The National Museum of Transportation, in West St. Louis County, MO, houses what has been recognized as one of the largest and best collections of transportation vehicles in the world. The Museum was founded in 1944 by a group of historically minded citizens who had acquired the mule-drawn streetcar Bellefontaine. In 1948, the Transport Museum Association (TMA) incorporated as a non-profit educational organization to better serve the financial and volunteer needs of the Museum. Land was acquired at Barretts Station in St. Louis County, along the right-of-way of the historic Missouri Pacific Railroad, and over the years, the mule-drawn streetcar was joined by hundreds of other significant exhibits. On September 1, 1979, the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation formally assumed the operation and development of the Museum, accepting it as a gift from the original founders in February 1984. Today, its mission is to be the leader in protecting and interpreting North America's transportation heritage.
Located on 129 acres, the Museum is approximately 16 miles southwest of downtown St. Louis, on a site which includes one of the two first man-made railroad tunnels west of the Mississippi River. The Museum site also features more than four miles of switching and exhibition track, and its 10 buildings include a nationally acclaimed research library of transportation-related memorabilia and documents.
With over 70 locomotives, half of them one-of-a-kind or sole survivors of their type, the Museum has one of the most complete collections of American railroad motive power, and its collections of automobiles, buses, streetcars, aircraft, horse-drawn vehicles, and riverboat materials are constantly expanding to reflect the ever-changing nature of transportation.
The Museum's rail and transit collections have grown to encompass more than 190 major exhibits. These include the mid-1800s Boston & Providence Daniel Nason; Union Pacific #4006 ("Big Boy"), the largest successful steam locomotive ever built; the diminutive Charles H., a small steam engine from Chicago's Lake Street Elevated rapid transit line that was cosmetically restored in 1996 to its original appearance; and the 6,600-hp, two-engine Union Pacific diesel #6944 ("Centennial"), built by General Motors' Electro-Motive Division in 1971. The road vehicle collection of over 200 items includes a 1901 automobile built by the St. Louis Motor Carriage Co. (oldest of only nine such cars known to still be in existence), as well as the only operational Chrysler turbine car on public display.
The Museum readily shares its resources with the community, hosting more than 50,000 school children for educational tours each year. Special weekend events attract new as well as repeat visitors to programs, some of which are general in scope while others focus on particular transportation modes.
Now in its seventh decade of service to the St. Louis region, The National Museum of Transportation is planning for a future which will enable it to expand its service to an even wider audience, including scholars and others who recognize the significance of this unparalleled permanent record of transportation evolution.