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Resident hoping to gain interest in historical railroads

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Penn Central Railway Company logo
An area resident is reaching out to local railroad enthusiasts in hopes to increase membership in a nationwide society.

Don Bryan, Rockville resident and teacher at Cumberland Academy, is a member of the Historical Rail Association, focusing specifically on the Penn Central Railroad, and the preservation of its memory.

The Penn Central Railroad came about on Feb. 1, 1968, with a merger between the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central Railroad. Bryan said its design was considered to be quite original at the time and that it still holds up to modern standards. The Central came to a close on June 21, 1970, due to financial troubles, and was eventually taken over by Conrail in 1976.

Bryan said he was enticed to join the society because as a lover of trains, this was the model he fell in love with while growing up.

"I've always liked trains and this was the railroad I remember growing up," Bryan said. "It was very unique and if you saw it today it would look in place."

One method group members use to preserve the memory of the rail is a quarterly publication called "The Post," a 32-page, all-color publication, as well as releasing various catalogues.

The group also holds a convention at a different location every year. This gathering features slide shows, swap meets showing off various products from the train. Products include Scalecoat II Penn Central Green Paint, which was used for the train's design.

In the past, the conventions have been held at various spots the train passed through in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Ohio. Bryan said he hoped that in the near future, the convention could be moved to Indiana, as it stationed the train at various locations, including Brazil and Terre Haute.

Bryan also said he felt this would be a great way to boost local membership. He estimated there were between 300-400 members in the society nationwide, but could only account for five members in Indiana. He said the railway had a great history here and that hosting the convention could go a long way to boosting membership locally.

Outside of its appeal to people fascinated with trains, Bryan said the story of the Penn Central has a universal appeal. At the time of its financial collapse, Penn Central was the largest scaled bankruptcy in history. Bryan said with the current down turn in the American economy, the implosion of Penn Central sort of set the stage for what we are seeing today.

"What happened (with the train) has a lot of similarities to now," Bryan said. "It was a turbulent time not just in American history, but in transportation history. This is a really unique chapter and I hope we can reach out to more interested people."

For more information, including history and an application for membership, visit the Penn Central Railroad Historical Society online at pcrrhs.org.

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Thank you Don Bryan and The Brazil Times for helping increase awareness of our railroading history. To many people, trains and railroads are nothing more than big noisy hinderances that make us late for work. But the railroad industry plays a very important role in today's commericial logistics. As I sit here in a hotel room in Vincennes, Indiana, a train horn is blowing, and in about an hour and a half, that same train will be passing through Terre Haute.

For those of us looking for a local rail society, check out the Haley Tower Historical and Technical Society in Terre Haute. The Society is restoring two former railroad interlock towers on their grounds in Terre Haute near 8th Ave and 13th Street at the Wabash Valley Railroaders' Museum. The museum is open weekends from 11am to 4pm from May through October. Located at the junction of two major rail routes (Indy to St. Louis and Chicago to Nashville, TN), the museum is a great place to "railfan" (sit and watch trains). Check out their website at www.haleytower.org.

-- Posted by Civisi on Thu, Apr 16, 2009, at 11:48 PM

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