Saddle Up For a Wild Ride Through History

By Stacey Gregory

Step back in time to the Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum located on the historic Tucson Rodeo grounds. Don’t let the name fool you; this museum is jam-packed with artifacts celebrating Tucson’s diverse culture and offers way more than meets the eye.

For starters, one of the buildings is the original airplane hangar for the first municipal airport in the US. Instead of aircraft, the structure holds more than 20 horse-drawn vehicles, some used in movies, including Arizona, McClintock, and Oklahoma!, plus other rodeo and Tucson historical artifacts from as far back as the 1800s.

Volunteer docents lead tours throughout the four packed buildings, dropping knowledge, such as where the terms “backseat driver,” “glove box,” and “dashboard” originated and how wagons played an important part in the design of cars, from Rolls Royces to Chevrolets.

A model steam locomotive diorama of Tucson inside a display at the Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum.

The fully functioning ‘G’ gauge model steam locomotive.

Other displays feature the original El Conquistador hotel desk and safe, recreated blacksmith and wagon shops, saddle and harness collections, and an exact-model replica of the actual locomotive at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum located at the former Southern Pacific Depot in downtown Tucson. Thanks to the generosity of the Tucson Garden Railway Society, guests can interact with the fully functioning ‘G’ gauge model steam locomotive, cars, and a diorama typifying what Tucson would have looked like soon after the first trains appeared in 1880.

The Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum is open from November 10, 2022, through April 1, 2023.

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