For years, the city of Scranton has been nicknamed Steamtown. Why Steamtown you might ask? Well, anyone who lives or has visited Scranton might know its rich history of railroads and locomotives, which they still use today. To keep this part of Scranton's culture alive, Scranton had a weekend-long event called Railfest, which was held at the Steamtown National Historic Site during the Labor Day weekend (Aug. 31, Sept. 1-2).
Railfest 2013 offered train rides, trolley excursions, and locomotive shop demonstrations to the festival goers. The rides were given on the same locomotives, which were mostly used during a time when riding a train was a major form of transportation. These trains included the Union Pacific #4012 "Big Boy" and Reading #2124. They took passengers through Scranton to the Moscow Station in Moscow, PA. They made stops at the Scranton Iron Furnaces located in the South Side section of Scranton. At this location, there was a Civil War Encampment, which had reenactments in honor of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.
Train rides also included rides from a historic commuter car called Scranton Limited. They took off from Track 12 in the turntable area of the Steamtown National Historic Site. There were also shuttle buses, which transported people to La Festa Italiana in downtown Scranton as well as the Civil War Encampment.
Railfest 2013 began with an opening ceremony on Saturday morning. at 10am in the turntable area. The ceremony was a presentation for this year's grand marshal, Ed E. Rogers, who is the managing editor of the Scranton Times. Kip Hagen, superintendent of the National Park Service, introduced Rogers as the new Grand Marshal. The Alan Sweeney Award was awarded to Ella Rayburn for her dedication to interpretation of local history and to encourage our history throughout Lackawanna Valley. Music during the ceremony was played by The Ron Leas Brass Band, a local orchestra, with vocals sung by Crystal Rose.
After the ceremony, kids and parents either went on a train ride or checked out the activities around the Site. Some kids had the chance to build Truss bridges, a hands-on experience which was at the ground floor of the site's theater. Some kids also saw the Nay Aug Miniature Train at the Technology Museum in bays 9, 10, and 11.
During the late afternoon, there was also a tour of the Mattes Street Tower. Tours were guided by park rangers. The event concluded with performances from Ray Owens, who played railroad songs and Civil War songs at the turntable area.
Near the ticket booth, there was a tent, which had flyers promoting the Lehigh Valley Gorge Scenic Railway, which gives train rides through the small town of Jim Thorpe, PA (a.k.a. The Switzerland of America and the Gateway to the Poconos).
The annual Railfest will continue to provide the people of Scranton and visitors the background and pride of being one of the first towns with railroads in the country. After all of these years, the trains are still in use and will most likely be offering train rides throughout the seasons for many more years to come.