The Wheaton Historical Society will hold a grand opening celebration at the Wheaton Depot Museum from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on July 11. The event will be held in conjunction with the annual Wheaton Barbecue.
"We have added items from former Wheaton businesses, school photos, furnishings pertaining to the railroad and a large collection of Wheaton photos," said Betty Lamberson, museum acquisitions. "We are in the process of installing the brick Memory Walk on the grounds and hope to have it finished in time for the barbecue."
Historical society members have been building and installing display cases inside the recently restored depot since February. The display cases will feature three railroad collections, which have been loaned to the museum.
"Jerry McMillen has loaned us his handsome model of Missouri and North Arkansas steam locomotive #50, which would have come through Wheaton during the 1940s," said Lamberson. "We also have on display a general railroad collection belonging to Leroy Sligar, formerly of Purdy."
Sligar's collection features several tools that were used in railroad construction and maintenance and a variety of dining car items, such as time schedules, signal lanterns and an impulse clock.
"Another collector, Jeff Cooney, has loaned us items specific to the Missouri and North Arkansas line," said Lamberson. "The railroad had a 385-mile run from Joplin to Helena, Ark., which went through Wheaton until it closed in 1947. His items are rather rare."
Cooney's collection includes: railroad lanterns that feature the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad logo; a spittoon; postcards from area depots; ticket validators used in Joplin and Green Forest, Ark.; railroad passes; schedules; and a large photo album of Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad steam engines.
"Railroad historians Jim Wakefield and Tim Kubat, who regularly contribute to the railroad museum in Harrison, Ark., have shared with us many photos and much history of the Missouri and Arkansas line, including a sizable collection of photos of cabooses used by the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad," said Lamberson. "Those photos will be a great help in painting and restoring a caboose that will be placed on the grounds later this year."
Individuals who tour the new museum will also have the opportunity to support the Wheaton' Historical Society's efforts to relocate a caboose from Joplin to the depot lot. Tickets for a 50/50 drawing, which will benefit the Move The Caboose Fund, will be available during the grand opening event.
"Members of the historical society will be available all day during the barbecue to show people through the depot and answer questions," said Lamberson. "We will also have a booth set up (in the park) to sell Memory bricks and tickets for the fundraiser."
Funds raised through the sale of Memory bricks will help the historical society purchase and install a heat and air conditioning system at the depot.
"We have not established regular museum hours, as yet, because it is very hot in the depot," said Lamberson. "We are, however, open any time by appointment.
"Our museum will be staffed by volunteers," said Lamberson. "We are looking for people who would like to help us one day per month or one day per week."
To schedule a private tour or to serve as a museum volunteer, call 417-652-7488 or 417-652-0076.
"We are looking for others who would like to share their collections with us on a monthly rotating basis, not just railroad items but other types of collections that are of interest," said Lamberson. "We want to keep our museum fresh with something new to look at all the time."
For more information or to discuss the loan of a collection, call Lamberson at 417-652-7488.