacked adequate funding. During non-fair times, the exhibit would open on Sundays as part of an attempt to make the fair’s Midway a year-round attraction. Originally staffed by the Fair, the exhibit would later be manned by SRHS volunteers with 50% of the proceeds going to the organization.

Several additional pieces of rolling stock were added during the mid-1960s, with some donations having had to await the construction of more exhibit track. In those days, the railroad companies maintained public relations offices with representatives in Dallas. They were somewhat sympathetic to the demise of the steam locomotive and realized the value of having a presence at the State Fair.

Rucker and DeGolyer were both eloquent writers, and their letters appealing for donations were very persuasive to railroad officials. Their requests yielded many prized pieces in our collection, not the least of which was “Big Boy,” the world’s largest steam locomotive acquired from Union Pacific in 1965.

While these benevolent acts resulted in some outstanding acquisitions, the railroads considered these gifts the extent of their contribution. In other words, they expected railroad museums and municipalities to provide for the perpetual care of their collections once donated. Further, railroad officials frowned on organizations that allowed their rolling stock to deteriorate, reflecting poorly on the image of the lines.  While in service, these pieces were refurbished an average of every seven years. Once they were donated, it was a costly commitment to continue such a schedule of maintenance on equipment that was essentially non-revenue producing in a museum setting. Every effort was made to provide for their care at the museum despite limited resources.

The 1970s would see a shift in priorities at the State Fair. Mr. Rucker’s retirement from the General

Manager position in 1971 and Everett DeGolyer’s death in 1977 would see a loss of the Age of Steam’s principal advocates. The Fair’s new general manager placed an emphasis on other activities. Their capital budget was already spread thin over the 277 acre park and with the aging exhibit buildings receiving greater attention, the original investment in the “trains” was considered adequate. Following Mr. DeGolyer’s passing, the Dallas Arboretum would be created from the family’s estate but no provisions were made for the Age of Steam. The SRHS attempted to fill the void but lacked the continued support from the Fair or the City.

In the face of growing indifference among park officials, a somewhat insular SRHS labored to keep the exhibit open one day a week and maintain the collection. The SRHS, originally chartered as a literary organization in 1962, had seen its role at the exhibit move from an auxiliary group to an unofficial custodian of an aging collection of trains. It was a day-to-day existence, long on passion and short on funding. By 1985 it was apparent that a new vision was needed.

The next five years would see significant changes in the Age of Steam and its environment. A professional consultant was hired by the SRHS to chart a new course and more adequately address the organization’s role in the exhibit. New bylaws were created allowing for an expanded board, creation of a paid part-time executive director position, and most significantly, the SRHS would open the museum four days a week on a year-round basis. The term “exhibit” would be dropped in favor of “museum.” Beginning in 1986, the SRHS would officially do business as The Age of Steam Railroad Museum; however, 50% of the proceeds were still going to the State Fair.

In 1986 during preparations for the Texas Sesquicentennial State Fair, the Park would see a resurgence of interest among historians and preservationists. Several improvements were made to the park along with a growing advocacy for a major capital program to restore the original art deco buildings. A new master plan was proposed, using the original 1936 Exposition as a design template for architecture and layout. The Age of Steam would only receive an honorable mention in the final plan a few years later.

In 1987, the City of Dallas and the State Fair would enter into a new management agreement. The Dallas Parks and Recreation Department would assume responsibility for management of the park on a year-round basis. A separate Fair Park Administration would be established by the Parks Department to provide on-site management. The city would place an emphasis on arts and cultural activities throughout the year, creating an environment that was more conducive to the viability of the permanent museum institutions. The State Fair of Texas would lease the park from the City during the month of October each year.

Under a new Executive Director, the early 1990s were a period of growth and maturity for the Age of Steam. The Museum began to see modest gains in attendance while Fair Park in general was experiencing similar increases. With the ownership of the collection officially conveyed to the SRHS in 1990, and a more supportive Fair Park management in place, the museum’s destiny was becoming more predictable and stable. The other park institutions were beginning to see huge increases in attendance due, in part, to the city’s emphasis on a year-round facility.

