#HomeGrownStories – Marilyn Kosier
Marilyn Kosier, a Lancaster, Ohio ophthalmologist, grew up in Miami County. She lived in Bradford until she was seven years old. In 2002 she started the work that would lead to the creation of the Bradford Ohio Railroad Museum. The idea for the museum came from her dad. While at a Bradford Railroaders basketball game, he mentioned the town needed a museum to celebrate its heritage. The museum is undergoing an exhibit renovation and is excited to offer a new interpretative experience for visitors.
On her connection to Miami County:
I grew up in Miami County. I lived in Bradford until I was seven years old and then we moved to Pleasant Hill. I’ve lived in Lancaster since 1988, but I haven’t lived in Miami County since 1980 when I did an internship in New Jersey. I’m an ophthalmologist in Lancaster. The museum is something that I work on in my spare time and between patients. I’m like a weekend warrior because I’m a full-time physician. This is how I do my philanthropy.
How the Bradford Railroad Museum came to be:
It was my dad’s idea. My nephews went to Bradford High School, they were Bradford Railroaders. We were at my nephew’s’ basketball game and my dad said “You know what Bradford needs? Bradford needs a railroad museum.” That was how this whole thing got started. I started writing letters. In 2002 I met with the Bradford Village Council, the Mayor, and the Miami County Development Office. I presented the idea to them and we started forming a board. We started out meeting at the library.
The first building we acquired was the BF Tower. Local architect, Candace Goodall, helped us with the tower renovations. BF was Bradford Tower’s telegraphic name since it was faster to tap out “BF” than Bradford. It is the only standing railroad building from Bradford’s railroad days. It’s one of the few remaining interlocking towers in the US and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
My dad passed away in 2008. We moved from a little storefront across the street to the bank here in 2006. So he got to see us move to the bank. He saw the potential in what we were doing.
When we moved it still looked very much like a bank. I brought Candace to see the museum. She peeked through the pull-down attic stairs and saw these beautiful ceilings. It was her idea to take down the false ceilings and make a mezzanine level. We did the exterior renovation in 2008. We have been very fortunate to get capital appropriations from the state of Ohio in 2004, 2008, 2014, and 2016. The State of Ohio has been very generous to us. When the economy was down we did the interior renovation with private donations. In 2013 we decided we wanted to upgrade the exhibit to have interpretative signage. Right now we are working with Exhibit Concepts in Vandalia.
About the history of Bradford and the exhibit renovation:
The new exhibit will start with the birth of Bradford, you know, why Bradford ended up being a railroad town. The 1850s were when transportation switched from canals and stagecoaches to the railroad. In 1857, as the rails moved west, the line reached the Miami/Darke County line. Bradford started out as a fuel and servicing stop for the rail service. In the early days, there were short rail lines. In 1868 Bradford became a junction. The Cincinnati, Columbus & Indiana Central Railroad Company built a roundhouse here. Now different rail lines and people were coming through Bradford. It was very labor intensive and required more personnel.
The museum will take visitors from those early days of railroading to the birth of Bradford. Then you will go through the boom town when there were railroaders coming and going. We have a little depot replica. We’ve taken a trade focus for the exhibits. You’ll learn about the different workers on the rail line. We talk about the engineer, brakeman, the firemen, the conductor, the tower operator, and the station agent. You’ll see the rise and fall of the town of Bradford as a railroad town. As technology changed, the industry changed and you didn’t need as many people to run the trains.
We will focus on the Bradford YMCA here in the mezzanine. Bradford had a Railroad YMCA from 1906 to 1937. Railroad YMCAs used to be all over the US. It was a way to offer recreational amenities and restaurants for railroad employees. The YMCA was the social hub in Bradford.
We will have information about the role railroads played in war — from the Civil War to World War II. The back room will focus on the roundhouse. The original roundhouse had 23 stalls for servicing locomotives. We have some videos that we will show. The museum will show the decline of the railroad. When you go out the door you will be directed to go visit the BF tower.
On the community response to the Bradford Railroad Museum:
The community response to the museum has been very positive. We have a lot of local members on the board. We couldn’t do this without the support of the community. We have support from the state of Ohio, our legislators, local foundations, and corporations. We’ve gotten grants and support from national organizations. The National Railway Historical Society and the Dayton Foundation have supported us. We’ve gotten support from so many different places.
Her recommendations for out-of-town visitors:
The fairs are a big deal here. I love downtown Troy with the fountain on the square. The Strawberry Festival is a big affair in Miami County. I recommend that folks come to Bradford and have a picnic in the park before visiting the museum. Bradford is very blessed to have these wonderful city parks.
Events hosted by the Bradford Ohio Railroad Museum:
Dining By Rail is a fundraiser dinner in May. We serve a meal prepared from actual railroad dining car recipes. Chef Michael James is our caterer and he does an amazing job. In June we have our annual Railroad Heritage Festival. The museum and the BF tower are open for the event. We have games and displays outside. The Carillon Steam Group from Carillon Park brings their portable train for kids to ride. Dayton N-Scale brings their suitcase layouts. This past year we had the Miami Valley Veterans Museum bring their history in a box. It’s a fun time for people to come out and see the museum and learn a little bit about the railroad. We also have a Run for the Rails which is a 5k run/walk in October.
What she loves most about Miami County:
Miami County is home. I love the people; they’re the people I grew up with. I get emotional when I talk about home because I live two and a half hours away. There’s a lot to be said for coming from a place where you know everybody. Everybody has the same kind of understanding. I’ve worked in Philadelphia and I’ve trained in New York. I’ve been blessed to be able to travel to all 50 states. And you know what? I’m glad I don’t live in a big city. You truly have the opportunity to have deeper more trusting relationships. You go to some big cities and people pass you on the street like you don’t exist. I don’t think you can get by with that in a small town. You’re more in touch with the needs of the community.
Every year I go to the Miami County Fair and I come home to the alumni events at Pleasant Hill. I still feel like I’m a part of Miami County, even though I don’t have that day-to-day relationship. I’ve lived in Lancaster since 1988, but I still consider Miami County to be my home.
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