From the point of view of one of the many dedicated URHS volunteers, I can say that the 2013 URHS Transportation Heritage Festival was just as successful as we had all hoped it would be. The event brought just shy of 2000 people to see our collection at Boonton yard and helped the URHS to raise over $5000. From much of the testimony I received, we had exceeded expectations of the quality and improvement of our exhibits. We had 5 of our best pieces of cosmetic restoration on display: NJDOT E8 4253, CNJ GP7 1524, “Reading” F7 284, and PRR GG1 4877. In addition to those, we had Bill McKelvey’s newly restored GE 45 tonner on display, as well as GG1 4879, which is currently being worked on by Star Trak in the shop. The hit of the day however, was the visiting Norfolk Southern heritage locomotive 1074. The replica Lackawanna paint scheme contrasted beautifully next to the GG1’s Brunswick Green, and the two made for a great photo opportunity. It also provided visitors an exceptionally rare opportunity to see a heritage locomotive up close and personal.
In addition to our visiting locomotive, we were lucky enough to have a visit from Tri State Chapter’s Lackwanna caboose. It was delivered behind 1074 and was left open for tours throughout the day. Also open for tours were our CNJ GP7 and our “display train,” an idea that was brought to the open house by the VRA’s own Frank Ball. This was a hit among guests as they had the opportunity to see inside the PRR coach and baggage car, the NJT 1 (Blue Comet’s “DeVico”) and the cab and engine room of Reading 284—a rare opportunity for most guests.
On the night before the open house, we held a night photo session in Boonton yard with the five displayed locomotives.This was well attended, and we sold out the 30 tickets well before the event. This shoot gave us the opportunity replicate a scene the DL&W’s Phoebe Snow (played by the VRA’s Carolyn Hoffman), which made a headline in Railfan & Railroad magazine. The photo shoot, and the open house to follow also provided for a two-page spread in Railpace as well as many submissions to Railpictues.net.
After countless hours of hard work, I was relieved to stop and relax on the day of the event to enjoy our hard work and listen to what visitors had to say. The most common comment I received was praise to the hard work of our volunteers. This trend also continued in comments online after the event. Many were wowed, not by just the appearance of our exhibits, but the improvement over years past. The fact that we, as an organization, received such high praise from such a typically critical audience is something that we can all be proud of. Our hard work, and our correspondence online before the even helped to grow our reach far beyond where it had been months earlier. The event, the buildup beforehand, and the sharing of guests’ experiences afterwards helped to garner support that will be very valuable to the URHS. We hope to continue the Transportation Heritage Festival as an annual event and we hope to continue to continue the trend of improvement and growing support well in to the future.