• Old Colony & Fall River RR Museum Closing

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England

Moderators: MEC407, NHN503

  by BandA
I hope they are able to move their static display to another more successful museum and continue to get eyeballs.
  by njtmnrrbuff
Even in states like Pennsylvania, some tourist railroads have gone out of business. I think about eight years ago, the Gettysburg RR shut down their operations. When the museum in Fall River closes, assuming that you want to stay in New England to explore, you will have to travel north and west to get to the best tourist operations and museums. Hyannis isn't super far away from Fall River and the Cape Cod Central RR runs some dinner train excursions out of Buzzards Bay.
  by boatsmate
as a former Volunteer of the museum, and Vice president, I know the museum has been hurting since the ending of the large celebration (Fall River days or something to that effect) stopped happening, a big money maker for them, with Parking, vendor space rental, and there own food sales, also the ending (again do to declining participation ) of the Museums train show has put a hurting on income. the museum itself has never been able to sustain itself on admissions. also the fencing off of the yard and areas around the yard have made it tough for people to visit, never mind for the museum to use the yard for parking on weekends and for functions.

as for the equipment, well, most of it if not all of it can not be moved over rail because of the brakes and brake rigging and Bearings. not being acceptable to CSX or the T. at last I knew the engine on the budd ran, however all of the controls on the control stand are not operable and the wiring in the cabinet, well it would cost more than its worth to fix. the artifacts in the museum car belong to the president/ owner of the museum. and most likely will be kept as his personal museum.

I hate to see it go, but with the property being as valuable as it is and I am sure the cost of insurance and rent has sky rocketed. I know when I left the museum back in 2003 things where tough. I can't image how they stayed open for as long as they have. I the to see it go but the writing on the wall has been there for a while.
  by elecuyer
Because I had learned of its closing, I decided to visit the Old Colony and Fall River Railroad Museum (OCFR) on Saturday, August 20th, 2016. I happened to be passing through Fall River exactly when they were scheduled to be open, so I figured I could spare an hour to try to find out what is going on.

I grew up not far from Fall River, and had visited Battleship Cove many times as a youngster. However, most of those visits pre-dated the creation of the adjacent railroad museum. A visit to Battleship Cove about 5 years ago did not yield enough time to visit the OCFR, but I did note that they were open.

The site is easily accessible to visitors of Battleship Cove, which is a major tourist attraction in the area. There are at least three other museums nearby (including the railroad museum) and other attractions (waterfront park, carousel, etc.) While all is in the shadow of the large bridge overhead, and some industrial sites nearby, the overall area is clean and safe. On this visit, the sun was shining and the temperature in the mid-70s – a perfect day to be out enjoying the local attractions.

The OCFR parking lot is small, but paved and adequate. I suspect most visitors park at Battleship Cove, then cross the street to visit the OCFR before walking back to their cars. I was greeted by a man and woman who were hanging out on the "porch" that looks across the street. The grounds are reasonably well kept and nothing seemed to be in dire need of repair, repaint, or restoration. Admission was a measly $3.

The first exhibit consists of a gutted Pennsylvania Railroad day coach, which has been outfitted with a nice set of displays outlining the history of rail operations in the Fall River area. It includes photos, artifacts and other small memorabilia, with each case representing an era of operations – from the 1800s to the present day. There is a small N gauge layout, some Lionel trains on display, and a wooden train table for the kids to play on.

Coupled to the coach is the most significant artifact, the Firestone RDC. This ex-New Haven Budd Car has local significance, having operated in commuter service to the Firestone plant in Fall River, and later as a MBTA commuter coach. The interior is pretty much as it was in service, except the luggage racks have been removed. There are some photos and signs explaining the car, and that it is missing two drive shafts and one of its engines (which were removed by the MBTA when they depowered their RDC fleet in the 1980s.)

Out the back of the RDC is the NYC (nee-Conrail) side view caboose. Like the RDC, it is pretty much original inside with desks, stove, etc. This leads you to the New Haven box car, which is outfitted with a video display (which was running a general movie on railroads) and many artifacts including track tools, a train order hoop, etc. Back out of the boxcar brings you to the entrance porch – where visitors can pull a whistle cord to sound a diesel locomotive horn.

The last major artifact is a medium sized shed which has "Fall River" signage. However, there is no indication of its heritage. Total visit time is 30-45 mins.


