We have had a number of people tell us the Saint Louis Museum of Transportation is not to be missed and is wonderful. We have seen a couple of the cars in the Museum previously and were very impressed. The first was the Chrysler Turbine car and the other was the Bobby Darin car. Katrina and I had seriously discussed making a special weekend trip from our home south of Nashville over to Saint Louis just to visit the Museum. Fortunately, we never did.
Recently, Katrina had a judging assignment for a major dog show in Saint Louis so we decided to take an extra day and visit the Museum of Transportation. We recognized that since it was a museum of transportation it would contain more than automobiles. That is ok since we like trucks, buses, trains, airplanes and even stage coaches. We expected to find a large variety of each with an emphasis on the older models of each.
When we arrived at the Museum we were not sure where we were supposed to go but another visitor who had been there many times before with his young son helped us find our way. He even had a Groupon for four and two of his guests didn’t show so we split the cost with him and got in at a big discount. Once we were inside the main building we were again at a loss as were to go next. We asked the ticket lady and she directed us out to the tram. We boarded the tram and traveled about 300′ up a slight hill and we were at our destination but again we were at a loss as to what was where etc.
We asked where the car museum was and was told it was the building in front of us. We went in and there greeting us was the 1960 DiDia Bobby Daring car and just across the isle was the Chrysler Turbine car. It was a rather small room but did contain some other cars plus a four cylinder Pierce-Arrow Motor Cycle from 1912. We moved on to a couple of smaller rooms and we were done! The two cars we had previously seen were the major draws for the auto museum. The lighting was poor and the attendants were of little help. The overall impression of the auto display was one of sub-par standards and out dated for today’s museums.
Unless you have never seen the two cars I mentioned and they are on your bucket list of must sees don’t bother going to this museum to see the cars.
As advertised, this is a museum of transportation so we moved on to see the other modes that we expected. Again we were let down. We saw one airplane and one bus. The plane was interesting but the bus could have been an older city bus dropping off passengers at the museum.
The big draw for the Saint Louis Museum of Transportation is for the trains. They have lots and lots of trains. Your will see some very unusual examples but the method of display leaves a lot to be desired. There is no clear walking path with a beginning or destination. The trains are parked so close together it is difficult if not impossible to see some of them in total. The condition of the trains appears to be that when they were taken out of service they sat in a train junk yard for a decade and were then moved to the Museum. The locomotives were impressive but the passenger cars were poorly presented.
We were done in approximately two hours and would have been just as happy doing something else. We encountered other visitors who would ask us where they should go and what is there to see (after having paid for admission). This is without question the poorest layout of a museum facility I have ever seen and the quality of the exhibits were nearly as bad. There is fantastic potential for such a museum and they have a good starting point. The museum board of directors need a modern re-think on who they are; how they display their exhibits; and how they can help their visitors navigate the facility. If they are to truly be a Museum of Transportation they need to start from the beginning and take their visitors up to the present day in each mode of transportation. We expected to see a much wider variation of automobiles; early buses and airplanes; vintage stage coaches and trains as well as high speed trains of today. Of course it would be cost prohibitive to acquire all of these exhibits at once but over time why not. In the interim a well done 15 to 30 minute video would be educational and entertaining for adults and children and would add greatly to the entire experience. They did have one basic home style model train layout but a more elaborate display would be more appropriate. Why not similar displays for the other modes of transportation?
We usually leave such museums talking about our favorite car(s) but when we left the Saint Louis Museum of Transportation all we talked about is how grateful we were we didn’t make a special six hour drive over to see the Museum.