The Southeastern Railway Museum has been designated Georgia’s Official Transportation History Museum. The bill honoring the museum was passed during the 2000 legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Roy Barnes.
Photo left to right, Grice, Dodds, Campbell, Campbell, Harrell, Barnes, Harris, Coleman, McLemore, Estafen, Reed
Attending the signing ceremony were the museum’s three managers, the Atlanta NRHS president, local and state government officials, and representatives from some of the state’s leading corporations, including Norfolk Southern Railway regional vice president Joel Harrell, BellSouth district manager Philip Reed, Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau director Bob Harris, The Gwinnett Foundation executive director, Joe Estafen, State Rep. Brooks Coleman, State Sen. Paul Broun, and Duluth City Administrator Phil McLemore.
While the official designation does not carry any annual state funding, it does raise the museum’s profile as part of the state’s tourism industry.
SRM received the legislative recognition after re-opening on its new 30-acre site in Duluth, Georgia.
State Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), a former educator, shepherded the bill through the House of Representatives during the 1999 session. Sen. Paul Broun (D-Athens), chairman of the Economic Development, Tourism and Cultural Affairs Committee, carried the bill through the Senate process.
Rep. Coleman had become an active supporter of the museumís expansion plans beginning in 1995, when he participated in SRMís ceremonies opening President Warren Hardingís private car, the Superb, to the public. He has long championed the museum as both an educational resource and a draw for both national and international tourists.
The museumís move from its old 12-acre home in 1998 to the current 30-acre site increased its potential for storing archives and for drawing visitors. The new site, a former rail repair facility, contained three three-story metal prefab buildings, two of which already contained tracks. Tracks were added to the third building, which has been renovated to serve as the primary exhibit hall. Two locomotives, one steam and one diesel, two sleepers and two private cars are already on display. Many typical history museum exhibits are on the drawing board; one showing how track maintenance was done ďby handĒ is already in place. SRM previously had no facility for showcasing many of the small items in its collection Ė such as turn of the century track tools, photographs, and ledgers.
The Gwinnett County Convention and Visitors Bureau had accessed the museumís future as a tourist destination. Their study, consistent with others conducted nationwide, shows that visitors who target museums and other educational venues stay longer, spend more, and frequently expand their itineraries to include similar sites.