During my visit I met with Jay Chatterton, who appears to be the main force behind the museum. He provided me with this additional information (which he gave me permission to share publicly.) Please do not "shoot the messenger" or criticize his comments – he has read this discussion forum thread already and is choosing not to comment.

1. Attendance is way, way down to the point where the operation is unsustainable. The whole operation hinges on visitors to Battleship Cove, which has seen a massive reduction in its attendance. In fact, as he said this, we glanced over and observed no one going in or out of Battleship Cove. In years past, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the place would have been packed. He mentioned that I was his ONLY visitor all day (which remained true as he closed when I left.) On my way out I observed that the maritime museum down the street seemed equally deserted.

2. Battleship Cove has a very popular program that allows Boy (and Girl) Scouts to camp overnight on the vessel. However, the timing of that program changed such that it no longer allows campers time to explore the other area attractions. What used to be a very popular side trip to the OCFR (or other area museums) is no longer an option – by no fault of its own.

3. The museum is, in fact, closing on Sept. 4th – after 30 years of operation. Jay will be retaining the items from his personal collection (mostly small artifacts) and returning anything on loan to the museum to the rightful owners. He will then be deaccessioning the remaining artifacts, including the RDC, caboose, and box car. While he owns the ex-Pennsy coach, he will also offer that interested parties. He is doing everything "by the book" and is willing disclose the financials, etc.

4. His plan (underway) is to contact the local/regional railroad museums and preservation organizations – many of which he has existing relations; it is his intent that everything finds a good home. While he does have a switch to connect to the Mass Coastal rail line, it is my opinion that everything will have to be moved by truck. It's apparent that Jay is basically tired of running the organization, and is giving it up to move onto other things.

5. The ex-Pennsy coach is probably the item in most danger. He claims that the wheelset/trucks are in excellent shape – having been rebuilt by Amtrak just before retirement. (I'm no expert on that, so I have to take him at his word.) However, the body is in rough shape and (as mentioned) contains no seats, windows, or anything for hauling passengers. It would either make a good display car (as it is now) or sacrificed to lend its trucks to a more worthy car.

FYI, the local connection to this car is that it ended its service life as a commuter coach between Providence and Boston.

6. The box car is unique, as being the only surviving one of its class from the New Haven. It was rebuilt at the Readville shops outside of Boston and really should stay at a local railroad museum. Personally, I can think of several operations that could use this in photo-freights, etc. Jay claims that other than the fake wall he added to accommodate the video equipment, it is 100% original inside and out (and it looks that way to this observer.)

7. I asked Jay about the "Fall River" shack. It was reconstructed from the burnt out remains of the yardmaster office from Pawtucket, RI. The Fall River signs are not authentic. He opened it for me to reveal a nicely done yardmaster office, with desk, stove, and other supplies. It could easily fit on a flatbed truck and would fit right in at any rail yard.

8. The land the museum sits on is owned by the State of Massachusetts.


In short, it was clear that a lot of thought, planning and work went into creating this museum. It was a good look into the region's railroad heritage – set in an ideal location for a quick stop. It was just the right size to be a coat-tail operation against Battleship Cove, but if no one is visiting the main attraction, there's not much one can do.

I recalled my last visit to Battleship Cove five years prior, and the place was lively and vibrant; today, it was not. Moreover, I recalled hearing the diesel whistle several times that day – not knowing where it was coming from (it is near an active rail line.) Now I realize it was likely different families taking turns blowing the horn from the OCFR front porch, a simple enjoyment that will be lost at summer's end.

After I left, I continued on to my sister's house for a cookout. One out-of-town guest who was not familiar with the area asked a local what there was to do in Fall River. The local person immediately started talking about Battleship Cove, along with the adjacent maritime and train museum. Unfortunately, the Old Colony and Fall River Railroad Museum will no longer be there, should the out-of-town guest choose to explore Fall River next summer.
  by BandA
I visited the museum one late october about 15 years ago, as part of a Scout overnight on the Massachusetts. The caboose was the most interesting car as I had never been inside one, certainly not one in original condition. The other stuff was definitely worth looking at.

We also visited the whaling museum, which had a very enthusiastic person who stood at the center of the large room and described the history and the artifacts.

The USS Massachusetts was in much better condition around 2000 than it was in the mid-70's, with many bits restored. They had also added the submarine and the 1980 vintage Russian cruiser. By comparison the (?destroyer?) Kennedy was pretty lame, mostly a display exhibit on JFK.

