Railroadiana is ‘just the ticket’ for train enthusiasts

It’s a safe estimate that most participants in the yearly Railroadiana Show and Sale at the Arkansas Railroad Museum here have a “one-track mind.” Meanwhile, it’s apparent that the dealers, exhibitors and attendees “let off steam” at the popular, family-style event.

“Railroadiana has been one of Pine Bluff’s major attractions since it began, and it continues to get bigger and better,” said Bob Purvis, executive director of the Pine Bluff Convention Center. “The Arkansas Railroad Museum and Engine 819 have helped in making Pine Bluff synonymous with rail history throughout the nation, and Railroadiana draws railroad buffs from across the country and sometimes even Canada.”

This year’s show and sale is slated for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 6. The museum is at 1700 Port Road.

“We don’t have exact numbers on Railroadiana’s local economic impact, but I can tell you that it’s significant,” Purvis said. “It usually draws 2,000 or more persons each year, and that’s good for all of us. We’ll have a lot of people eating at our restaurants, staying in our motels. shopping in our stores and spending money at the show. That’s a win-win situation for everyone, and to make it even better, it’s a fun-filled, entertaining and educational event.”

Now in its 18th year, the Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society-sponsored Railroadiana features vendors from throughout the U.S. selling railroad memorabilia — including some rare, antique and even one-of-a-kind items. Additionally, railroad enthusiasts of all ages will have opportunities to view a number of exhibits. The Crooked Rails and Rail & Sprue modular clubs will have large, operating displays.

Back again will be one of the show’s most popular features — a miniature, mechanical circus. Also, the Pine Bluff Amateur Radio Club will be manning a working station, and ham radio operators will be available to answer questions and provide demonstrations on their communication abilities.

“I understand that so many dealers and exhibitors have signed up that many and maybe all of the old locomotive engines and rail cars that are normally seen inside will be moved outside this year because of the extra room that will be needed,” said Purvis.

“Collectors will certainly find something that perks their interests,” said CBRHS Vice President Bill McCaskill, who added that Woodshed Barbecue will be catering the event and several vendors will also be offering assorted foods and beverages.

The museum itself houses rare railroad relics, including the restored St. Louis Southwestern Railway Steam Engine 819. Built in 1942, the locomotive was eventually donated to the City of Pine Bluff and fell into disrepair while displayed in the old Oakland Park — now Martin Luther King Jr. Park — before volunteers rescued and restored it.

Also within the museum — which McCaskill said annually attracts up to 11,000 visitors — is the St. Louis Southwestern Steam Locomotive 336, built in 1909. Assorted rail cars can also be seen up close, along with vintage cabooses and one of the world’s few remaining steam-powered relief cranes.

Admission to Railroadiana will be $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 6 to 12. Children younger than 6 will be admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult.

For more information, telephone the museum at 870-535-8819.