By MELINDA WILLIAMS
It was a dream many felt would never materialize, but the Raymond F. Ratcliffe Memorial Transportation Museum, “The Ratcliffe,” finally has a home to call its own.
The town of Pulaski will officially dedicate and open the museum to the public in a special ceremony to be held Saturday, May 4, at 11 a.m. The museum is across from Pulaski Train Station and next to Maple Shade Shopping Center on S. Washington Avenue.
The museum has come a long way since it’s beginnings in the basement of Pulaski Municipal Building.
According to Pulaski Economic Development Director John White, the museum grew out of late Mayor Raymond Ratcliffe’s dream to create a town museum. He, unfortunately, never got to see that dream come to fruition, but members of his family will be on hand Saturday to see his dream realized.
White said Pulaski Town Council established the museum shortly after Ratcliffe’s death as a memorial tribute to his years of service to the town. It was housed in the Municipal Building until 1994, when it moved into the newly restored train station. There it stayed until that fateful day in November 2008 when fire heavily damaged the train station and destroyed many items on display in the museum.
Some of the photographs and other items that were salvaged from the train station have been restored and will once again be on display.
As they walk thorough the front door, visitors will be taken on a self-guided tour of the town’s history, told through photos, storyboards and three-dimensional objects that have survived the test of time – or an occasional fire.
They will learn how transportation and commerce gave birth to Pulaski and grew it into a boomtown; they’ll see the ups and downs that have impacted the community over the years and find out how Pulaski has always persevered; and they will learn the role fire has played in shaping the town.
The town’s historic fire trucks have been freshly shined and will be on display in the museum.
But perhaps most importantly, this grand opening will give many their first opportunity to see the highly touted diorama Dr. Milton Brockmeyer, Willie Ryan, and other of his friends built by hand in the doctor’s basement. The very large and impressive display depicts 1950s downtown Pulaski and also features a rare “O” gauge model train set that is expected to draw train enthusiasts from near and far.
It was Brockmeyer’s dream to have the diorama on display for everyone to see and, while he didn’t live to see it in its new home, members of his family also will be present for the official unveiling.
White said Saturday’s ceremony will not be “a really formal” affair. It will include brief comments by Ratcliffe’s grandson, Ty Kirkner; Brockmeyer’s son, Wally; Dr. Jeff Miller with the Southbound Model Railroaders Inc. that moved and restored the diorama, and Mayor Jeff Worrell.
Refreshments will be served on the museum porch.
“It’s really just time for people to enjoy the museum,” White said of the event.
The museum will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free throughout the weekend.