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Brownsville railroad museum considers ways to get more visitors aboard

| Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

A quarterly meeting of the Monongahela River, Railroad and Transportation Museum on Wednesday doubled as a networking session at the Brownsville site.

“There is a lot of work yet to be done,” said Ernie Bradmon, president of the 10-year-old museum.

“We can't survive on our own,” said Edward Britt, museum financial officer.

The museum, at 412 Church St., is open on Wednesdays only, or by appointment.

Visitors from as far away as China and as close as Somerset County have stumbled upon or purposely set out to find the museum.

Inside, donated memorabilia documents the National Road, trolley and rail lines, boat-making and the river.

Laying out the museum in an informative and educational manner, making the public aware it exists and cataloguing the many contributions remain elusive goals, Bradmon said.

A $25,000 state Department of Community and Economic Development grant paid for building repairs.

Board members Wednesday said they have applied for a modification to apply the remaining grant money — $9,736 — to exterior improvements and basement lighting.

Former Greene County commissioner Pam Snyder suggested soliciting volunteers.

Snyder, who will succeed Bill DeWeese as the 50th District representative in the state House, said students from nearby California University of Pennsylvania might be one option.

“We have got to publicize the fact that you are here. I would be glad to go to the high school and find out if there is an interest for students to come down here and work with you,” Brownsville Mayor Lester Ward said.

Scott Becker, executive director of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington County, suggested joint marketing efforts with the Brownsville Area Revitalization Corp. and Nemacolin Castle.

In order to attract more families, Becker said, the museum needs to offer interactive exhibits, such as oral history projects and possibly a boat pilot house.

He also recommended members contact the American Alliance of Museums and the American Association for State and Local History as potential resources.

Those attending discussed the use of prison inmates to provide labor.

Inmates from the State Correctional Institution at Greene assisted with recent renovations at the Fayette County Historical Society, housed in the former Abel Colley Tavern in Menallen. Snyder said that option has proven successful with Greene County projects.

Fayette County Commissioner Al Ambrosini said he has encouraged Brodman to apply for grants.

Britt said the museum recently acquired a computer and hopes to have a website and email running soon.

Britt and Bradmon said visitors are fascinated by old employee history books and identification tags.

Those angles could play into what Becker called a “huge interest in genealogy.”

“You have a wonderful museum. You need to organize it,” Becker said.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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