Transportation museum to open in old depot this week

VICKSBURG — Vicksburg’s long-awaited transportation museum will open Friday in the former depot of the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad.

Lamar Roberts, the museum director, tells the Vicksburg Post Friday’s “soft opening” is in advance of the scheduled grand opening July 15.

Roberts says admission fees will be reduced during the first month since some of the museum’s exhibits and items are still being set up.

The museum will feature models of 250 ships and boats, 175 cars dating to the early 1900s and six airplanes, plus model trains and original oil paintings of Civil War ships and river battles.

Many of the items displayed are on loan from Roberts’ personal collection.

The Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Depot was built in 1907 and renovated in 1977 and 2010-11.

The museum comprises the first floor and about half the second, which it shares with the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Vicksburg Main Street Program offices are on the third floor.

On the ground floor, a gift shop opens into a room devoted to river transportation.

The ground floor also houses a Civil War room, its centerpiece is a Vicksburg battle and siege diorama with 2,300 human figures plus horses, cannon and fortifications placed to depict Union and Confederate positions. Ship models and paintings also illustrate the 1862-63 action on the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers.

Upstairs, glass cases display about 50 vessels named for Mississippians, including the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier.

A sidewalk will connect the depot to the neighboring MV Mississippi IV, the centerpiece of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Lower Mississippi River Museum and Riverfront Interpretive Center, which will have a functioning replica of the Mississippi River. The Corps has targeted an opening date of August 2012 for the interpretive museum.

“With the corps’ museum, The Old Depot Museum, the mural wall, the water park and the miniature river model, when we get somebody down in this area they are going to spend four or five hours,” Roberts said. “Then they’ll go up to Washington Street to shop and eat, and two blocks up to the Old Courthouse Museum — we will generate a whole tourist area right here.”

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