Second annual Railroad Day is coming up

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Aug. 20, 2013
Prescott, from Ashford, tries out the controls in an old diesel engine at last year's Railroad Day. File photos.
Prescott, from Ashford, tries out the controls in an old diesel engine at last year's Railroad Day. File photos.

The Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum’s second annual Railroad Day is coming up on Saturday, Aug. 31. Last year’s inaugural event brought a good crowd to the grounds of the Willimantic museum, and organizers hope for an even better turn-out this year. “We are trying to establish relationships with various railroad groups and railroads to make this a bigger event each year,” said museum volunteer Bob LeMay. “Hopefully in the next few years we will be able to display other locomotives,” added LeMay.

This year’s event will again feature train rides down approximately 1.5 miles of restored track. “For those who have not taken the train ride, it's a leisurely and usually a peaceful trip along the original Air Line Route that the famed Ghost Train once traveled,” said LeMay. Also returning are pump car rides, turntable and gallows signal demonstrations, equipment displays, and tours of the museum grounds. The museum’s collection includes locomotives and cars, vintage railroad buildings and a six-stall roundhouse reconstructed on the original foundation. The most recent acquisition is the signal house from the Niantic Bridge. The gallows signal is a replica of the crossing which regulated rail traffic at the Bridge Street crossing in Willimantic. Originally built around 1850, this signal controlled railroad traffic where the New Haven Railroad crossed the Central Vermont Railroad. The two-armed signal was in use until the 1950s.

Railroad Day will feature live music from noon to closing, provided by a variety of local groups. There will be food (barbecue) and beverages available for purchase. Organizers are also hoping to procure a Providence and Worcester railroad hi-rail truck, which LeMay described as “the modern way to inspect track.”

Railroad Day will be held on Saturday, Aug. 31, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., on the grounds of the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum. “It should be a very exciting and educational day exploring what goes on in the railroad world,” said LeMay. The entrance to the museum is located on Bridge Street in Willimantic, at the railroad crossing. Admission is $5 for adults, $1 for children ages 8 through 12, and children under 8 are admitted free. Admission does not include food and beverages, or train rides ($3 per person).

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