The SoNo Switch Tower Museum restoration has saved this important part of our country's industrial heritage, and is a fascinating look-back to the Country's transportation and communications before jetliners and computers. The Tower is easy to miss, tucked into a tiny plot adjacent to the Metro North tracks in downtown Norwalk. Walking up the two long flights of steel stairs leaves you curious about what is inside, but once there, it does not disappoint! During the years when railroads provided transportation everywhere in the US, there were thousands of towers similar to this one, each manned 24/7 by trained and skilled operators. Almost all are now gone, but this one has been restored to excellent condition. The museum volunteers and docents are knowledgeable and informed about the tower's history, and the people who once worked in these important junction control points.
The heart of the museum is the huge interlocking machine which controlled the switches and signals in the Norwalk area. It has been restored to working condition so that the operation of the levers replicates exactly how the machine worked, and what safeguards it provided to the railroad. Other artifacts include the old morse-code transmitter, devices to deliver written orders to passing trains, and the original 100 year old electrical control panel for the overhead wires. All of it has been restored to original condition.
The museum is NOT suitable to very small children, and if you are looking for a place to bring energetic little kids, take them to the Norwalk Aquarium, two blocks away, instead. But for youngsters about six years and older who are old enough to understand, and be curious about, how things work, this is a great place for them to absorb how machines are designed and operated, and why these towers were important to the nation's development. The staff is patient and informed and happily answers all questions about the tower and how it worked.
Added benefit for train buffs is the Amtrak and Metro North trains which pass right next to the tower every few minutes. Great fun for the kids to watch the trains, and be sure to check each one for the red marker lights on the rear.
Admission is free, with contributions or donations gratefully accepted, and there is a modest gift shop for anyone interested in buying railroad books or other items. If you or your kids are curious and interested in how things work, make a point to spend an hour or two in this museum.
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