The Science Place in particular had subscribed to the new trend in museums – animated, interactive exhibits that entertain as well as educate. Their first and most successful venture was that of the robot dinosaur exhibit which greatly broadened their market and drew a new clientele to Fair Park. While not benefiting directly from the Science Place’s success, Age of Steam would draw on the growing interest in Fair Park as a year-round destination.

Despite the improved surroundings, the aging collection of trains lacked capital funding and additional real estate for expansion. These were critical needs for a capital-intensive museum if it was to become a viable institution. Unfortunately, the SRHS lacked the recognition and respect accorded to more established museums. There were also questions about how an expanded railroad museum might fit into a restored Fair Park, more specifically, if it would belong.

Meanwhile, the Age of Steam Museum was striving to increase attendance and revenue through appealing to a broader audience. A second paid staff person was hired in 1996, and new programs were developed to attract families with children. An emphasis was also placed on attracting those who might not have experienced the “glory days” of railroading. Previously, exhibits were fashioned by and appealed to a more esoteric group of enthusiasts. Efforts were made to create an interactive experience for visitors who were less initiated with railroads. This new approach would foster an appreciation of the rich heritage of the collection and the museum’s efforts to preserve it for a new generation. The authenticity of the collection was in no way compromised; rail enthusiasts who visited the museum would still find their experience enjoyable. In fact, increased revenue from a broader audience would yield additional funding for restoration of significant pieces in the collection throughout the 1990s, thus enhancing their appeal to purists.

In 2006 the Age of Steam changed its name and identity to the Museum of the American Railroad.

This was for several reasons – first, because the collection is not primarily steam but is composed of twentieth century examples of diesel, electric locomotives and modern passenger cars. It represents the high points of twentieth century railroads. Also, because the museum seeks to be up to date and timely, rather than antiquarian.

The MARR is now a viable, largely self-sustaining institution with a four person professional paid staff. In 2004, the museum’s Board of trustees adopted a new organizational form of governance that is more responsive to the community and meets the needs of its diverse audience. Several of the museum’s field trip programs have become staples in Dallas area school curriculums. These educational programs are also recognized by local arts and education advocacy organizations including Arts Partners. The museum now receives supplemental funding from the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts. Local foundations have also contributed to several recent major restoration projects that have received national recognition. Amtrak is a regular exhibitor at the museum with their popular Texas Eagle equipment displays attracting thousands of visitors each year. Other successful events include, Artrain USA, a nationwide tour of fine art aboard a five car train. Perhaps the most successful endeavor in recent years has been “Day Out with Thomas,” an event centered around PBS’s endearing train character, Thomas the Tank Engine. The museum attracts over 30,000 Thomas fans, both young and old, each year.

As we enter a new century, the Museum of the American Railroad collection stands as tangible evidence of our own past. Our parents and grandparents rode these trains and perhaps worked on them. A fascinating story remains to be told about how the American railroad has had a profound effect on our lives. One of the nation’s foremost collections of trains stands ready to depart on an exciting journey right here in Dallas. Your first class accommodation has been prepared in the Pullman car, and a table has been set for you in the diner. All Aboard!








The MARR Mission:

The mission of the Museum of the American Railroad is to share the rich history and heritage, as well as the current and future development of American Railroading, with the general public, through artistic, cultural, and educational programming.

To this end, the museum collects and preserves related items for use in interpretive and experiential exhibits.

The museum also acts as a community and national resource for the study, enjoyment of, and participation in railroad-related subjects.


  • The goals are accomplished in part through stewardship of the museum’s priceless collection of rolling stock and structures, which are held as cultural assets for the benefit of the community.
  • The museum’s programs are designed to provide a better understanding of the railroads’ role in the settlement of the nation, spread of cultures, development of industry, and the railroads’ relationship to personal, national and local histories.
  • Education is MARR’s predominant forum; the museum will provide educational programs of every type to all audiences.

