Railroad Day brings crowds to the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Sep. 3, 2013
Visitors to the Eastern Connecticut State Railroad Museum take a ride on Railroad Day, held Aug. 31 on the grounds of the museum. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Visitors to the Eastern Connecticut State Railroad Museum take a ride on Railroad Day, held Aug. 31 on the grounds of the museum. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Visitors who took advantage of an opportunity to ride a pump car at the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum’s Railroad Day on Aug. 31 learned a little bit about the history of railroad life. The pump car was used for railroad maintenance, and would have been kept inside a section house, situated every few miles along a length of track. Also inside the house was a trailer full of maintenance equipment, which the hand-powered pump car would have pulled to the scene of a repair.

Overseeing the museum’s section house during Railroad Day was volunteer Bob LaMay. “As things got more modern, the pump cars were replaced by speeders, or motorized cars,” he said. LaMay pointed out an antique wood stove in the center of the small building. The stove would have served to keep railroad workers warm between repairs, he said. Today, with volunteers working at the museum year round, “We all gather here in the winter at lunch time, around the wood stove,” said LaMay.

LaMay pointed outside to a yellow bus on the museum's turntable. The former rail bus from the Maine Central Railroad would have been used to transport workers for inspections of electrical lines, he said. The retired bus is currently being refurbished by museum volunteers, including Bill Voorvaart and Duke York. The muffler on the bus was replaced by the local Midas Muffler. “They have a saying that if you get it down here, we’ll put a muffler on it,” said LaMay. So volunteers loaded the old bus onto a trailer and took it in for repairs. On Railroad Day, the yellow vehicle took a short tour of the museum grounds.

Railroad Day offered tours of the museum grounds, including numerous old railroad cars and engines. Throughout the day, entertainment was provided by an all-volunteer line-up of performers, including Enfield resident, singer Cameron Sutphin; Bandstand Barbershop Quartet; Dudley Hamlin and the Long River Band; Seldom Heard; and Bruce John.

The Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum is located off Bridge Street in downtown Willimantic, on the original site of the Columbia Junction Freight Yard. Its collection includes locomotives and rolling stock, as well as vintage railroad buildings and a six-stall roundhouse reconstructed on the original foundation. The museum is open Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., from the first weekend in May through the last weekend of October. For more information, call 860-456-9999 or go to www.cteastrrmuseum.org.

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