SCRANTON — Railfest 2018 at Steamtown National Historic Site (NHS) in downtown Scranton is a celebration of railroading’s past, present and future. Held annually on the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend, this year’s event takes place Sept. 1 and 2 with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, hosted by park Superintendent Debbie Conway.
Unique this year is an opportunity for children 6 years of age and under to “Name the Train.” Our hardworking Baldwin Locomotive Works #26 steam engine is green with envy and wants a name after always hearing from kids about Thomas, Percy, Gordon and others. So during Railfest, youngsters can offer their ideas to name the train. The winning name will be selected at the end of Railfest and #26 will enjoy that name until Railfest 2019. Baldwin #26 is already smiling at the thought of having a name.
If you haven’t previously been to Railfest, it’s a celebration of all things railroading. The 2018 theme is “Railroading and Coal: A Labor of Love,” recognizing the 250th anniversary of anthracite coal’s importance to the region and nation. Steamtown NHS works with numerous partners to present this end-of-summer family-friendly festivity featuring live music, themed displays, special shop demonstrations, train rides, and much more!
Besides offering a free pre-Railfest Johnny Cash Experience tribute concert by David Stone beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday night, Aug. 31 in the site’s theater, there will be live music throughout the park during Railfest. Besides Stone and Steamtown NHS’s own John Bibalo doing their entertaining “Ring of Fire” musical presentation both days, enjoy concerts by local bands Graces Downfall (rock), American Buffalo Ghost (folk), and Nick & Chris (rock) on Saturday, Sept. 1.
The hits keep coming on Sunday, Sept. 2. Jay Smar buttresses the Railfest theme with his foot-tapping “NE PA Coal ‘n Folk” music. Other free concerts include Steve Werner playing his soothing hand pan, as well as Sweetness (folk), The Boastfuls (pop acoustic), and heavy metal, in the locomotive repair shop.
Visitors will also be able to enjoy a theater showing of historic railroad images from a glass plate negative collection. The collection, part of extensive archives, was recently highlighted in a local Sunday newspaper cover story that has been picked up by other newspapers across the region. Those images further compliment the Railfest theme linking coal and railroading.
Adults (ages 16 and above) may purchase a special $10 one-day or a $15 two-day Railfest pass at the Steamtown NHS information booth upon arrival. Please note that America the Beautiful passes are not accepted for admission to this special event. While children to age 5 can experience this event for free, children 6-15 years of age will require a $7 one–day pass or a $10 two-day pass.
Among the many Railfest events, the special entrance pass affords visitors of all ages the opportunity to enjoy a short train ride through the park, to hop aboard our caboose for a quick jaunt, watch locomotive shop staff operate our giant-sized equipment used to repair engines, power a hand-pump maintenance car, take a ride on a maintenance motor car, and have photos taken with Miss Phoebe Snow, namesake of the Lackawanna Railroad’s crack passenger express train. Other activities include 1/8-scale steam train rides, model train layouts, magicians, and other family-friendly events. Be sure not to miss the special Lego trains that will be on display.
Visitors can also enjoy museums and two very special photo exhibitions; The Call of Trains is a sampling of legendary railroad photographer Jim Shaughnessy’s more than 50 years of masterful railroad photography, while Scott Herring, our local last anthracite photographer, will help celebrate anthracite coal’s 250th anniversary as the fuel that helped spur the American industrial revolution and railroad expansion.
While still family-friendly, here’s something for die-hard rail fans. On Saturday, Sept. 1, with the purchase of a special ticket, visitors can relish in a 5-6 hour long exclusive excursion experience on two passenger railroads running the Northeast PA Railfest Flyer. Enjoy the first section, from Steamtown NHS to Moscow in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains. There, you can tour the historic passenger and freight depots, then enjoy a light lunch (hotdog, snack, soda) on the station grounds.
From Moscow. you will be bussed to historic Lackawaxen where you will board more vintage railroad equipment for a trip along the scenic Lackawaxen River. This Flyer section, operated by the Stourbridge Line, will terminate in Honesdale, where awaiting busses will transport you back to Steamtown NHS. Cost for this all-inclusive excursion, which includes Railfest admission for both days, is $80 for those ages 13 years and above and $60 for accompanied youth ages 3-12. Those younger than age 3 are free provided they sit on a parent’s lap. Tickets are limited.
Log onto http://www.laurellines.org/railfesttrip.html to purchase tickets.
On Sunday morning, Sept. 2, railfans are in for another treat as noted photographer and Railroad & Railfan editor Steve Barry will lead a special photo shoot opportunity using vintage Central Railroad of New Jersey-flagged diesel and passenger equipment. Barry will share his decades of experience with participants during several stops at hard to reach locations. Space is limited and costs $30 in addition to the Railfest event fee. Tickets may be reserved by calling 570-340-5204.
Visitors seeking a more leisurely family-friendly train ride can enjoy round-trip excursions to Moscow on either Saturday or Sunday, in vintage passenger cars pulled by historic diesel locomotives. Fares for these trips are $24 for adults ages 16 to 61, $22 for seniors aged 62 and older, and $17 for accompanied children ages 6-15. Children ages 5 and younger accompanied by an adult require a “no-charge” ticket. Railfest information is available at www.nps.gov/stea/planyourvisit/railfest.htm. Also watch for updates on our Facebook page, at: https://www.facebook.com/Steamtown-National-Historic-Site-151286568217222/?ref=bookmarks