Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum
While visiting his son on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Helio Valdes was looking for a hobby shop to visit. What he found instead was the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum (MCMRM) in Gulfport, so he paid it a visit.
“I thought I was joining a club,” said Valdes. It turned out that in joining the club, he actually signed up to be a volunteer at the museum. The Gulfport train club runs the museum.
It wound up being a pretty good fit.
“I like playing with trains!” continued Valdez, who spends two or three days a week repairing things on the museum’s many train layouts. “I mostly work on special projects like re-doing a layout or helping fix things.”
He also enjoys meeting people with similar interests in trains. He says that there are a lot of grandparents that bring their families and reminisce about the trains they had when they were kids.
Being a grandparent himself, he adds that he brings his grandchildren to the museum saying “Of course, they love when their Papi drives them in the 7 inch train!”
The story behind the origins of the museum is an interesting one, so we talked with Katherine Sutton, Marketing Director of MCMRM.
Hub: How and when did the museum get started?
Katherine: The museum started in 2015 after the local model railroad club, which had been around for over 20 years, was left homeless with the closing of the Gautier Singing River Mall. It began with one building of displays and a small outside area, and has grown to what it is today. We now have 3 buildings, a large outdoor garden and train area, and just acquired a fourth building – a warehouse type building – across the street.
Hub: What type of events do you hold?
Katherine; Birthdays are a total hit. Kids come in and have access to all the trains and they also get to ride the trains. We have 3 indoor party rooms, Lego builds, and have hands-on activities with Thomas the Train. We have monthly LEGO builds, have done a Thomas the Train day, have had chamber events, and are looking forward to our largest event each year – our Christmas Light Display which is one or of the largest FREE displays on the Coast. Our Christmas Lights start the day after Thanksgiving through the end of the year. The lights are on from 5:00 pm until 9:00 pm.
Hub: How is the museum funded?
Katherine: We are FREE admission and Powered by donations, profits from our Gift Shop, and fundraisers. We’ll be conducting Rail Fest in the new building. Clubs from all over the southeast area and vendors will be there.
Hub: Where do you get the trains?
Katherine: Some came from our members and are their personal collections, some have been donated, and some have been purchased. We LOVE donations, from trains, gardens and LEGOs, we love all donations.
Hub: What are the different scales of the trains you have on display and how many operating layouts?
Katherine: We have 88 running layouts at any given time. We have examples of the smallest T-Scale to G-Scale. We also have riding trains for all ages to enjoy. The latest addition is a swing bridge. There’s also an 85 foot mural hand- painted by local artists.
Hub: What does it take to keep the museum running?
Katherine: Lots of long hours of fixing the trains and maintenance. The decisions are made by the club. There’s a board of directors that meet every month and their plans are executed by a project manager. The current president is Richard Muller, Jr.
Hub: How does someone become a volunteer and what type of jobs do they do?
Katherine: We have a volunteer form. They can read to the children, do train maintenance, build displays, help at the front desk, or help paint murals. We will also need help this Christmas for decorating, singing carols and just welcoming our guests.
Hub: What are the most popular displays?
Katherine: Our outdoor Jurassic Park display is a favorite. One of our original displays is an O-scale in Station 1 that people really enjoy with an interactive circus. And of course our LEGO display of over 2,000,000 pieces is a definite favorite and one of the largest in the State of Mississippi.
Hub: I understand that you have something big scheduled for November?
Katherine: Yes, it’s called Mississippi Railfest. We’ll have over 22,000 square feet of train club displays and vendor displays, plus 20,000 square feet of outdoor trains from Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama. It will be held Saturday, November 9 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sunday, November 10 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. It will be at our new building across the street from the Museum at 615 Pass Road in Gulfport Mississippi.
The museum itself is located at 504 Pass Road.
For further information call (228) 234-4649 or email;MCMRMuseum@gmail.com