When speaking of train travel, author Thomas Wolfe once said that in America, “we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement.”
Train travel has played a major role in American history ever since the first locomotive made its way around a backyard in Hoboken New Jersey. The very first Union Station in the world was in Indiana. The Pullman car or luxury car was originally designed to transport the body of Abraham Lincoln after he was assassinated. The American railroads cased a major clash between corporations and laborers in the late 1800 when Pinkerton guards used violent tactics to break up strikes by railroad workers. Trains also had a major role in transporting soldiers during World War II and they were critical to civilians at that time as people had limited access to gasoline.
Trains have also been the subject of many a song, book and movie. From the haunting and hopeful stains of the folk song, City of New Orleans, to the romance and mystery of the novel Stranger’s on a Train or The film, The Lady Vanishes, the idea of so many different kinds of people traveling together in a small confined space just lends itself to storytelling.
On Saturday, May 14 the country will celebrate National Train Day and Portland will join the festivities with its very own celebration at Oregon Rail Heritage Center which is a working railroad museum. Participants will get to go aboard majestic steam engines and talk to the volunteers who maintain them.
The locomotives at the museum were donated to Portland in 1958. They sat outside at Oaks Amusement Park without much to do for three decades. In the 1980’s restoration efforts began and two of the trains are now fully operational. The trains include a 440 ton steam locomotive that can go up to 80 miles an hour, a streamlined, art deco locomotive that pulled the Bicentennial train in 1976, as well as a soon to be operational train that was built in 1905 and was part of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Celebration.
National Train Day is celebrated on the Saturday which is closest to the 10th of May because that is the day on which the final spike was driven that joined the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States. It connected the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railroads together. The spike was made of gold and it now resides at Stanford University.
Don’t Miss National Train Day
Train Day started in 2008 when Amtrak wanted a chance to show people just what train travel had to offer. There are now celebrations at all the major train stations across the country.
Past celebrations have included tours of historical trains and modern day trains as well as fare specials and giveaways. The very privileged have been known to open up their private rail cars to the public for the day to give the peasants a gander at how the other half lives.
2016 marks the first year that Portland will join the celebration. The event will include games for kids and families as well as live music. There is no word on whether or not the dining car will be open, but there will definitely be a good amount of food carts at the event.
The Heritage Center is currently seeking donations for the event and if you contribute, your generosity will not go unrewarded. For a donation of just $25.00 you will be considered a “Hostler” and receive a commemorative bag. If you have $100 to spare you will be considered a “Gandy Dancer” and receive a special train day swag bag. If you are a true train freak with a lot of extra yards, $5000 will make you a Key Sponsor” and your logo will appear on all printed marketing materials and on The Heritage Museum website.
Admission to Train Day is free, but donations are encouraged. Rides on the trains are between $5 and $20 for a round trip.
Eliza Gale – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
Eliza Gale began her blogging career interviewing aspiring actors and industry professionals on a Los Angeles based website called Curvewire. She started www.elizagalesintervviews in 2012 and has interviewed over three hundred people about their jobs and businesses since then. She has contributed many interviews to 360drinks.com, which is a Portland based happy-hour website. She also writes for Examiner.com and AXS.com.