Museum of the American Railroad

 
 
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Museum of the American Railroad and City of Frisco Finalize Move
MAY 5, 2009:  Today Museum of the American Railroad officials signed, and the Frisco City Council approved, a formal agreement that finalizes plans to move the Fair Park collection of trains to a new site in Frisco. The City Council passed by unanimous vote the Development Agreement and Lease that enables the museum to move from the planning stage to Phase I design and construction. The Museum of the American Railroad joins an exciting array of attractions in this North Texas city including the Frisco Heritage Center and Museum. It will also be adjacent to a system of planned outdoor spaces and recreational areas to be known as Grand Park.

Last year, the Museum of the American Railroad entered into an agreement with the City of Frisco that initiated serious discussions between the two organizations. The two quickly arrived at terms that were mutually beneficial and an engineering firm was hired to prepare a conceptual engineering site plan. The plan, prepared by Lunsford Associates of Arlington with Wilson & Company of Fort Worth, calls for nearly a mile of trackage and future exhibit buildings totaling 94,000 square feet. The museum's priceless collection will also be covered by a train shed reminiscent of turn-of-the-century stations.

With the Council's adoption of the formal agreements, the railroad museum will now finalize its site plan and prepare engineering specifications for Phase I construction. Phase I calls for some 5,000 feet of track to be laid at the museum's new Frisco location, including 3,000 feet of exhibit track that will accommodate the current 36-piece rolling stock collection. The museum's two landmark structures will also move to Frisco and compliment the historic locomotives and railway passenger cars.

The City of Frisco will provide 12.34 acres of land for the project. Located on Cotton Gin Road, the new site is adjacent to the Frisco Heritage Center and borders the BNSF Railway line to the east. The museum currently resides on a 1.8 acre footprint in Fair Park and stores one quarter of its collection offsite.

A majority of Phase I funding will come from Frisco to construct the basic facilities necessary to relocate the museum from Fair Park. The museum will raise their portion of the funding privately. Upon completion of Phase I, the museum will open for business at the new site. "We are very excited to get to this point; it's been mostly planning until now. We're getting close to turning some dirt and watching the wheels roll. The area railroads have pledged their support and we should be moving equipment in early 2011," said Bob LaPrelle, MAR's President & CEO.

The museum will continue operations at its present Fair Park location until the rolling stock begins moving to Frisco. Educational programs for Dallas area schools will also continue through late 2010.

While the collection will be relocating to Frisco, the move is viewed by museum officials as an operation becoming more regional rather than one leaving the Dallas market.

With nearly half a mile of locomotives and cars weighing almost 3,600 tons, the move of the museum's historic rolling stock collection will be an event in and of itself. The museum has fielded calls from as far away as New Zealand since the announcement of the move last year. The museum's Big Boy steam locomotive, the largest ever constructed, will attract interest from all over the world when it begins to roll to its new home.

The museum has worked closely with Frisco city officials to finalize plans and create an attraction that embraces the city's rich railroad heritage. Frisco derives its name from the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company which established a water stop there following construction in 1902. Initially satisfying a thirst for steam locomotives, the area was later subdivided and plots were sold by the railroad. A few years later the town of Frisco was officially incorporated and has grown in population to just over 100,000 today.

While the museum will endeavor to tell the story of railroads on a local level, its collection is national in scope. In 2006 the museum, with the aid of M. Goodwin Associates of Los Angeles, created a Strategic Plan that identified its strengths and addressed limitations at its present site. The Plan acknowledged the significance of the collection as one with great potential that tells the story of the American Railroad on a national level.

The new facilities in Frisco will allow for expanded programming and house the collection in a setting that is befitting of its heritage. Future buildings will present the trains in the context of a large, urban train station while featuring all the amenities of a museum. Visitors will climb aboard trains that once arrived and departed stations at nearly every major city in the nation.

Museum officials have chosen a style of architecture for its new main building that compliments neighboring structures in Frisco Square. A Neoclassical style is represented in the museum's proposed building that borrows elements from the great train stations of the past. To be constructed as part of a Phase II capital project, the facility will feature a grand hall and concourse that will serve as a museum facility by day and a venue for community activities after hours. "We envision this building being a center for local activities and events _ a place that is at the heart of a community just as train stations were in their day," said LaPrelle.

The new museum will also serve as an anchor arts & cultural institution in Frisco. The facility will provide educational programming for Frisco ISD and surrounding school districts through interactive tours and in-class programs. The museum's grand hall will also act as a venue for the visual & performing arts.

Over the past year the museum has consulted with Freeman Ryan Design, an Australian company, to develop spatial requirements and visitor flow patterns for the new main building and train shed. Specializing in creating museums around large objects, the Sydney-based company has addressed the architectural considerations associated with housing and presenting the museum's extensive rolling stock collection.
 
Using the latest technologies, the museum will entertain and educate visitors and students with exhibits on the cultural history and technology of railroading. Programs will also explore the role of the railroad as a solution to the nation's transportation challenges. Where railroad museums have typically been viewed as looking back, the new Frisco museum will also look forward and showcase what the rail industry has to offer now and in the future.

The City of Frisco has generously provided the railroad museum with offices and 800 square feet of exhibit space in the new Frisco Heritage Museum. Located at 6455 Page Street, visitors can enjoy exhibits on Frisco history, including the arrival of the railroad in 1902. With offices and programming already established in Frisco, the railroad museum is on its way toward building a brand and engaging in fund raising and development.

With today's vote, the City of Frisco and the Museum of the American Railroad have solidified a partnership and created much excitement toward establishing the premiere museum of railroad history and technology in the Southwest.

The Museum of the American Railroad would like to extend its most sincere gratitude to the City of Frisco and its citizens. Their generous contributions and endorsement of our museum will ensure its future role as a cultural history center and educational resource in North Texas.

Consistent with its mission of …sharing the rich history and heritage, as well as the current and future development of the institution of the American Railroad through artistic, cultural, and educational programming & outreach…, the Museum of the American Railroad is about to embark on the greatest journey in its 46-year history.
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