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Welcome to Dreamsville U.S.A. What is Dreamsville U.S.A.? It is known by its original town name of Dennison, Ohio. What is so special about Dennison to get the names Dreamsville?
To answer this question, we must go back to World War II. America was attacked and was going to war. Many of the soldiers and war equipment was traveling by train, and many of the trains were passing through a town in Ohio named Dennison. As the trains stopped here, about four thousand volunteers would come to the depot and serve the servicemen free food. This is how the name ‘Dreamsville’ came to this town, and the Servicemen’s Canteen was established at the depot to serve those making a great sacrifice for their nation a nice free meal.
Dennison, Ohio is the halfway point on the railroad line between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Columbus, Ohio making this town a great stopping point for trains and a place for railroad shops. Today, the trains still come through, but they no longer stop here. Instead of demolishing the depot, it was restored.
Welcome to the Dennison Depot Museum. Housed in the same depot where soldiers were served free lunches as they stepped off the train, you can now get a meal inside the restaurant that is inside the depot.
So, you are not hungry. Well then, you still can walk through this museum. However, your journey begins outside.
The first thing you will see (pending on which direction you are coming from) is locomotive Number 4759 followed by a tank car that is followed by a box car from the Pennsylvania Railroad. You have the flat car from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that is used as a stage for events. The last car is the caboose just like the good old days of railroading. Next to the caboose is the Railroad Walk of Fame Walkway and Memorial Walk remembering those who worked on the railroad and the servicemen who stopped here including those who lost their lives in battle. Next to the walk is Car 7528 from the Pennsylvania Railroad with the faces of the servicemen in the windows.
If that is not enough, you do have the other side of the depot.
You see the Number 2700 steam locomotive from the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway followed by more passenger cars with the faces of the servicemen. You then come to a hospital-surgical car used during World War II.
You have seen so much outside. You now wonder how much there is to see inside.
You enter the old ticket office which is now the admission office. You could grab a bite to eat in the restaurant, but you want to see the museum first. You pass through the gift shop and then see a few exhibits before you see a luggage car full of luggage. You would go farther, but you have a movie to catch. What move? It is the movie that tells the story of a train depot in an Ohio town called Dennison. The movie ends, and you see the display of the Pennsylvania Railroad parlor car, but you choose to see the model train. The display is laid out to show what the region looked like back in the day. After you have seen enough, you return to the Pennsylvania Railroad parlor car thinking that it is a simple display only to realize that it is an actual parlor car at least the end. You have just boarded the train that you saw on the outside being pulled by the Chesapeake and Ohio locomotive. The only problem is that the train is not going anywhere. Anyway, you see the newsstand where you can get your news. Wait! The Salvation Army Canteen is there to give you free food.
Be advised. You have barely entered the museum. You may not also want to eat the food because it tastes like plastic.
As you continue, you can have a seat in the ticket office. The ticket master will not mind. He will enjoy the company. You then enter the room where you will hear the many stories of the days of the Salvation Army Canteen serving the servicemen. Be warned. The stories are very moving. After the stories, you will continue through the cars and see a bed display along with the galley and the dining car. Do not forget to see the bathroom. You may get tired so you will want to take a seat and look out the window.
You pass through exhibits about life on the railroad, and then you enter the surgical car which was used during World War II. You continue through more exhibits about life on the railroad, and then you make one discovery. What is this discovery? You discover that you have reached the end, and you must go back to where you started.
You have depot museums, and then you have the Dennison Depot Museum. It not only tells the life of the railroad, but it takes the time to honor not just those who served in the military, but it honors those who volunteered their time to serve the servicemen. The people here go through great lengths to make sure that the story of Dennison is never forgotten but remembered for many generations to come. A visit here will be one that you will truly cherish.
The Dennison Railroad Depot Museum is at its original location at 400 Center Street in Dennison, Ohio next to the rail line. It is easily accessible from U.S. Routes 36 and 250. (Signs will point the way.) Parking is free and across the street. The museum is open year-round, but hours do vary by day. (The museum is closed on Mondays.) You can get more information about the museum to include the hours and admission information at https://dennisondepot.org/. If you are fortunate enough, you may see a train roll by.
Welcome to Dreamsville. For many servicemen, it was a dream come true, and it was all made possible by the old depot that still makes dreams come true today.
This article first appeared on johncowgillstoriesoftherailroad.com
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