Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
Home > Blog > Exhibit Train Blog, 2011-2012 > Steamtown National Historic Site, September 3 & 4

Steamtown National Historic Site, September 3 & 4

Posted by admin at Sep 09, 2011 01:40 PM |
In the 19th century, steam railroads bound together America from coast-to-coast. Today, this vivid era in our nation’s history is on display at Scranton’s Steamtown National Historic Site.
Scranton Special at Whitney Point, N.Y.
Scranton Special at Tully, N.Y.
Engine 822 faces a steam locomotive on the turntable

Very rare mileage: The Exhibit Train (Whitney Point, N.Y.) became the Scranton Special for the trip to Steamtown.

Very rare mileage: No Amtrak train had ever passed this way before ( Tully, N.Y.).

Engine 822 faces a steam locomotive on the turntable at Steamtown.

Amtrak's Joe McHugh serves as Grand Marshall for the festivities
Train horn display
Amtrak and steamtown engineers on the steam locomotive

Amtrak's Joe McHugh (left) serves as Grand Marshall for the festivities.

The train horn display on the exhibit train. Please press the red buttons.

Amtrak and steamtown engineers on the steam locomotive.

Railfest, held at Steamtown National Historic Site, is a much anticipated annual event that celebrates everything to do with the steam railroad era. Throughout the year, the park arranges exhibits and lectures, locomotive shop demonstrations, and excursion train rides, but for Railfest, additional locomotives and rolling stock of all types are brought in for display and exploration. It was great to have the Exhibit Train there because just as Amtrak is celebrating its 40th Anniversary, Steamtown is also commemorating an important milestone this fall: 25 years of educating the American people about our steam railroading heritage.

The two-day event kicked off with an opening ceremony in which Amtrak’s Vice President of Government Affairs and Corporate Communications, Joe McHugh, had the honor of serving as the Grand Marshal. Parked just north of the old Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad round house that is part of the museum complex, the Exhibit Train was the first and last thing seen by visitors. Many lifelong rail enthusiasts come to Scranton to take part in Railfest. The rail fan community is known for its diverse interests—some people collect items such as old railroad lanterns, dinner menus, or schedules, while others focus on photographing and filming trains or railroad infrastructure such as viaducts, tunnels, and stations.

Enthusiasts of air and electric horns find an area all their own on the Exhibit Train. Horns are generally mounted to locomotives, and their design and sound have changed over the decades. A trained ear can detect subtle variations in the instruments’ harmonies that allow a true rail buff to place a horn within a specific time period and with a particular manufacturer. Do different tones elicit distinct reactions or emotions? What adjustment to the harmony takes a horn from an assertive to a plaintive cry? How does the sound change as it travels through a hemmed-in mountain valley versus an open prairie? Many horn aficionados debate these questions by recording the instruments in active service and by even collecting and restoring old models.

You don’t have to be an expert to appreciate or have fun with our hands-on display. Next to each horn, you can push a red button to hear its harmony, which is also written out in musical notes. Those in the know can test their knowledge by closing their eyes and determining the specifics of each horn. For many kids, the excitement comes in pressing all the buttons at once, whereas for me, my imagination wanders to a cool moonlit evening, the horn’s tune echoing across the night as my train glides through the hushed countryside.

To complement the Exhibit Train and add to the festivities, Amtrak Police also attended the event. A bomb detection K-9 team performed demonstrations to show audiences how the officers and their canine companions work together to identify and investigate suspicious articles. In the museum auditorium, visitors were able to catch part of our specially commissioned 40th Anniversary DVD. And since we were at an historic site run by the National Park Service, a Trails and Rails representative was on hand to explain the program and distribute the popular, limited edition National Parks Passport Cancellation Stamp created for the Exhibit Train.

Well, it’s said that the railroad never stops, and for now, our East Coast tour has come to an end as we head to the Midwest for the next couple of months. This weekend, come out and say hello as we cross the mighty Mississippi River for our visit to America’s “Gateway to the West”—St. Louis.

Viewing the Amtrak 40th DVD
K-9 team demo
Engine 406 and the Exhibit Train at Steamtown

The Amtrak 40th DVD viewing in the Steamtown auditorium

After the K-9 team demonstration, questions

Engine 406 and the Exhibit Train at Steamtown