It used to be a main way of getting from one place to another. While cars and planes have surpassed trains as popular modes of transportation, riding the rails still has a fascination and a romanticism that appeals to many.
"There's still an interest in railroads," says Peter Smykla Jr. of the Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society, Inc.
Railroadiana Show & Sale
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Arkansas Railroad Museum, 1700 Port Road, Pine Bluff
Admission: $5, $2 for children 6-12, free for children under 6 with paying adult
The history, power and lure of trains are celebrated at the annual Railroadiana Show & Sale, a cornucopia of train-theme treats held every year in Pine Bluff at a very fitting location: the Arkansas Railroad Museum.
The museum, operated by the Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society, is housed in what was once the Cotton Belt shops, where locomotive engines and cars were repaired and constructed. Today, the building has multiple tracks and displays devoted to railroad history.
There are different types of rail cars, railroad frogs (slang for the crossing point of two rails), a track mobile used to move rail cars, a hand track car, signs, pieces of machinery used to build the trains, stoves used in depots and cabooses, a traffic control unit full of lights and switches and even a vintage phone booth and switchboards.
Much of the equipment will be cleared out of the building for the sale, still visible but locked up. Normally, though, everything is open for exploring.
"We're a unique museum in that we're hands-on," Smykla says. "Most railroad museums have everything 'stuffed and mounted.'"
The star of the museum, the Cotton Belt Engine 819, a fully restored steam engine -- the last one built in the Cotton Belt shops -- will be open for people to see and walk through. There will also be a caboose from the 1910s and the collection of locomotives.
Otherwise, though, the expansive space will be filled with model train layouts and more than 30 vendors selling model trains and memorabilia.
The model layouts tend to be varied and impressive, some as big as 30-by-60 feet.
"All the people in the club have, say, four feet of railroad at their house," Smykla says. "They bring them down and put them all together. It's pretty interesting."
The event also features door prize drawings every hour and Wood Shed BBQ will be on hand selling food.
Smykla promises any bad weather won't slow things down -- not with more than eight acres of sheltered space.
"Even if the weather's bad, you'll have a roof over your head," he says. "We'll even pull the catering truck into the building."
Weekend on 04/04/2019
Print Headline: All aboard for annual Railroadiana Show & Sale