The Martin & Frances Lehnis Railroad Museum became a reality in 2007, as a result of several years' work done by people both in Brownwood and in the railroad community. Martin & Frances Lehnis had a farm east of Early, Texas for many years, where they raised their son and collected thousands of railroad artifacts. Martin ("Buster") had worked for the Santa Fe railroad just 2 months shy of 50 years. Upon his retirement, he switched from full-scale railroading to model railroading. Martin & Frances even went so far as to build their own 7 1/2" gauge railroad on their farm, giving rides to kids over the years.
As they grew older, they began planning out what to do with their massive collection of historic railroad artifacts- including a 1931 Santa Fe Caboose, 1929 Pullman Superintendent's Car, and Kress Depot. The railroad community feared the collection would be sent all over the country. William Osborn an attorney in Austin, a rail fan and collector, helped the Lehnises form a contract with the City of Brownwood. The donated collection would help in establishing a transportation museum.
Unfortunately, Frances passed in November 2004 and Martin shortly after in February 2005; neither of them ever saw the completion of the museum. TXDOT approved a grant to build the museum and the City of Brownwood supplied the matching funds. After the contract was completed, Mary Irving, Curator of the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum, worked on the Lehnis collection for three years. She was then hired on at the newly built Martin & Frances Lehnis Railroad Museum as the full time Curator.
After several months of preparation of exhibits, the museum opened its doors to the public on September 14, 2007 during Brownwood's Reunion Celebration. The museum's exhibits are a result of the City of Brownwood's support, the amazing talents of volunteers from all over the country, and donations from members of our community. The museum continues to grow and flourish from the efforts of so many, and is truly a museum that volunteers built.
The mission of the Martin & Frances Lehnis Railroad Museum is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and educate the public about the role of Brownwood, Texas in the railroad history of Texas and that of the American Southwest.