The planned expansion of the Cleburne Railroad Museum will increase the facility’s overall area to 5,000 square feet of which about 3,400 square feet will be usable by the public, Cleburne Director of Parks and Recreation Aaron Dobson said. The current museum has about 1,000 square feet of public-use space. Plans call for making use of an adjacent building also owned by the city.

Dobson delivered an update on the renovation’s progress during Tuesday’s meeting of the Cleburne City Council.

Dobson included proposed floor plans, which include a model train area, a lobby and library area, an exhibit area and a multi-purpose room to be used for classes, meetings, presentations and exhibit overflow.

Estimated renovation construction costs total $447,939, Dobson said, which includes a 5 percent contingency fee. That cost, he said, covers interior design and expansion of the current facility.

“But the steering committee also discussed the museum’s front facade,” Dobson said. “We’re putting a lot of investment into the interior of the museum to make it a larger, nicer building. But we’re not really doing anything with the museum’s exterior.”

Dobson described the museum’s current facade as nice if rather generic.

“It gets lost within the shuffle of other downtown buildings,” Dobson said.

RPGA Design Group, the architects working on the expansion, came up with a design for the museum’s front with an estimated cost of $15,504, which Dobson said will be taken to Cleburne’s 4B Economic Development Corporation and ultimately council for inclusion in next year’s city budget.

“For inspiration, the architects looked at boxcars because those are synonymous with trains,” Dobson said.

The new facade, if approved will feature 24-inch letters across the top front of the building reading Cleburne Railroad Museum and will otherwise resemble a classic boxcar with windows added that will showcase renditions of a classic railroad depot and of Engine No. 3417. 

The latter being the classic locomotive engine that has long served as the focal point of Hulen Park. Area railroad enthusiasts recently raised funds to renovate and repaint the engine.

“The Railroad Expansion Steering Committee likes the proposed new signage,” Dobson said. “And the other proposed changes, which will bring attention to the museum’s front facade and call you to come inside and see what the museum’s about.”

4B and council members will also have to vote on funding furniture and various equipment purchases for the museum once the renovations near completion, Dobson said.

Committee members earlier this month reviewed and approved RPGA’s final plans for interior renovation and expansion, Dobson said.

Next up is  going out to bids for a general contractor to oversee renovations. 

“The plan is to begin construction in October with hopes of completion by July or August next year,” Dobson said.

The museum, which details the impact of the railroad on Cleburne and Johnson County and elsewhere, is one of several 4B quality-of-life projects approved by voters in 2002. The museum, at 206 N. Main St., is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free.

Linda Burt Wallace, a member of the steering committee, thanked council members and all involved for their support of the museum and its upcoming expansion.

“[RPGA’s] renderings reflect well Cleburne’s history as a railroad town from its humble beginnings to the present,” Wallace said. “The museum continues to be a popular place for young and old.”

Wallace thanked as well Dobson and Layland Museum Manager Stephanie Montero, who also oversees the railroad museum.

“Dobson for his support of improving the railroad museum and the improvements to Engine No. 3417, which sits so pretty at Hulen Park with its new paint job. But also for his overall vision and leadership in recreation and realization that our parks tell a huge tale of our pride in the city.

“As for Stephanie Montero, she wears many hats and wears them well. We are fortunate to have her in Cleburne and in our museum system.”

Cleburne Mayor Pro Tem Chris Boedeker in turn praised Wallace.

“These projects don’t happen without citizen involvement from people like you,” Boedeker said.

Boedeker, acting in place of Mayor Scott Cain who was absent, also declared Aug. 7 at Cleburne Purple Heart Medal Recipients’ Day of Honor and urged residents to wear purple ribbons that day in support of veterans.

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