Robert Thomas Carriage Museum
A Step Back In time
Travel Route 460 to Blackstone, Va. and visit the Robert Thomas Carriage Museum. This is one of the only free public carriage museums in Virginia.
The Robert Thomas Carriage Museum has a collection of 28 fully restored horse drawn vehicles that represent every walk of life from the farmer to the wealthy. Pleasure vehicles, hearst, sleigh, surreys, wagons, and various buggies are all displayed in a carriage house style setting.
Guides and interpretive signs offer a glimpse into the horsedrawn era. Accesories of early travel (saddles, lap robes, harness, foot warmers, and tools of the carriage industry) are displayed throughout the museum.
Travel back in time to when carriage making was an art. Imagine riding in a carriage fit for a queen or a simple family buggy or cart.
While visiting the carriage museum take a short walk next door to visit a fully restored eighteenth century tavern.
Watch a video of the Carriage Museum: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YdATK-Ami0
The Dream of One Man: Robert B. Thomas Jr.
The remarkable collection of horse drawn vehicles was once the private collection of Robert Thomas. Mr. Thomas (or Bob as he was known to friends and family) was born in Richmond, Va. in 1931 and grew up in the small rural town of Blackstone.
Bob's family lived in town, but his father owned a farm four miles outside of town and raised pigs along with working the land with his brothers. As a boy, Bob had a horse that he kept in a lot behind their house in town and a cart he would hitch it up to and travel to visit his grandfather in Danieltown, Va. He told many a story of his grandfather who took him on buggy rides throughout the Brunswick County area. His love of horses and farming began to develop during his youthful years.
After finishing high school, Bob began farming the family land outside of Blackstone, worked as a mail carrier for the postal service, and joined the Virginia National Guard. In 1954, he was drafted and sent to Germany until his time of service was completed. Upon his arrival to Blackstone, he continued his farming operation and decided to use his G.I. Bill to persue a college degree in science at Longwood College in Farmville, Va.
Upon the completion of him bachelor's degree, he became a high school science teacher and continued to operate the farm.
By the early 1960's, Robert Thomas was known in the Blackstone area for his continued interest in increasing his crop yields in corn and tobacco, as well as the educational and atheletic development of the local youth. He was not only busy educating and coaching the youth in the Blackstone area, but busy raising two children, a son and a daughter on the family farm.
Robert Thomas continued his education by recieving his masters in science at the University of North Carolina and his doctorate at Virginia Tech. After receiving his masters degree, Bob became an associate professor of science at Longwood College. It was about this time in his life that he began to develop an interest in collecting horse drawn vehicles. His son and daughter were interested in riding horses and he purchased his first two horses. Upon a visit to Altavista, Va., Mr. Thomas purchased his first horse drawn vehicle, a one seat buggy. The buggy needed some wheel restoration, but he had a hard time finding wheels to fit. He could find buggies and carriages, but not the right wheels, thus the begining of his collecting era. For the next 20 years, he traveled along the east coast and purchased carriages from auctions or from locals who he talked to that knew of a buggy in someone's building. Mr. Thomas became a known figure in the carriage community by becoming a member of the Carriage Association of America.
Not only did Robert Thomas collect these carriages, he also had an interest in driving them, thus preserving a forgotten way of life. Many Blackstone residents fondly remember Bob driving in a parade or renting his services and carriage for weddings. Bob was an avid owner of horses, ranging from a standardbred and a pair of driving Arabians, to finally owning a pair of registered Morgans.
In the year 2000, Mr. Thomas began talking to the town of Blackstone about developing a carriage museum, for which he would donate all of his carriages and give a sizable contribution for its development . In September 2007, Mr. Thomas' dream was fufilled as the Robert Thomas Carriage Museum was dedicated and opened with 26 fully restored horse drawn vehicles and carriage accesories. Each carriage was intricatley restored and researched by Mr. Ted Hughes of Chalklevel Carriage and Buggy Works in Piney River, Va.
Robert Thomas III- Museum Director
Marie Thomas- Curator and tour guide