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Home > Blog > Exhibit Train Blog, 2011-2012 > Oklahoma City, January 14 and 15

Oklahoma City, January 14 and 15

Posted by admin at Jan 19, 2012 05:35 PM |
If Oklahoma City has a byword, it must be “friendly”—enthusiastic volunteers, diverse exhibitors, animated visitors and a gem of a station added up to an enjoyable weekend.
Exhibit Train on the viaduct at Oklahoma City
Through the window
Art Deco grandeur overhead

Exhibit Train on the viaduct
at Oklahoma City

Through the window

Art Deco grandeur overhead

Very popular hats!
Our stop partners at Oklahoma City
N-Scale model trains delight and amaze

Very popular hats!

Our stop partners at Oklahoma City

N-Scale model trains
delight and amaze

The Oklahoma City Amtrak station sits on the border between the downtown business center and the bustling arts and entertainment district known as “Bricktown.” The two neighborhoods are separated by a viaduct that carries the tracks through the city; to our advantage, the viaduct was also a perfect pedestal for the Exhibit Train, making it visible to drivers and pedestrians passing through the area. As darkness fell, the train shone under the platform and station lighting—a beacon in the night to all rail enthusiasts.

Over the weekend, it was fun to watch visitors as they stepped into the station lobby. Mouths fell open in awe as people took in the rich interior decoration of the jazzy Art Deco station, which opened in 1934. Cameras were whipped out to capture the ceiling’s bright and colorful geometric patterns as well as the elongated metal and glass chandeliers whose common chevron motif evokes the sense of movement so essential to Art Deco design. People also ran their fingers over the walls, whose light brown limestone is embedded with seashells and other fossils. Much of the station’s original grandeur was recaptured during a successful $3 million restoration project undertaken by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation more than a decade ago.

Through the lobby’s eastern window, one could see the tail end of the Exhibit Train’s Bistro Car, which serves as the 40th Anniversary Store where people can pick up a copy of Amtrak: An American Story, commemorative t-shirts, lapel pins, coffee mugs, posters, and other fun items. Up on the platform, people stopped to watch passing freight trains, as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s main line runs alongside the station.

Children mobbed the Chuggington play area, and the paper “Junior Conductor” hats were a hot item. They’re perfect complements to a free activity book that helps young readers understand a conductor’s job, which includes tasks such as welcoming passengers onto the train, taking tickets, providing information about stops, and communicating with the engineer driving the locomotive.

In a side room, passenger rail advocacy groups such as the National Association of Railroad Passengers, the Northern Flyer Alliance, and the Heartland Flyer Coalition set up tables and talked to people about their missions and activities—this last organization manages a helpful website to assist travelers. Volunteers from Trails and Rails introduced people to the historic and cultural sites to be seen along the route of the Flyer.

Two museums also joined us for the weekend. The Railroad Museum of Oklahoma is based out of the former Santa Fe freight house in downtown Enid. Dedicated members spent years rehabilitating the structure and organizing a large collection of railroad artifacts that includes dining car china and silverware, whistles and lanterns, and an outdoor area with rolling stock. Museum Director Frank "Watermelon" Campbell, dressed in a vintage conductor’s uniform, regaled Exhibit Train visitors with railroad stories. One table over, the Oklahoma Railway Museum (ORM) had an interesting display on Oklahoma depots that included photos and brief histories of the buildings.

While we’ve hosted a number of model railroads during our nationwide tour, this was the first time we’d had an N-Scale layout. Most people are probably more familiar with HO scale, which is the most popular with modelers. N Scale is about half the size of HO—a ratio of 1:160—and it really requires patience and an eye for detail. Members of the Oklahoma N-Rail Club ran a handful of trains along their layout, including a model of the Heartland Flyer, and graciously answered questions from fans big and small. N-Rail Club members also helped staff the Exhibit Train, as did volunteers from the South Canadian Model Railroad Club and ORM.

Aboard one of the Display Cars, ORM members explained how to operate the Engineer’s Control Stand. Visitors are welcome to have their try at “driving” a train by guiding the throttle and monitoring the engine. Although the levers and buttons are labeled, it was a big help to have the volunteers describe in detail what exactly each one does. Some of the ORM members know these control stands well from the excursion trains that the museum runs from April to August.

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops—this week we head south back to Texas where we’ll be in historic San Antonio, known by every school child as the home of the Alamo. Hope to see you there!

--PK