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Right on track

Railroad museum hosts open house
The docents of the Ennis Railroad and Cultural Heritage Museum hosted a free open-house program in conjunction with Tuesday’s Lights of Ennis Christmas Parade.
Called “Coffee in the Caboose,” the program kicked off at 6:30 p.m., with an unveiling of a new model train set soon to be on display. This set, laid out in a winter wonderland theme, was designed by Mike Cox and Rick Reeve.
The museum, situated on the site of the original Ennis Depot, has a special mascot in Bill Martz. Outfitted as a conductor complete with vest and cap, he has operated the gift shop and directed public and private tours at the facility for eight years. Nita Bozek of the Ennis Heritage Society ably assists Martz. She, too, has been employed as a museum guide since 1998.
“I used to just sit behind my counter,” Martz said. “But I couldn’t help showing people around and talking about trains.”
Opened in 1991, the museum occupies the former Van Noy Restaurant. Built in 1915, the café served passengers from the more than 10 trains that once stopped at the Ennis Depot between 1892 and 1932. Among famous passengers known to have stopped at the Ennis depot in its heyday are dancer Ginger Rogers as a toddler and Franklin D. Roosevelt during his initial campaign for the presidency.
Some of the original surrounding structures no longer exist, including the two-story building containing the superintendent’s office, but the former Wells Fargo freight post next door has been preserved and today houses the Ennis Convention and Visitors Bureau. The wood-framed building located to the north of the museum was once the ticket office and a pick-up point for passengers’ baggage. A caboose is also on site for tourists to walk through.
Though no passengers board or disembark trains in Ennis anymore, the engineers of the freight lines that pass through the once bustling depot keep an eye out for Martz who never fails to step out on the empty platform and wave.
“If I’ve got visitors in the museum,” he said. “I always take them out when a train goes by, and the engineers whistle and signal to us.”
Among items on display at the museum is an extensive model set of the Ennis rail yard as it appeared in 1948, a large collection of model trains donated by James C. Moore of Richardson, and a group of antique dining car china, the earliest examples dating to the 1920s.
Historic pictures and memorabilia of the engineers, brakemen, cooks and porters who were employed at the Ennis station by the Southern Pacific Railroad are on view throughout the museum, as are other pictures and documents of early Ennis history. An 1870s Library of Congress map of Texas was donated by Representative Martin Frost, and there is a special rotating exhibit of Czech dolls in polka costume. There is also an extraordinary exhibit of cut glass donated by the late Ella Novy.
Recently on view, in honor of Veterans Day, were the personal possessions of Ennis servicemen Dooney Pierce and Joe Crow, who lost their lives in World War II’s infamous Battle of Iwo Jima.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the museum is its strikingly authentic vignette setting of a circa 1905 depot office equipped with vintage telegraph and telephone systems, typewriters, even a wood-burning stove. The most unexpected item on view is a 1910 film projector, salvaged from one of the many theatres that flourished in Ennis during silent-movie days.
The Ennis Railroad and Cultural Heritage Museum is located at 105 N.E. Main St. For more information call 972-875-1901.

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Posted by on Nov 30 2006. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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