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Mad River Museum, Bellevue

#112 of 264 in Museums in Ohio
Specialty Museum · Museum
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Tucked away just South of downtown Bellevue on a historic plot of land is a wealth of local history which is preserved and presented at the Mad River & NKP Railroad Society Museum.

Located at 253 Southwest Street, this compact yet extensive collection of railroad history began in 1976 as the City’s lasting Bicentennial Project. Starting with one wooden caboose and large dreams, a fledgling group of railroad enthusiasts began building a project that has spanned three decades and grown to become a nationally known and respected institution. The group’s name honors the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad, the first one chartered in Ohio and also the Nickel Plate Road which is the local railroad that placed Bellevue on the map in the late 1880’s when major shops and division point were located here. The site the museum is built on is the former location of Henry Flagler’s mansion. Flagler was one of the major investors of the Standard Oil Company and then went on to develop Florida by building the Florida East Coast Railroad which opened the area for tourist travelers.

The museum collection includes locomotives both steam and diesel, freight and passenger cars, cabooses and unique items such as a “V” blade snow plow, an operational 200 ton wrecker and the first dome passenger car built in the United States. Many of the cars contain displays that interpret various aspects of railroad history. The museum also sports a restored depot, watchman’s tower and Section House.

Making this museum collection unique is the fact that you can climb into the locomotive cabs, sit in the Engineer’s seat or step into the cabooses and see how the early Conductors worked and lived when on the road. A modern passenger coach, sleeper car, dome and dining car portray passenger travel in the late 1940’s-50’s era before the automobile became the preferred travel mode and took the passengers away from the rails.

There is something to interest everyone visiting, from old paper documents regarding the operations of trains to the china and silver settings used on the luxury passenger cars, to track maintenance and how communication has developed from early lamps and hand signals to modern radio communications between crews and dispatchers.

The museum has a three track coach yard for storage of privately-owned rail equipment, a former Lakeshore & Michigan Southern Railroad freight house which now serves as the Society’s offices, a pole barn that covers two tracks for large restorations, and the Monument Station that was formerly a cemetery monument cutting plant that now houses a large collection of displays including two cabooses and a full-size replica of the “Sandusky”, the first locomotive owned by the Mad River and Lake Erie railroad which linked Sandusky and Bellevue.

The Mad River and NKP Railroad Society Inc. was incorporated in Ohio as a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational institution and in fulfilling this mission, the museum conducts many school-tour field trips as well as conducts courses for earning the merit badge for the Boy Scouts of America. The museum is also a major supporter of the nationally known Operation Lifesaver Grade Crossing Safety Educational Program.

In recent years many resources have been spent in preserving and restoring the rolling stock. Display committees also work with the curatorial staff to develop new displays to keep a fresh look on the inside of the equipment and buildings. The Society houses an archives and library for research.

Several events are scheduled throughout the year to raise funds to sustain the collection and preserve the equipment. One of the most popular is the “Dinner in the Diner” events. These full-course meals are prepared by our Executive Chef in an approved kitchen facility and then are served in the dining car by our volunteer staff in the traditional first-class style once so common on the long distance passenger trains. We can accommodate a 48 person seating and each dinner event has a set theme from the hospitality room through the dinner to dessert. These dinners are available to the public and are advertised on the Society website. The museum sponsors other events throughout the year such as our large Annual Collector Car Show and periodic hosting of national conventions of several rail groups.

The museum is located at 253 Southwest Street in Bellevue Ohio while the mailing address is: 233 York Street Bellevue OH 44811-1377. Phone: 419-483-2222.

Information of schedules, admissions, directions and special events can be found at
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37 reviews
  • Went to see Berkshires at Bellevue and get a caboose ride. The admission to the museum was included with the ticket. Arrived early and had an hour and a half to kill. Went into the museum and was... 
    Went to see Berkshires at Bellevue and get a caboose ride. The admission to the museum was included with the ticket. Arrived early and had an hour and a half to kill. Went into the museum and was...  more »
  • This would be a great place to take grand kids or your children. Very interesting. Staff was very friendly. 
    This would be a great place to take grand kids or your children. Very interesting. Staff was very friendly.  more »
  • Not being a real knowledgeable person on trains this place really has something for everyone. All areas are covered from many many years. The displays are very impressive, must see if in the area. Fun for all ages. Glad we went. July 2022
  • A railroad history treasure tucked right in Bellevue, Ohio. Staff was more than friendly and knowledgeable about locomotives and railways from yesteryear. The caboose ride was very enjoyable and thankfully heated. To top it off because of the Christmas season, with admission there were cookies and hot cocoa to enjoy in the old dining car when the caboose ride was complete.

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