Sometime during the 1950’s Irene Lewis began planning to build the Lomita Railroad Museum. The idea for the museum came from a trip Irene took with her friend Arthur Zimmerla to Denver, Colorado. Construction began in 1966 on the railroad museum, and it officially opened in 1967. Built on the very same piece of property as Little Engines and the Lewis’ home, the museum is a replica of the Boston and Maine Greenwood Depot in Wakefield, Massachusetts.
Throughout the years Irene personally collected and received donations of numerous railroad-related artifacts. The 1902 Baldwin steam locomotive was soon to be scrapped on Terminal Island until Irene purchased it. The locomotive combined with the empty tender weighs 216,000 pounds, and would be fueled with oil. The 1910 Union Pacific caboose which sits adjacent to the steam locomotive had been donated to Irene by Union Pacific. It was presented to her as a Christmas gift. Union Pacific even took the time to wrap it in a giant red bow.
The caboose is equipped with beds, a potbelly stove, ice-box, conductor’s desk, washing and drinking water containers, a sink, and a toilet. The museum also houses a 1913 wooden box car, a 1923 Union Oil tanker car, a Santa Fe caboose, and a velocipede handcar. The velocipede, in particular, was built in 1881 for the Maine Central Railroad. Its purpose was for track inspections, track maintenance, and short distance travel for crew members. It is constructed almost entirely out of wood. Furthermore, the velocipede was restored three years ago by a group of volunteers.
The interior gallery displays countless railroading artifacts, and is designed to model an authentic Victorian-era train station. There is a waiting bench, schedule board, and ticket office. Many of the artifacts include lanterns, markers lights, diningcar dinner and silverware, pocket watches, uniform buttons, whistles, and much more. There is also a Western Pacific Railroad brakeman’s uniform on display in the gallery. The uniform was acquired only a few years ago and put on display in January 2013.
Unfortunately, Irene Lewis passed away on January 9, 1990; however, her dream of building a museum in honor of her husband, Martin Lewis, and the golden age of steam power continues to live on. Currently, the museum staff is guiding tours, researching artifacts, informing visitors on interesting railroading facts and figures, and organizing museum special events. With the support of museum staff, the Lomita Railroad Museum Foundation, the City of Lomita, dozens of local businesses and organizations, volunteers, and visitors the Lomita Railroad Museum has become a historical treasure both regionally and nationally.