Central Florida Railroad Museum - Atlas Obscura

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Central Florida Railroad Museum

Winter Garden, Florida

An unsuspecting brick building outside Orlando houses decades of train ephemera.  

Sponsored by Visit Orlando

Many cities have been shaped by the railroads that brought goods, people, and ideas to and from it. A small brick building on the west side of Orlando houses generations of railroad memorabilia that helps tell the story of how rail travel changed the trajectory of “the City Beautiful.”

Fittingly, the Central Florida Railroad Museum is housed within the former Tavares & Gulf Railroad depot in Winter Garden. The once-abandoned depot (in use until 1913) was purchased by the Central Florida Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in 1979 and restored over four years for a grand opening in 1983. It has been amassing more pieces of the region’s history each year. 

The museum features construction materials like rails and spikes, ticket punches, locomotive bells, and uniforms; and of course rail vehicles like a 1930 Fairmount motorcar and a velocipede hand car. For rail buffs who are really into the nuts and bolts, there are historical mechanisms like interlocking head signals, narrow gauge wheels, and locomotive bells and headlights that were in use throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. On the interactive side, there’s a telegraph desk where visitors can try their skills at sending and receiving messages as well as a hands-on Thomas The Tank Engine layout for young ones. 

While nearly every flat surface is covered in rail memorabilia, the centerpiece of the museum is its collection of railroad dining car China—one of the largest on public display in the country. Most railroads had their own distinct patterns styled into their dining car serviceware, from China plates to silver and glassware. The Central Florida Railroad Museum has 29 different patterns on display representing a dozen different railroads through the United States, a superlative silver and china collection donated by the Root Family of Daytona Beach.

Know Before You Go

This museum is closed Sundays and Mondays.

This post is sponsored by Visit Orlando. Learn more and plan your getaway here.

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