I think all three museums put their best foot forward for the Boy Scouts back then. I also think we got to see rooms and compartments that might be normally off limits.
  by CVRA7
If the attendance at the OC&FR, USS Massachusetts and the maritime museum is all off - what kind of support are they getting from the local and state tourism offices? Or did budget cuts reduce or eliminate promotion of the area?
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
The ongoing Route 79 interchange teardown isn't helping matters. Battleship Cove has been a construction warzone for about 2 years now, so visitors have been staying off the streets overshadowed by all the chaotic ramp demolition above. And since Route 79 is closed south of a temporary Davol St. ramp and inaccessible to I-195 without a complicated detour the most direct route to the Cove has been disrupted. Temporary inconvenience that should subside since the old double-decker ramp monstrosity is now mostly gone with city streets daylighted. Next project phase will replace the interchange with a boulevarded level interchange, rebuild the newly-daylit streets, and hook the old traffic patterns back up.

In the meantime, it's severely taken its toll on tourism. Maritime museum was fully prepared for all this years in advance and should suffer no adverse long-term effects, but obviously the smallest/weakest players like the RR museum were too frail to begin with to survive in such a disrupted environment even if they had access to any hardship compensation from MassDOT.
  by thebigham
http://www.heraldnews.com/news/20160904 ... r-30-years" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

LAST CALL: Fall River railroad museum closes after 30 years
By Michael Holtzman
Herald News Staff Reporter

FALL RIVER — At 3 p.m. sharp on a sunny Sunday, across from Battleship Cove and in the shadow of the Braga Bridge, the train whistle sounded for the final time.

The Old Colony and Fall River Railroad Museum that President Jay Chatterton began 30 years ago was closing shop for good.

Even the Haunted Rail Yard that brought thrills and frights each Halloween for a dozen years is now an event of the past.

“No more. I’ll actually have a weekend off,” Chatterton joked with a group of railroad buffs and well-wishers from Cape Cod.

“It’s always sad to see things like this go,” said Ron Costa, visiting with his wife, Diane, as they have in the past.

They were aware Sunday was the last hurrah.

So was Neil Langille from Buzzards Bay, with his wife, Maureen. “We’ve been by it many times,” he said, but this was their first visit knowing it was the last chance.

“It’s a shame it’s closing,” said Langille, taking photo mementos. “A lot of fantastic museums have bit the dust.”

“There’s a lot of nice memorabilia,” Maureen Langille said inside the exhibits of one of the four diverse railroad cars on the landmark premises at 2 Water St.

Chatterton, a retired teacher, detailed some of the train car history like average folks would describe the rooms of a house they’d lived in for decades.

After Diane Costa said the caboose was her favorite of the four rail cars they settled into their homes on old tracks between roughly 25 and 30 years ago, Chatterton replayed its travel.

Built in 1963 and painted turquoise from the New Central System, after Conrail donated it to the museum in 1991 they painted it red, replete with the Old Colony and Fall River logo on it, Chatterton said...
  by BandA
Why do they wait until the museum is closed to do the news article about it? sigh. Don't remember ever seeing a turquoise caboose! Looks sharp. It was still red when I visited I think.
He and Carpenter said their organization remains in existence and they will follow the bylaws that the railroad cars are sent to a similar operation.

“They all have a home,” Carpenter said.
  by Ken W2KB
As a 501(c)(3) qualified organization, the entity is required by federal law to transfer title to all assets at no charge to another similar 501(c)(3). All proceeds of anything sold similarly would have to be given to a 501(c)(3) less repayment of any valid debts owed to third parties.
  by SOCO11
Does anyone know anything about the future of the real estate the museum is on? There was local news the the state plans drainage work in the yard that would also rebuild tracks. I wonder if the museum trackage will be rebuilt for future use, removed or disconnected? Does the state (MASS DOT) own the land?
  by elecuyer
A look at the survey deeds in the area confirms that the land the museum was located on is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  by elecuyer
Trains News Wire is reporting that the RDC is going to the Berkshire Scenic Railroad for their Adams-North Adams service.
New Haven Railroad RDC-1 No. 42 will be transferred to the museum's care from the Old Colony & Fall River Railroad Museum in Fall River, Mass. The Old Colony closed in 2016. [...] Museum volunteers intend to restore the car to operating condition.
Requires Trains subscription:
http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/20 ... ire-scenic
  by Cosmo
elecuyer wrote:Trains News Wire is reporting that the RDC is going to the Berkshire Scenic Railroad for their Adams-North Adams service.
:O :D !