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Home : News : Features : Display
NEWS | Jan. 28, 2014

Horse-drawn to horsepower: Trans. Museum shares history

By Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Fort Eustis' transportation mission history runs deep. Since the formation of the now-removed Transportation School in 1943, the post has been a leader in transportation initiatives, innovations and mission tempo.

All of Fort Eustis' transportation history, and that of the whole U.S. Army, can be found in a quiet, unassuming building surrounded by the creations of those same innovators in years past: the U.S. Army Transportation Museum.

The museum contains transportation artifacts from the beginning of the Army, a library for research on all things transportation , guided tours, a gift shop and a room able to fit 50 people full of historic transportation pieces, which serve to educate and enlighten members of the Fort Eustis community.

"Before the end of this year, we hope to cover all topics of our history from the Revolutionary War all the way until today," said Matt Fraas, Transportation Museum education specialist. "It is vital to have a comprehensive historical resource so future Soldiers can learn from the lessons of their ancestors, and maybe discover a thing or two."

The museum exhibits progress chronologically through the building, beginning with the Revolutionary War and ending with Operation Enduring Freedom, which is currently under construction. Since history is ongoing, the museum constantly acquires new items for display, and updating their look.

"We have two new [mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles] on their way here, in addition to two tanks for one of our carrier aircraft displays," said Fraas. "We are also constantly changing the backdrops and effects on our exhibits to give viewers the best experience possible."

Outside exhibits also highlight some larger equipment, such as airplanes, large track vehicles and trains. Most importantly, nearly every piece of equipment, from the jacket buttons to the railcars in the yard, was donated, and some were even employed in the field.

"We receive most of our items from donations either within the Army or from personal collectors," said Fraas. "The generosity of our donators and the diligent work of our researchers brought in the extensive collection we have."

Information on each piece and the missions they performed isn't far away either. The museum has an entire library dedicated to the history of transportation, from mission statements to equipment manifests.

"The library is free to use those willing to learn," said Fraas. "We offer newspaper articles, training manuals and instructional videos. You name it, we have it."

Users may peruse the library during normal operating hours, but no items can leave the library.

If the library and exhibits seem daunting, Fraas said not to worry, they can help.

"We offer free guided tours at request to any group," explained Fraas. "We go through each major conflict in America's history, focusing on the Army transportation's role."

Fraaz said he also offers educational programs, and will bring knowledge outside of the museum into the community through school visitations. He believes understanding the history of Army transportation shouldn't be a lecture-heavy experience, but rather an adventure, discovering how Soldiers of the past have the same ingenuity he sees today.

"For decades, Fort Eustis has been home to transportation," said Fraas. "Whether I see a child smile at a big exhibit saying 'Train, train!' or I see a Soldier relating to the trials of his ancestors, I know our museum has done its job, and I know someone learned an important piece of history."