Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Moveable Feast Couple Who Helped Start Transportation Museum to Be Honored

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Moveable Feast Couple Who Helped Start Transportation Museum to Be Honored

Article excerpt

It all began not long after D-Day in 1944, when eight young transportation enthusiasts learned that the old St. Louis Public Service Co., a predecessor of today's Bi-State Development Agency, was about to scrap an 1880-era mule-drawn streetcar.

The small number of historic preservationists were also aware that the Missouri Pacific Railroad had just abandoned use of the Barretts tunnels in Kirkwood along the St. Louis-Kansas City rail route.

Driven by a trainload of interest and enthusiasm, the group successfully proposed to acquire and save the streetcar, known as the "Bellefontaine No. 33."

After the war, the group incorporated as the not-for-profit St. Louis Railway Historical Society and leased the Barretts tunnels with 17 adjacent acres from the railroad for a permanent site for Bellefontaine as well as a quickly growing collection of other vehicles. Within two years, they had acquired eight streetcars, two locomotives, two buses and a wooden railroad derrick.

The collection eventually was organized into a museum. Today, The National Museum of Transportation, 3015 Barrett Station Road, occupies 128 acres and draws 100,000 visitors a year. Keeping it going are a paid staff and a large number of volunteers, members and supporters. In the 1980s, the museum was absorbed by the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation, which has futuristic plans extending into the next century if funds are available.

Dr. John Roberts, a St. Louis physician with a passion for transportation, and his late wife, Mary, were two of the original group. In 1950, to guard against vandalism in the then-isolated rural setting, they moved into a railcar on the site and, in 1953, moved into a nearby house on Barrett Station Road where they lived until Mary's death in 1978. For several more years, Roberts continued the role of protecting, developing and operating the museum.

The key activity of the 10-day celebration will be Saturday's noontime dedication of a protective shed that will be named in honor of the Robertses. Admission will be free that day. Roberts, who has been in ill health recently, is expected to be on hand for the dedication. …

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