The tours were discontinued in mid-March when the museum closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic. The museum’s collection ranges from freight and passenger cars to steam and diesel locomotives. CEO Bob LaPrelle said the response to restarting the walking tours, which have limited capacity, has been encouraging.
“We had a number of people come last week and then on Saturday [as well],” LaPrelle said. “We're just taking [reopening] easy.”
He said visitors can book a spot on the museum’s website for one of the tours, which are offered Wednesdays through Saturdays.
The tours are overseen by Director of Programs John Garbutt and museum volunteers.
“John has just been like a horse in the starting gate the last couple of weeks—he’s really wanted to get back into it,” LaPrelle said. “He's done a lot of preparations [and] done a lot of things to smooth out the process [and] be clean and healthy throughout the way.”
LaPrelle said the organization’s volunteer workforce has been just as excited about the museum reopening as its regular patrons.
“Really, opening back up sort of depended on the availability of our volunteer workforce,” he said. “We've had a good turnout from those folks.”
The museum’s indoor exhibit, TrainTopia, will remain closed for the time being, but LaPrelle said he and his staff are looking to reopen it in the coming weeks.
While its doors were closed to the public, LaPrelle said museum staff created some online educational outreach videos. Those have offered details on various pieces in the collection as well as some of the cultural history behind the items. The latest of those videos, “A Slice of Chicago in Texas—A History of the Metra Highliner Cars” made its debut earlier this week.
The museum also resumed construction at its 15-acre facility last month to add infrastructure for future exhibit tracks.
“That’s exciting,” LaPrelle said. “We have been working with local Frisco contractors.”
The local contractors, including FCS Construction, Vulcan Materials, and Prime Transportation, are working to install more than 2,700 feet of road bed. The project is slated to be completed this summer.