History

All Aboard for National Train Day

A meeting of the engines at the Golden Spike National Historic Site, Utah
From the Library of Congress’s Collections

Saturday, May 12th is National Train Day, which celebrates the train-travel experience. Events will take place in four major cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, as well as smaller venues across the country.

In the four major cities, train stations will include live entertainment, exhibits, kids’ activities, model train displays and tours of Amtrak equipment, freight and commuter trains, and private railroad cars. I think the latter is the most exciting part. We’ve climbed aboard some antique railroad cars at the Travel Town Museum, and nothing beats the luxury of the historic dining and sleeping cars. (NOTE: Travel Town is FREE and located in Griffith Park.)

For Los Angeles-based train enthusiasts, you could add Carney’s to your itinerary, where you can dine on world-famous hot dogs aboard converted train cars. Yum!

Don’t feel left out if you aren’t near one of the major cities. A searchable list of local events can be found here. And there are many.

According to the National Train Day Web site, “National Train Day marks the 143rd anniversary of the creation of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. On May 10, 1869, in Promontory Summit, Utah, the ‘golden spike’ was driven into the final tie that joined 1,776 miles of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways, forever transforming the face and character of America.”

National Train Day is a wonderful excuse to dig into railroad history, and the Web offers several resources. First, check out Golden Spike National Historic Site. There are re-enactment scripts available under the “Kids” tab. The San Francisco Museum has a wealth of historical resources, including biographies of the “Big Four” who conceived the enterprise. Also the New York Times has original articles from the historic occasion online at their vast Learning Network site.