Railroad And Museum Classics: The St. Louis Museum Of Transportation, Revisited


During one of my recent and seemingly frequent trips to the St. Louis area, my child and I stopped by the St. Louis Museum of Transportation to while away some time.  Coming here is always time well spent.

My previous article about having visited the museum was in March 2013 (here), and the intervening 15 months have seen abundant expansion of the museum as well as rotation of exhibits.  Let’s start outside with the trains and work our way indoors to the cars.



This is one of the two remaining General Motors Aerotrains.  Built in 1955, and powered by a 1,200 horsepower diesel engine, this train was found unsuitable for mainline service due to its rough ride.  This locomotive would ultimately be used for passenger car service in the Chicago area until 1965.  It was donated to the museum along with the two cars behind it.


My last post featured the Union Pacific Big Boy, as seen here.  This is the most powerful steam powered locomotive built for use in North America.  As you can tell, it was looking a might haggard, with the leafless trees not aiding in its appearance.


What a difference a year (or so) can make!  This Big Boy was undergoing a cosmetic restoration allowing it to once again bask in its absolute grandeur.


This time the cab was open to the public, allowing one to better assess the full majesty of this locomotive.  All the labels for the various valves and other controls is certainly intimidating!


The Big Boy has a 33 ton capacity for coal with a 25,000 gallon water tank underneath.  The coal was augured from the tender, beneath the floor of the cab, and into…


A huge firebox.  While the trash in this picture royally peeves me, it does help lend some context to the size and depth of the firebox.  It is easy to understand how this machine could require 33 tons of bituminous coal.


Sitting next to the Big Boy is this Union Pacific snow blower.


For give perspective, I paid this fat guy $5 to stand in the picture; he is 5’11” (180 cm) tall.  Being somewhat familiar with the capabilities of truck and tractor mounted snow blowers, I can only imagine the distances this machine can hurl snow.


The museum has been around since the 1950s and early on it positioned itself to be the recipient of many rare and highly desirable machines.  This open engine is but one of them.  Built by General Electric, this engine is a 2,800 horsepower V16 turbo diesel.  For training purposes by Union Pacific, the engine cover was removed and strategic areas of the engine were cut away to allow visual inspection.


The camshaft has a diameter of about 6 inches and…


The piston has the diameter of a dinner plate.  The stroke on this four-cycle engine was not disclosed.


Who knew that Plymouth built a locomotive?  They did, but it was the Plymouth Locomotive Works of Plymouth, Ohio.


At 440 horsepower, that isn’t much more than some new 1/2 ton pickups.  Torque and gearing is a much different story.


Perhaps due to the time of year, a refreshing number of cars and engines were open for public viewing.  This milk car was one of them.

Comprised of two stainless steel tanks, there is only 2 inches of cork used as insulation around each tank.  A test of this tank, or one similar, was the transport of pre-cooled milk from Wisconsin to Florida.  During the 101 hour trip, the temperature of the milk rose by only one degree fahrenheit.


Several years ago, my family and I rode the Amtrak from Jefferson City to Kansas City, a distance of about 110 miles.  It was a nice coach and was well insulated to keep noise out.  I can’t help but wonder how this old passenger car compares in the noise department.


There were several cabooses open for inspection.


While they were all a little different in layout, the basic form was the same.  It’s a shame cabooses have been deemed to be obsolete, but time does march on.


Some were decorated to reveal a year during its service life.


One significant difference since my last visit was the main entrance has been relocated into a new building.  It’s a very good venue for showing some of the more prized possessions the museum owns, such as the oldest original passenger car still in existence in North America.

Built in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1834, this car was originally pulled by horses and was later upgraded for locomotive use.  It was on display at the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair) in 1893 and it was also displayed at the New York World’s Fair in 1939.


Nearby was the car that started the entire museum.  Built between 1870 and 1875, this 10 foot long car was originally mule powered and commuted between downtown St. Louis and Bellefontaine in north St. Louis County.


Sitting directly between these two cars was this Cadillac Seville STS.  Yes, it is barely into CC territory, but St. Louis is devoutly devoted to the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team and this Cadillac was purchased new by Stan “The Man” Musial.  You can’t fault a city for being proud of their team’s 11 World Series championships, even if the 2013 World Series was a scam!

Just up the hill from the new, main building is the automobile building.  While I covered a fair number of them in my previous post, the exhibits change frequently.  So let’s see what they have.


Chrysler built only 251 New Yorker wagons for 1951.  Powered by a 331 cubic inch (5.4 liter) V8, this Chrysler doesn’t have a bad angle anywhere.

Please forgive the quality of these pictures.  A poorly-lit building with a lot of backlight in spots is not conducive to taking top quality pictures, although I have adjusted them as best I can.


The front seat looks quite inviting and…


I love wood inside any vehicle.


At this time, the Chrysler Turbine is playing second fiddle by being parked next to a pedestrian ’57 Chevrolet Bel-Air–you will soon see why.


While I was able to capture some under hood pictures last time, I could have reached in and touched most of the things you see in this picture.  Such close proximity simply couldn’t be ignored.  As this car is operational, I get goosebumps thinking about how it was possibly started and moved to its current location.  Whoever did that is one lucky person.


This 1937 Chevrolet was driven by its original owner until 1959.  Seeing a Chevrolet of this vintage is a treat, but let’s back up two decades.


Seeing any 1917 Chevrolet is highly unusual.  From what I have read, the wooden frame was the Achilles Heel on these; likely someone here can better elaborate on that.


For you truck fans, here is a 1912 Traffic truck, built in St. Louis.  With 22 horsepower, it had a top speed of 12 miles per hour.


There was also this 1908 Gallowy, one of ten left in existence and the oldest known delivery truck ever used in St. Louis.  It is powered by a 14 horsepower, 2 cylinder engine.


Last up on our tour, and the car that trumped the Chrysler Turbine, is this 1905 Fiat.

One of only twenty built, it is believed to be the first-ever foreign car in St. Louis.  Purchased new by August Busch Sr. (think beer) at the recommendation of Kaiser Wilhelm II, this Fiat cost $17,000 when new.  With a 60 horsepower four-cylinder engine, it had a top speed of 80 miles per hour.  This was the third one built.

This museum is highly recommended and well worth driving far out of your way to visit.