Sunday, May 17, 2009

Central Railroad Festival

Yesterday the town of Central, where I live, had its first 'Railroad Festival' to celebrate the opening of the railroad museum.

The newly opened railroad museum is mainly a massive model train set, still under construction. It should be interesting when they get it all done, but that will take a year or more. Basically it is being built by a club of old men who accumulated a huge stock of model train equipment from various donations. The town leased them an old house for practically nothing, on the grounds that they fix it up and make it a museum.

The town of Central basically owes its existence to the fact that it used to be an important train stop. It is halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte on the rail line. After the line was built, the town was renamed from 'Centre' to 'Central' because of this fact. The passenger train would stop at Central and everyone would eat lunch at the hotel while the engines were being maintained and refueled.

They had a few other interesting things at the museum. The had old pictures, and stock certificates from all the rail companies that had owned the rail line through Central. They also had a display case with some more interesting stuff, including stock certificates from the three named railroads named on the Monopoly game (Short Line is not an actual railroad, it is a class of railroads.)

They had a finished model train setup in an basement on the town square, one that included a partial replica of the town of Central.

They also opened up the caboose that sits off the street, with people inside to talk about it. One of them was a switchman on the railroad when he was younger. Back in the old days, there were no electric switches and the trains ran at about five miles an hour. It was his job to hop out of the engine, run ahead of the train to the switch, and throw it. Then he would hop back in. After the train passed, the guy in the caboose would hop out, throw the switch again, and run to catch up with the train.

The caboose had an empty rack with various stencils: 'Fusees', 'Torpdoes', and 'Flags'. Yes, they were spelled like that; the person who made the stencils had moved an 'e' from one word to another. I had to ask what they meant by 'torpedo'; it is an old term for flare. If there was any trouble and the train had to stop, the guy would light the flare and toss it on the track, to tell any other trains that they would have to stop too.

They also had the fire department out with its equipment, including a big ladder truck with a fully extended ladder. It may seem senseless for a tiny town fire department to have a ladder truck, but the Central fire department is responsible for responding to calls at SWU, where there are dorms, and they are also the backup responders for C---, where there are more and bigger dorms.

I heard the firemen chatting about how they had good equipment because they had a good grant writer. That's how government works; resources are allocated on the basis of paperwork. But they also get rated by insurance firms and other independent agencies, and Central ranks highly on these standards too, or so the Chief claimed.

The festival was filled out by a lot of the local craft vendors that flock to such things. Some of them were decent, and some were junk, as usual.

Overall, the festival was a fun time, and a good look into history.

1 comment:

R.I.P. said...

My grandfather loved trains, and I remember going many places with him to learn about, or ride them. Spencer Shops is fascinating if you enjoy trains.