The Texas Railroading Heritage Museum had been slated to relocate to Tomball since 2015 when city council members then approved a contract with the Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society to relocate its museum to Tomball, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.
"They no longer consider this a viable project," City Manager Rob Hauck said during the Aug. 3 meeting. "They are incredibly appreciative of the city of Tomball and the work we have done to try and make this a reality, from purchasing property to platting to working with the county for engineering and so on. But they've come to the determination that it is just simply not a viable project."
Hauck said he received the request to terminate the agreement from Bill Capdevielle, president of the board of directors for the proposed museum.
"Their focus is going to be on saving their rail cars. They said that at a future date they're going to still possibly consider a museum somewhere, but right now they just don't see that it's appropriate for us to continue in an agreement," Hauck said.
Community Impact Newspaper previously reported the museum would feature 23,000 square feet of covered track displaying vintage rail cars owned by the Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society as well as a two-story museum and education building, and a rail car maintenance shop, totaling $10 million in three phases. Relocating the rail cars alone was expected to be about a $2.5 million effort, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.
In July 2019, council members authorized the Tomball Economic Development Corp. to provide the museum a $10,000 grant for marketing assistance to help the museum get started.
In a July 23 letter to the city, Capdeveille said the Texas Railroading Heritage Museum board of directors "regrettably" decided it must terminate the land lease and development agreement with the city of Tomball.
"This was a very difficult decision for all of us as we all love Tomball and several of us are regular volunteers at The Depot," Capdeveille wrote. "The circumstances we considered were, to a large part, the many detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Capdeveille wrote that the organization has been unable to raise the $3.5 million for the first phase of construction in Tomball and has limited funds to continue paying for the storage of its rail cars.
"Before we run out of funds to pay our existing lease payments we need to explore other options," he wrote.
Hauck said city staff have shared some ideas for what to do with the piece of city-owned property—previously slated for the museum's home—including creating additional parking for festivals and events or expanding The Depot area. However, staff have not given another use for the property much consideration because council's vote on whether to terminate the agreement was still unknown.