Foley, Alabama: Two Museums and a Soda Fountain

Foley, Alabama, is a popular side trip from Gulf Shores, just 11.7 miles north on Alabama State Route 59. You also go through the town if you drive Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway, even though it’s twelve miles east of the coast. There’s a lot to do in Foley, from shopping and museums to an amusement park and nature preserve. On the day we visited the town, we went to two museums and a soda shop.

Foley Railroad Museum and Model Train Exhibit

Model Train Exhibit

We had visited the Foley Railroad Museum the year prior, but since we especially enjoyed the huge O scale model train exhibit, we made a return trip. The 1200 square foot layout is the largest and nicest we’ve ever seen. Multiple trains run through the layout, passing through meticulously created miniature scenes. It’s easy to get mesmerized watching the trains ride by everything from a drive-in movie theater to an oil refinery. There are farms and towns, even a country fair.

It’s mostly retired men who created, run and maintain the exhibit. Chatting with them, you can tell they love what they do. The exhibit is open only on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., so be sure to schedule your visit accordingly.

Model railroad layout
A small section of the O gauge model railroad layout

Foley Railroad Museum

The model train exhibit is connected to the former Foley train depot. The depot itself houses the Depot Museum, which tells the history of Foley.

The town was founded by Chicagoan John B. Foley in 1905. Foley purchased thousands of acres of land and sold parcels to other Chicagoans who were eager to farm. With the mild climate, they could farm year-round. For a while, the area was known as Little Chicago.

Foley also supplied the ties for the railroad line to extend to Foley from Bay Minette. Until the railroad was extended, the last 37 miles of the trip, essentially unpaved paths, were difficult to navigate.

John Foley built the depot the museum is housed in. It is the second depot, dating back to 1909. The first depot burned down the previous year.

Most of the exhibits in the museum relate to the railroad or early town history. But the museum also includes an exhibit featuring famous people from the area, like Winston Groom, who wrote the 1986 novel, Forrest Gump.

The Foley Railroad Museum and Model Train Exhibit and located at 125 E Lauren Avenue in Foley, Alabama. Visit the website for hours and other details.

Holmes Medical Museum

Kitty-corner from the Depot Museum is the Homes Medical Museum. Honestly, when I first read about it, I wasn’t too intrigued by the topic. But everyone I talked to who had been there told me we shouldn’t miss it. And they were right.

The medical museum was actually a hospital, located on the second floor of a downtown Foley building. The first floor was a grocery store, and a replica of the grocery store is set up today.

It’s hard to believe the space upstairs was Baldwin County’s first hospital and was used all the way until 1958. When a larger hospital was built, the staff abandoned this one, leaving almost all of the equipment intact.

I admit it was fascinating—and a bit scary—to see the old medical equipment. An incubator used a 150-watt light bulb for heat. A rudimentary operating room where they delivered babies and did simple surgeries like appendectomies and tonsillectomies. And a radiated water urn, with a sign that says the water killed more than it helped.

There were two waiting rooms: a large, nicely decorated one with padded seating for white people, and a very small drab one with a few wooden chairs for “coloreds.”

I can’t imagine going into that hospital for minor health issues, let alone for any more critical.

The Homes Medical Museum is located at 111 W. Laurel Avenue in Foley, Alabama. Visit the website for hours and other details.

Stacey’s Old Tyme Soda Fountain

After we left the Holmes Medical Museum, an old-fashioned ice cream treat sounded good, so we walked down the block to Stacey’s Old Tyme Soda Fountain.

While there, owner Ernie Langham gave me a brief history of the business.

Stacey’s Old Tyme Soda Fountain History

The store opened in 1927 as a pharmacy, with a soda fountain. The person who opened it kept the shop only about a year before selling it to Jim Stacey. Mr. Stacey owned it until the 1950s. While he served in World War II, his wife ran the pharmacy.

When Mr. Stacey returned from the military, he took on a partner, Mr. Brooks, who eventually bought out Mr. Stacey. Mr. Brooks didn’t like the soda fountain, so he removed it in the early 1960s.

The store then ran as only a pharmacy, until John and Kathy Henderson bought it around 1990. The Hendersons wanted the soda fountain back. The original one from that store was gone, but they found another in soda shop that had closed. Stacey’s had a soda fountain once again.

Ernie Langham bought the shop in 2003. Mr. Langham is a pharmacist, but eventually chose to get out of the pharmacy business. He closed the pharmacy portion of the store, so today it is only the soda fountain.

Dining at Stacey’s

Stacey’s offers sandwiches, salads, and a variety of traditional ice cream treats. When I saw egg cream on the ice cream menu, I was curious. It didn’t sound appetizing to me, until I learned what was in it: half-and-half, chocolate, and soda water. No egg. Skip and I both ordered one and loved it, mostly because the foamy beverage is chocolatey but not sweet.

Stacy’s Old Tyme Soda Fountain is located at 121 W Laurel Avenue, in Foley, Alabama. For more information on things to do in Foley, check out the Visit Foley website.

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