Gold Coast Railroad Museum
Gold Coast hosts a collection of more than 40 passenger cars, freight cars, locomotives and other railway equipment. View "Ferdinand Magellan," the private railway car of Franklin D. Roosevelt and only custom-made car ever built for a U.S. President in the 20th century. The model train building, open for a few hours daily, has an array of model scales (Z, N, HO, O27, G) on display, plus a play room for kids to build their own wooden train sets, including "Thomas the Tank Engine" models. On weekends, take the family for a ride on the "Edwin Link Children's Railroad" for a small fee. The museum also offers rides on larger diesel and diesel-electric locomotives on some weekends.
Backstory and Context
History of the Museum
The Gold Coast Railroad Museum dates back to its founding in 1956 by a committee of dedicated railroad enthusiasts and historians. It was built on the former Naval Air Station Richmond just south of the University of Miami South Campus, and during the next two decades, the museum attracted thousands of enthusiasts and model train collectors from all over the state.
Due to its widespread popularity as well as the museum’s preservation of railroad history and non-profit statues, the Florida Legislature designated the Gold Coast Railroad Museum as an official state railroad museum in 1984. Nowadays, the museum attracts over 24,000 passengers a year just to ride aboard the museum railroad and it features over 30 historic trains as well as historic railroad tools and artifacts.1
Ferdinand Magellan, US No. 1
One of the most popular exhibits at the museum and a national historical landmark is the Ferdinand Magellan Presidential Rail Car, U.S. Number 1. This unique pullman was the only rail car custom built for the President of the United States in the 20th century (the only other car was built for Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln refused to ride in that car, calling it too fancy and ornate).
Additionally, this railroad car featured two escape passages and weighed around 285,000 pounds, which made it the heaviest passenger car in the United States. Although the railroad car has been removed from the open exhibit, visitors to the museum can still explore its exterior. Due to preservation needs, the interior of the car is no longer available to the public.2
Collection Featured at the Museum
In addition to the Ferdinand Magellan, US No. 1, the museum also proudly carries a wide variety of passenger and locomotive cars as well. A few of the passenger cars are also used in operation, and they include a U.S. Army Hospital Car #89436, Seaboard Air Line Railroad (SAL) Dining Car, Port Huron and Detroit Business Car "Castleblayney,” and many others.3
Of all the diesel locomotives at the museum, six of them are operational and three are currently active trains. Unfortunately, the only steam locomotive (there’s four total steam locomotives) still in operation is the Crown Locomotive 24" gauge 4-4-0 #3, which operates on compressed air.4
While touring the museum, visitors can also discover a myriad of tools, special equipment, or other railroad-centric artifacts pertinent to the time period. For example, the special equipment displayed includes a Case Steam Traction Engine (Farm Tractor), Port Everglades Railroad Track Section Car, and a Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) Track Section Car.
National Train Day and Train Rides
Amtrak’s National Train Day in June endures as one of the more populated events at the museum, which includes equipment displays that promote travel by rail and the railroad’s history, a model train exhibitor’s show, Railroad videos in the museum theater, and train excursions.
During the week, however, both children and adults can participate in the museum’s “Train Rides.” Rides along the "Edwin Link Children's Railroad,” a Standard Gauge Caboose or Coach Car, and a 25-minute excursion on the Engineer Cab, Standard Gauge Diesel-Electric Locomotive typically occur on weekends.5