W.Va. Railroad Museum volunteer serves in many ways

The Inter-Mountain photo by Tim MacVean Ed Griesel has served as a volunteer and board member of the West Virginia Railroad Museum, located in the former Darden Mill building on Railroad Avenue in Elkins, since its inception roughly five years ago.

ELKINS — A local man and familiar face to many in the community has volunteered his time to an area museum since its inception.

For the last five years, Ed Griesel has been an integral factor in starting the West Virginia Railroad Museum, located in the former Darden Mill building on Railroad Avenue in Elkins.

“I’m in my fifth year here. That is when we started occupying space at the Darden Mill,” he said. “We started out downstairs sharing space with (Appalachian Forest Heritage Area). We had half the room downstairs and AFHA had the other half.”

The West Virginia Railroad Museum has since taken over and has remodeled the upstairs area of the facility.

“After the first year, that’s when the railroad museum put money up to have the upstairs restored because we just didn’t have enough space,” Griesel said. “We had a few panel pictures and a display case with some things in it, but we needed more space. The second year this came available up here and we expanded.”

Since the move, the museum has had extensive exhibits for three railroads that have served the area — the Western Maryland, the Baltimore and Ohio, and the Chesapeake and Ohio.

“After we moved up here we had a lot more things and started specializing in each of the railroads, telling more of their stories,” he said.

Griesel serves as the secretary of the railroad museum board and takes care of membership. He also is the supervisor of the AmeriCorps volunteer assigned to the museum each year.

He is vital in setting up displays, keeping track of monies brought in and training other volunteers who serve the museum.

Griesel joked the job of volunteering at the museum, more or less, found him.

“I don’t know if I ever decided. It just kind of came with the territory,” Griesel said. “I enjoy doing it and wish I had more time I could spend here.”

Griesel said he enjoys volunteering because watching the museum grow is something that is important to him.

“I like working with the other people on the board. They help me out and I help them out. We have a good working relationship, and it would be awful hard to just walk away at this point. I want to see the museum expand and grow every year. We offer new things each year.”

He added that members of the museum recently put together an oral history about jobs on the railroad that played for visitors on a television within the facility.

“That was kind of a neat experience,” he said.

Griesel attributes the enjoyment of visitors to his reason for continuing to volunteer.

“The biggest thing is — it is a lot of work by a number of people putting an exhibit together. But once it is in place, you open the doors and start hearing favorable comments — it’s really good,” he said. “Each year, we add more exhibits, and this year people who have come back year after year say this is better than the other ones.”

Griesel also serves on the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce board of directors, has been a member of the Elkins Depot Welcome Center since it began 11 years ago and also “volunteers” for his wife, Elaine, who is owner of Ceramics with Class on Davis Avenue.

“I guess you could say I volunteer for my wife in the ceramics shop. Volunteering means you don’t get paid,” Griesel said with a smile.

The West Virginia Railroad Museum is open Thursday through Sunday and is always looking for additional individuals to volunteer.

“If we had more volunteers, it would be nice to be open five days a week, or seven days a week during the tourist season,” Griesel said.