MARR is community-based in terms of its location and programs, national in its collection focus, and world-wide in its delivery of its programs and resources.

Using a variety of means, MARR documents and disseminates to the widest audience the histories, cultures, lives, legacies, current practices, and the future of the American railroad through a broad variety of interpretive and entertaining community-based programs. These are based upon our extensive collections, which we will continually expand, preserve and restore and interpret.


MARR Vision Statement:

We will become the preeminent museum for rail transportation, history and technology in the Southwest.

MARR Purpose Statement:

The development and prosperity of our nation is inextricably tied to the railroad. The Museum of the

American Railroad exists to share the rich history and heritage of the rail industry through the preservation and interpretation of related artifacts and archival material.


  • Education is MARR’s predominant activity
  • The railroad represents a vanishing part of America yet it is an answer to our nation’s future transportation challenges. The history of the railroad and how it affected America’s communities adds value and context to people’s lives and is a core statement of our cultural history and heritage. The rails connected America in the same fashion as do television, radio, and the internet today.
  • Benefits – An expanded MARR makes Dallas more of a destination of choice
  • MARR’s vision must be sustainable. MARR will be in existence for the next 100 years.
  • MARR’s vision encompasses more than the Southwest – it is national. It documents and interprets the story of railroads nationwide. The story is international in interest.
  • MARR will create nationally innovative curriculum linkages. This will also provide the museum with national recognition.
  • Innovation is a key feature of MARR’s approach to its programming, and is another way MARR will be nationally prominent.
  • MARR will have exciting, innovative and creative exhibits with multiple levels of interpretation all of which will utilize the collections in a well-funded, spacious facility.
  • Museums (and MARR) have an obligation to include within their subjects and programs the recent past and the present. Museums and MARR have an advantage over conventional educational institutions, which are now limited in their ability to teach and interpret recent history. MARR will provide education programs about subjects that the schools cannot touch. MARR understands that museums have an obligation to tell the histories in an unbiased framework and to provide multiple points of view.
  • MARR will be a nationally prominent museum for rail transportation, history and technology


Today MARR is the only North Texas museum that celebrates our country’s rich industrial, entrepreneurial rail history. The museum, as with all larger railroad museums, is a center for education and will be an important heritage-tourism site. It is one of only two large-scale rail museums in Texas. MARR’s collection is now considered among the top five most significant train collections in the United States.

This chapter outlines MARR’s goals for national prominence. The following criteria are important in evaluating success in a railroad museum.

1. Subject:

The museum and its collections should focus on standard-gauge, operational rail cars and locomotives. This means the rolling stock as used in commercial production and activities. This is not a collection of toys, model trains, small-gauge personal trains, etc. The museum has a stated purpose and subject and follows through in a historically accurate framework.

2. Collection:

The collection is curated to represent an accurate, historical picture of the museum’s core subject area. In the case of MARR, this means the collection is focused on American passenger trains, railroad companies, rail users, rail technology, and locomotives and rail cars primarily of the Twentieth Century, with an emphasis on the period of 1920-1955. The collection is preserved or restored in accordance with emerging guidelines and standards in the field of industrial preservation. The museum continuously adds to and works to preserve the collection.

3. Interpretation:

The museum provides interpretive programming for the general public. The programming is created in-house, and relates directly to the museum’s primary subject areas and collections. The interpretive programming includes: lectures, seminars, classes, films, videos, conferences, musical festivals, outreach programs, guided tours, rail excursions, collection access, etc. The museum is not an “attraction,” which is considered to be a commercial venture or amusement park without historical or interpretative presentation, such as Six Flags, Dollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, etc. However, the museum will also be a major destination for tourists and general visitors.

