The Chatham Railroad Museum was founded in 1960, following the donation of the vacant depot building and land to the Town of Chatham by Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Cox of Cleveland, Ohio and Chatham, MA.
At the suggestion of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce, a railroad museum was created in the building under the leadership of Mr. Frank Love, a retired New York Central Railroad executive. Mr Love, who became the museum’s first director, canvassed sixty-two American railroad presidents requesting items of interest for the museum.
Over its 50-year existence the museum has continued to collect thousands of railroad artifacts including original and operating Western Union telegraph equipment, lanterns, badges, signs, tools, timetables, menus and passes, promotional literature, original paintings and prints, calendars, a six hundred volume library and a restored 1910 wood sided caboose.
Exhibits include a wide variety of vintage models including those made by Walthers under contract to the New York Central Railroad for use at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and later operated at Grand Central Terminal in NYC. Additional exhibits include an HO diorama of the Chatham Yard, surveyors equipment used to build the Chatham Railroad and brass locomotive bells. The museum building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and received local and state grants during 2009 for a total exterior restoration.
The Chatham Railroad Company
Founded in 1886, the Chatham Railroad Company was chartered to build seven miles of track from the Old Colony Railroad Mainline in Harwich to Chatham along with a yard and three stations. The Honorable Marcellus Eldredge who made a fortune in the brewery business was President of the company.
The track and stations were completed during 1887, with mail, express, lumber, grain, groceries, stone for shore protection, steel for the Naval Air Station, gasoline and lubricants, road asphalt, coal, and electrical material for wiring Chatham shipped in. Mail, express, fresh fish, salted fish, shellfish and cranberries were shipped out.
Four passenger trains a day and a freight train when needed served the needs of Chatham residents and visitors. During 1891, the Chatham Railroad Company served the needs of 22,000 passengers at its two Chatham stations and a flag stop with baggage and express service to the hotels and inns springing up in Chatham and South Chatham.
The Chatham Railroad Company owned no rolling stock but leased its track and stations first to the Old Colony Railroad and then in 1893, to the New York New Haven and Hartford Railroad. Service on the Chatham Railroad ceased in 1937, when highways on Cape Cod were improved enabling better travel over hard surfaced roads. However, the railroad depot in Chatham remained and became the home of the Chatham Railroad Museum.
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