Railroad enthusiasts are already “on track” for the 17th annual Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society Railroadiana Show and Sale April 14 at the Arkansas Railroad Museum in Pine Bluff.
The event, which opens at 9 a.m. and runs through 4 p.m., attracts a big crowd each year and provides a sizable economic boost to the area.
“We don’t have exact numbers on Railroadiana’s local economic impact, but we know it’s significant,” said Bob Purvis, executive director of the Pine Bluff Visitors Center and Advertising and Promotion Center. “The event gets a lot of attention from railroad buffs, both locally and outside of Pine Bluff.”
Purvis said he’s hopeful that a targeted promotional campaign nets increased attendance this year.
“We’ve been advertising through the Arkansas Press Association with focus on areas where we know there are a good number of railroad retirees,” said Purvis. “A lot of people come into Pine Bluff for Railroadiana, and they eat at our restaurants, stay in our motels, shop in our stores and spend money at the show.”
Vendors from throughout the country will be selling railroad memorabilia, including some rare, antique and one-of-a-kind items.
“Collectors will certainly find something that perks their interest,” promises Railroadiana spokeswoman Elizabeth Gaines, a long-time volunteer at the railroad museum.
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, and Thomas Meirs will be showing his working Lego attraction.
Back again is one of the show’s most popular features – a miniature, mechanical circus.
The Pine Bluff Amateur Radio Club will be manning a working station. Ham radio operators will be available to answer questions on and provide demonstrations of their communication abilities.
Several vendors will be offering assorted foods and beverages. Among the favorite food standards is Seth Wynne’s barbecue.
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 a park here several years before volunteers rescued and restored it.
Also within the museum, which Gaines said annually attracts between 9,000 and 11,000 visitors, is the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Steam Locomotive 336, built in 1909.
Assorted rail cars can also be seen up close, along with vintage cabooses and one the world’s few remaining steam-powered relief cranes.
Admission to Railroadiana will be $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 6-12. Children younger than 6 will be admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult.
For more information, telephone the museum at 535-8819.