4. Interactive:

Rail museums involve experiential activities. The rail stock is, for the most part, operational. Because a rail museum’s subject matter involves a key aspect of American social history and culture, and because it exhibits a primary mode of transportation, one of the central features of a rail museum is its capacity for interactive programming. Interactive programming can include:

  • Hands-on science and engineering workshops
  • Art education or design classes
  • Tours through the trains and locomotives
  • Rail excursions
  • Restoration workshops

5. Large Scale Site:

Unlike art museum collections, which are primarily small, static objects — (art doesn’t move and can easily fit in a gallery) — railroad museums collect very large scale objects which must move and be used. Thus it would make no sense to have a rail museum with only, for example, one locomotive and one rail car. The collection must have room to be moved and viewed as a whole or in key sequences. The collection must be housed under cover for exterior presentations. Interior presentations of historic artifacts must be presented in a museum climate environment (24-hour humidity and temperature control). The site must have public access for performances, community gatherings, interior galleries, exterior exhibits (parked rail stock, etc.) restrooms, food service, classrooms, offices, and meeting areas. All nationally-recognized rail museums have such facilities. The sites of other nationally-recognized rail museums range in size from 15 acres to 40 acres or more.

6. Other National Rail Museums:

MARR wishes to be nationally recognized. The seven most important nationally-recognized rail museums are:

  • Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum, Altoona, PA
  • B & O Railroad Museum, Baltimore, MD<
  • California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento, CA
  • Museum of Transportation, St. Louis, MO
  • North Carolina Transportation Museum, at Historic Spencer Shops, Spencer, NC
  • Steamtown National Historic Site, National Park Service, Scranton, PA
  • Virginia Museum of Transportation, Roanoke, VA
  • National Railroad Museum, Green Bay, WI

It should be noted that the above rail museums are supported, all or in part, by state, municipal and federal funding.

What Does It Mean To Have National Prominence?

“The Museum of the American Railroad will be national in all aspects: in its collections, exhibits, interpretation and programming, events, finances and support.”

What does this mean?

1. Collections:

The museum will continue to focus its extensive collection of heavyweight and lightweight passenger trains with a primary emphasis on the Moderne era (1920-1955). It will be national in scope by representing trains used nationwide. It will be preeminent by the large number of restored examples of rolling stock. Collection development will be ongoing for the life of the museum, and will be comprehensive – not exclusive to a specific date or location. The collection will stay current with examples which are of recent vintage as well as the newest examples. Care and maintenance for the collections will be ongoing, since unless a rolling stock collection is protected from the elements, it will deteriorate significantly. However MARR’s proposed “train sheds” will be built to curb or prevent deterioration, rather than arrest it. Unless the collections are fully enclosed in a climate-controlled space, which will not be the case, the collections will always need some restoration or maintenance. Every effort should be made, however, to follow

AAM curatorial standards.

2. Exhibits:

The exhibits will be comprehensive in their ability to tell the story of railroading in the late nineteenth century and all of the twentieth century. Exhibits will offer experiential access: touch, sound, smell, and participation. The exhibit will be designed to provide cultural, historical and physical immersion. The museum believes that history is ongoing — any presentations by MARR must incorporate the present and the future. The storylines will show how, what, when, where, and why the railroads existed, and what reciprocal effects existed between Texas and the railroads. An illustrative emphasis will be on the story of the development of Dallas and Fort Worth, but the greater, or primary story will present the national development and influences of the railroads. Among the exhibit formats or devices will be: video interaction, computer access and interaction, physical interaction, tactile access to the collections, and a broad spectrum of social presentations utilizing the collections.

3. Interpretation and Programming:


’ DeGolyer family has had a long commitment to documenting the history of the railroads in Texas. Now located at Southern Methodist University, the DeGolyer Library collection is a nationally important archive of railroading and “railroadiana.” MARR will extend links via working agreements, technological access, collection research, curriculum linkages and cooperative programming with SMU’s students and faculty. In particular MARR will continue its close linkage with the DeGolyer collection and SMU’s other railroad-related historical materials.

Texas Woman’s University (TWU) has a ten-year relationship of providing internships to students to work at MARR. The museum seeks to expand this program and to create new, innovative curriculum linkages.

