Showcasing Railroad History Through Various Events
By Elena Lathrop – Railroad.net
Railroads have been a vital component of American history ever since their invention. They symbolize industrialization, human ingenuity, migration, trade, exploration, and much more. Americans value this greatly, and they show this through the vast array of museums, preservation efforts, festivals, and events dedicated to railroads and railroad history. For instance, the National Railway Historical Society holds an annual convention in various cities around the nation where attendees can take heritage tours of local sites, among many other activities. In 2012 it will be held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa from June 18th-24th. Snoqualmie, Washington also holds an annual event titled Railroad Days, which occur around the historical Snoqualmie Depot train station. This festival not only teaches participants about the history of the vintage Snoqualmie railroad, it also allows them to experience it firsthand through train rides to the Snoqualmie Falls viewpoint. On Labor Day weekend of this year, the Norfolk Southern Corporation and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum joined forces to bring steam engines back to the Norfolk Southern Rails in the “21st Century Steam” program, featuring passenger excursions on the restored Southern Railway 630 steam locomotive. Similarly, at the 2011 Rail Fest event in North Platte, Nebraska, Union Pacific’s classic Steam Locomotive No. 844 made an appearance. Additionally, it was made a part of New Mexico and Arizona’s state centennial celebrations which took place this year. It was built in 1944 and later made obsolete by the diesel-electric train, but Union Pacific decided to bring it out of retirement in 2000 for historical, commemorative purposes. Amtrak has also put on historical railroad events, such as an exhibit on the importance of railroads in the Great Migration. This period in the early 20th century witnessed heavy migration of blacks from the Southern states to northern cities to seek employment in the new, booming industrial job market. The migrants traveled mainly by passenger train or by hopping on freight trains. Amtrak’s exhibit consisted primarily of historical documents and photographs showcasing the strong connection between this era and the railroad industry. To celebrate its own history, Amtrak created an exhibit train with a museum inside of it, chronicling the company’s history and displaying memorabilia. The train toured the United States to mark Amtrak’s 40th anniversary.
These events highlight just how much effort is put into preserving, restoring, and showcasing historical trains, railroads, and train stations – all for the sake of allowing Americans to experience railroad history and learn its importance in the most authentic way possible. It is also done in a fun, accessible manner. As railroads represent so much of what America stands for and is all about, these efforts are highly pertinent and warranted. If you are a railroad enthusiast, you are certainly in luck when it comes to finding events to attend to pursue your interest in the subject.