By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – The Casey Jones Railroad Museum will have extended hours during Watermelon Carnival. The museum, located in the old depot on Main Street, will be open Friday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., according to Curtis Berry, the new curator.
Berry assumed the position after the death of long-time curator Jack Gurner Sr. late last year. The new curator has been involved with the museum as a member of the board of directors since the project began more than 30 years ago.
In 1985 Lions Club members and city officials reached an agreement giving the club a ten-year lease on the deteriorating Illinois Central depot building downtown. Berry and fellow Lions worked to restore the historic depot to preserve the area’s railroad history.
Berry said that the museum has seen a number of improvements and additions to its collection. In 1988, a caboose was obtained from the IC and in 1997, the Yalobusha Economic Development Foundation purchased Bruce Gurner’s railroad memorabilia and installed the collection in the refurbished depot.
Berry has not only been a decision-maker on the museum’s board, but he has also contributed “sweat equity” to the project. He was part of the team that reworked the floor of the refrigerator car so that it could be put on display next to the caboose. And, he has contributed his skills as an electrician to repair and improve the lighting for the exhibits.
The new curator also has plans for the museum’s future. “I want to see the two railroad cars repainted,” he said, referring to the caboose and reefer, which are beginning to show their age. Berry believes the new paint will help preserve the cars and improve the looks of the museum area.
Carnival attendees are invited to come visit the museum and register for a free local history railroad DVD to be given away at the end of the day Saturday. You don’t have to be present to win, Berry noted.