The Hamlet Depot & Museums celebrated the sixth annual National Train Day on Saturday, May 11.
Many residents of Richmond and surrounding counties attended the event in celebration of the importance of trains and how they have impacted our nation.
Museum Manager at Hamlet Depot & Museum Miranda Chavis was very excited about the community support.
“I think it was incredibly successful,” said Chavis. “In the four hours of the event, we estimated 500 people attending. I’m just thankful for the community organizations and volunteers that helped make it happen. It was quiet remarkable. This is a perfect example of various community organizations supporting one another to bring something positive to the community.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the unveiling of the Seaboard Airline Railroad Caboose and the 1114 Seaboard Airline Locomotive kicked off the day at Main Street Park in Hamlet. The caboose and locomotive were loaned by the National Railroad Museum for showcasing.
Other organizations participated in the success of the event, Chavis said. The North Carolina Department of Transportation funded 90 percent of the project and Carolina Industrial Cranes, a contractor of Richmond County, restored and painted the locomotive and caboose.
Hamlet Mayor Pro Tem Tony Clewis made a speech during the ceremony.
“I am proud to say that today marks an exciting time in Hamlet history,” said Clewis. “This project reflects yet another example of the City of Hamlet’s mission to enhance the quality of life for our residents. All of these projects reiterate our town’s motto, Hamlet: The little town that does.”
The kid friendly event also featured games, prizes and tours of the museum and caboose.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, families participated in The Great Museum Hunt where riddles were collected from the Visitors Center. After following the clues, National Train Day tokens were located where the riddles led the competitors. The tokens were turned in at the Tornado Building in exchange for a prize.
Following the hunt, a Trainspiration Sidewalk Chalk Art Contest was held so children could draw and demonstrate their train-inspired chalk art on the sidewalk.
Kids also got a chance to enjoy free face painting, special give-aways from Amtrak, and an up close look at a fire truck.
Brandi Heath of Rockingham brought her daughter Emma for face painting and other sorts of fun.
“It’s something fun and educational for our children,” said Heath. “Emma really enjoys trains too.”
Assisting with the caboose tours, Sam Ballard of Hamlet, a retired CSX conductor, offered volumes of information on the caboose and locomotive on display. Ballard gladly shared his 41 years of railroad experience to visitors looking back at the town’s history. He recalled countless details of the 1964 caboose and engine, giving on-lookers an elaborate vision of a five man railroad crew working in the ’60s. Ballard also volunteers with the railroad museum and said he enjoys reminiscing about the good ‘ole days.
“The engine is really just a big power generator,” said Ballard.
“When I started working with what was then called Seaboard Railroad, we had five men to a crew. Now with more advanced technology, they normally operate with a two-man crew,” he said.
— Staff Writer Cassidy Odom can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 16, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.