MARR’s commitment to education and interpretive programming will be extended with new multicultural programs that place a greater emphasis on the diverse communities associated with the American Railroads: African-Americans, the Latino community and the Chinese community. Multi-lingual tour guides will be added and the museum’s volunteer group expanded with additional docents who have expertise in these subjects or bilingual capabilities.

4. Events:

The Museum seeks to have something going on all of the time. MARR will regularly place its events on the Dallas-Ft. Worth social calendar, and will seek recognition in all local markets. Events will be targeted to a wider age range and to a broader group of interests and backgrounds. Much will be possible with the additional new spaces: MARR will be capable of hosting a diverse array of events: rentals, meetings, conferences, small conventions, parties, museum fundraisers, the Halloween “Age of Scream,” dance parties, etc. The museum seeks to have regional and national recognition of the creative and diverse programs it presents.

5. Finances and Support:

In order to present this slate of programs, exhibits and events, and to preserve and expand the collections, adequate funding is essential. MARR currently has but a few employees and a small budget. In the future, operating funds will be needed to expand from the current limitations of staff, site and program offerings, to the fuller slate outlined in this report. The annual operating budget will require both endowment income and an annual fund. Regular fundraising activities, a more profitable museum shop, additional capacities for rental income, and greatly expanded attendance will provide greater funding for the museum’s efforts.

6. Staff:

The museum employs a professional paid staff. The staff is trained and cognizant of programs and activities at other comparable professional railroad museums. The paid staff supervises volunteers.




The North Central Texas market encompasses the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and surrounding suburban communities. According to the most recent US Census 2000, the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area had a population of 5.1 million (although a July 1, 2004 estimate placed the population at 5.7 million). The Metroplex is the fifth largest metropolitan area in the US, and the 52nd largest metropolitan area in the world.

If in 2004, the population was estimated to be 5.7 million; at this population level MARR should be able to achieve a maximum of 7% market penetration throughout the entire resident region. This is an unofficial rule-of-thumb paradigm from the MARR planning consultants. This would translate to a maximum potential of 325,000 local visitors. Added to this are the number of tourists and convention visitors to Dallas, which in 2005 were 3.8 million (source Dallas CVB website). With a penetration of 2% (rule-of-thumb paradigm) of this amount, it may add 76,000 visitors. Thus the visitation might be at the highest 400,000 or at a minimum, 100,000 visitors. The higher visitation indicated here is likely to occur if the full physical components are developed.

The museum currently achieves an annual average of 24,500 visitors to the Fair Park site despite the absence of any visitor service capacities, amenities, or signage. Because of this it offers only a few tours. Added to this on-site visitation are the 30,000 visitors over six days at the “Day Out with Thomas” special event at Grapevine, TX. Thus the total current attendance of 54,500 is achieved on two fronts: at the 1.8 acre Fair Park core site (69,000 SF) which has only 1,000 square feet of interior space, and on a “borrowed” site at a city located approximately one half hour away from the core site. Thus, with a larger site and the full complement of professional visitor service facilities, the museum could increase visitation a minimum of five times and a maximum of seven times over the current attendance.

The original 2006 version of this document spans 105 pages over 11 sections.  For brevity, we have posted the Executive Summary only. 

About M. Goodwin Associates, Inc., Los Angeles, California

M. Goodwin Associates, Inc. (MGA), is a national leader in consulting services for museums. MGA’s range of services includes strategic planning, feasibility studies, business plans, budget plans, staffing plans, space needs assessments, organizational reviews, building programs, site selection, architect selection, comparable institution studies, and much more.

MGA projects form a collection of the nation’s best and most admired museum projects from the past 30 years. To date, MGA has worked on 93 museums, including 61 art museums and 21 university art museums.

MGA’s integrated approach to strategic planning includes a careful analysis of the client’s strategic goals and administrative practice, as well as a survey of the realistic funding options and long-term needs. The resulting study supports clients as they plan for a future that can be managed and operated successfully. MGA’s approach to building planning is comprehensive, viewing each space as a place for the museum’s programs and activities – and a space that must be fundable, operable, and capable of attracting and sustaining visitation.

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