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Interurban Railway Musuem, Plano

4.5
#8 of 16 in Things to do in Plano
The Plano Conservancy for Historic Preservation, Inc., along with the City of Plano, maintains the Interurban Railway Museum and has implemented projects to improve the exhibits at the museum.

The City of Plano owns the museum. The Plano Conservancy for Historic Preservation, Inc. staffs, operates and offices there and has been instrumental in developing and maintaining the museum and its exhibits.

INTERURBAN HISTORY

If you were fortunate enough to live in Plano between 1908 and 1948, then you most likely had an opportunity to experience the rollicking, clickity clack sway of riding on a Texas Electric Railway Interurban Car. This second generation of rail transportation extended from Denison to Waco, with connections to Fort Worth, Cleburne, and Denton possible through the “hub” station in Dallas.

Rail transportation powered by steam first arrived in Plano in 1872 and forever changed the agrarian lifestyle of early settlers who had traveled to this area by covered wagon. While steam engines guaranteed the survival and likelihood of growth to a community and transported farm crops to distant locations, the laborious process of producing enough steam to drive the train forward limited the frequency of stops along a line. In the late 1880′s ingenious inventors discovered the wonder of electricity and devised ways to harness this marvel into driving trolley cars previously drawn by mules or horses.

ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE

Entrepreneurs, capitalizing on ways to market this new transportation, developed systems throughout the United States that connected small towns and outlying farms to a large, regional city. Overnight, farming families isolated from society by distance had easy and affordable access to opportunities and amenities available to urban populations.

Located in downtown Plano, the Texas Electric Railway Station served as an early form of the Internet bringing people, goods, newspapers with worldwide coverage, and traveling salesmen together in a timely fashion. A contract signed with the United States Post Office in 1914 permitted mail to be carried and delivered to the many towns along the line via the Texas Electric Railway System. Three interurban cars were refitted with bins, sorting tables, mail slots and cancellation stamps enabling two postal employees, in a secured rear compartment, to process mail as the car traveled north and south on its daily schedule.

CONNECTING PAST TO PRESENT

The Interurban building in Plano was also an electric sub-station that converted the high voltage alternating current to direct current in order to power the line. This is the only remaining sub-station example on the Interurban line, which served as a primary stop on the Texas Electric Railway, linking Denison and Dallas beginning in 1908. The Interurban’s impact on rural life was dramatic as it ended the isolation of distant farm families. Not only did it bring the mail, salesmen and new products to small towns and their stores, but it gave rural residents a means to explore the bright lights and big city cheaply and safely. Trains ran hourly from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

The advent of the automobile contributed to the closing of the Plano station on December 31, 1948, when the Denison to Dallas Interurban made its last run. The building was used in a variety of ways until 1982. It was then closed until 1990, when a complete restoration of the building was completed by the City of Plano. The dedication of this Texas Historical Landmark was held on June 17, 1991 and was opened to the public as a museum.
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Interurban Railway Musuem Reviews
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48 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • Great little museum about the old electric railway in Dallas. A docent will take you inside the restored car. There are some interactive exhibit areas inside that are great for kids. It's also right n...  more »
  • It is okay, not much here but then again it is free. Nice trolley car to look in, but there is only one, If you are in the area go see it, don't make a special trip.  more »
  • If you want a small train museum experience, this a good place to go. The focus is, of course, on the vintage local Inter-urban system (now defunct) and you actually get to hang out in one of the old ...  more »
Google
  • My wife, son (8) and I went to the museum as we enjoy transportation related activities. As we walked in, an older woman with an accent told us to sign the book. (This was our greeting as we were the only people in the lobby) she gave us a brief history on the lobby area. We went into the main area which was a very interactive . Several buttons and switches for kids to press. An older gentleman came out as we looked around. His interpersonal skills were lacking. While I tried to explain things in a manner our 8 year old son could understand, he pipes up explaining how the system works on a level far higher than my son could understand. My son moved to a panel with several push buttons. He began to do what most kids do, press the buttons. He yelled over for our son to stop pushing the buttons since the tv monitor was not turned on. (The museum had been open for 25 minutes now.) We told the man our son didn't know. After the tv came on he said he could press botton #2. We had no interest in this activity now. There was a nice miniture rail road with 2 trains. He had the female turn the only working train on complaining there was a Boy Scout Troop there earlier. We decided we wanted to go outside and look at the train car. He stated he needed more people for the tour. While he rounded up other guests, our son was playing on an interactive station where you plug in Jack's to different outlets. We started to go to the outside train as he yells to our son to unplug the jack. (As if he was supposed to know this.) By this time we had no desire to be around this man made us feel more of a burden than guest. We went to the playground next door where our son had a great experience. I guess I can't complain, the place was free.
  • My wife and I are here visiting from Canada and were very impressed by the museum. It was much more than we expected. Quite apart from the restored railcar, the displays were interesting and informative, not just about the inter-urban rail system, but the history of this area. The interactive displays about electricity are perfect for children. We would certainly recommend it to anyone.
  • “Small but great local museum” Basically located in the park, adjacent to the DART line, this is a great little museum. You can tour an old trolley outside and play with some electrical gadgets inside. I liked it a whole lot. Great place to learn about local history.
  • “Local History Made Real” Visited with friends on a Saturday afternoon. There were two docents there who greeted us and toured us through the displays and the railroad car. Very interesting and informative.
  • Our entire family really enjoyed the current Tesla exhibit and the model train indoors. It was pretty warm in the restored train outside, but definitely worth the time. The staff were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. We will definitely be back!

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