Nestled in the heart of St Louis, Missouri, is the National Museum of Transportation, a haven for transportation historians and enthusiasts alike. With an extensive collection of vehicles and artifacts from a by gone era, the museum takes us through a journey of the evolution of transportation.

The National Museum of Transportation

History of the National Museum of Transportation

Founded in 1944 by like-minded citizens to preserve a mule drawn streetcar called “Bellefontaine” as a historical exhibit, the National Museum of Transportation has grown throughout the years.  

The Bellefontaine Streetcar

In 1948, the Transport Museum Association incorporated, and approximately 44 acres was acquired off Barrett Station Road in the Kirkwood area. The Museum has many transportation related exhibits, including vintage cars, and old locomotives.

The St Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation took over the operation of the Museum in 1979, and the Museum has acquired even more historical transportation related items.

Museum Exhibits

This Museum is one of those places you could visit frequently, as there is so much to see, and it would be difficult to see everything in one visit.

There are a couple of exhibits that stand out in my mind from our last visit; Bobby Darin’s “Dream Car”, “Big Boy” 4006 and a section of the Coral Court Motel. Also, the American Flyer Model Train display that was in the window at the Famous and Barr downtown location (now closed) is displayed at the Museum  during the Christmas season.

Bobby Darin’s “Dream Car”

Bobby Darin’s “Dream Car”, a custom designed car designed by a clothing designer, and donated to the National Museum of Transportation in 1970. For those who may not know Bobby Darin was a popular singer and song writer in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Bobby Darin’s “Dream Car”

The “Big Boy” 4006 Locomotive

“Big Boy” 4006 is one of 25 extremely large steam locomotives built by the Union Pacific Railroad. As we understand, there are only two of them running today. There was one that came through the St Louis area a couple of years ago, allowing train enthusiasts to experience the excitement of seeing one of these awesome steam engines up close.  

Photo of the 4006 “Big Boy” Locomotive. (I neglected to take a photo of the actual Locomotive that day.)

Coral Courts Motel

The Coral Courts Motel, which was built in 1941 along a stretch of Route 66, now Watson Road, closed in 1993 after weary travelers no longer traveled along that stretch of Highway 66.

Model Train Display During the Christmas Season

During the Christmas season, the Museum has model train displays, allowing adults and children alike to experience the fun of watching model trains as they journey around the track.

Since my dad was an American Flyer enthusiast and helped with the Famous Barr layout years ago, it is always fun for me to visit the Museum during the Christmas season to see trains running on the same layout.

The American Flyer Model Train layout that used to be in the window of the Downtown Famous Barr.

There are other train displays as well, which are set up and maintained by local volunteers who are model railroaders.

Aside from the attractions mentioned above, the Museum offers a diverse array of exhibits for a broad spectrum of interests. For a list of their collection, you can visit their website here.

Good to Know

The National Museum of Transportation is a non-profit organization and is partially funded by donations.

They are generally open Sunday through Tuesday from 9 am to 4 pm; however, there hours do vary by season, so it is a good idea to check their website for their hours.

They have a snack area and a Visitor Center, both offering items as souvenirs.

There is a small train that runs on the grounds for those who would like to take a ride.

The grounds are expansive, offering an area for vintage vehicles on the lower end, an area for steam locomotives and other locomotives of a bygone era, and a building for vehicles (this is where the car donated by Bobby Darin and the section of the Coral Court are). There are also a couple of airplanes.

It is a good idea to plan on at least two to three hours when visiting; it would be easy to spend a whole day there, depending on your interest level and how much you would like to see.

The National Museum of Transportation is a great place to visit if you enjoy exploring and learning more about a bygone era, where locomotives were king, and vintage cars were our mode of transportation.  

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