The Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Georgia, will celebrate its newest attraction when it opens a restored Park Train ride this Saturday, October 6, at 11:00 am. The Park Train dates to 1957, when it started service at the Birmingham, Alabama Zoo. The two trains and their cars were donated to the Museum by Ben and Joy Black, of Birmingham, and their son, Bryan Black, of Atlanta, so that the public would once again be able to enjoy riding these historic trains.
“My family has enjoyed these trains for 25 years,” said Bryan Black of the gift. “With my parents in Birmingham and me now in metro Atlanta, it seemed a good time to find them a new home, and the Southeastern Railway Museum was a perfect fit.” Mr. Black is a volunteer at the Museum, and can be seen working as part of the crew on both the Park Train and the historic train rides for which the Museum is known.
The trains were given to the Museum in 2000, leading to a lengthy consideration of the best way to incorporate them into the existing exhibits. Four years ago, fundraising began on an ambitious project to create an extensive set of track for the trains. The ride opening on Saturday represents the first completion of the first phase of this project, which was headed up by Chuck Hardt, another Museum volunteer. Substantial funding was provided by the Black family, the 2492 Fund (an Atlanta family fund), and Scott Sadow. All work on the project was donated by Museum volunteers.
“Railroading and transportation impact our lives in far more ways than we generally consider,” observed Museum Administrator Randy Pirkle. “The addition of these wonderful Park Trains lets us showcase one of the more whimsical forms of transportation, but one which a lot of Americans remember fondly. The Museum is extremely grateful to the Black family and all our supporters for making this possible. We are proud and delighted to be the new home for these trains, and look forward to introducing the joy of miniature train rides to children and adults for many years to come.”
There are two trains in the set, one of which has been completely reconditioned and will be the primary train for the new ride. The trains were purchased in 1957 for use at the Birmingham Zoo, where they remained in service until their replacement in 1976. The original trains were purchased at that time by the Black family, who operated the trains for family and friends on their own property outside Birmingham through the 1980s. The new track at the Southeastern Railway Museum represents the first time these historic miniature trains have operated in regularly scheduled service since that time.
The Museum expects to run the Park Train on Saturdays throughout the year and some summer weekdays. The ride will also be available on Sundays when the Museum is open. The new attraction is expected to be an important addition to the Museum’s schedule of events through the end of the year, including the annual Train-or-Treat celebration on October 27, the Museum’s recognition of National Model Railroading Month on November 10 & 11, and throughout the holiday season in coordination with the Breakfast and Lunch with Santa programs and the Polar Express Experience. Information on Museum programs can be found on the web at www.SoutheasternRailwayMuseum.org.
About the Southeastern Railway Museum
The Southeastern Railway Museum, in operation since 1970, is Georgia’s Official Transportation History Museum. Occupying a 35-acre site in Duluth, Georgia, the museum offers exhibits dealing with the history and importance of transportation in the development of the state and the region. The collection includes roughly 90 pieces of railroad rolling stock, including historic locomotives, passenger and freight cars, and maintenance vehicles. The museum also exhibits historic automobiles, firefighting equipment, and buses from MARTA and its predecessors.
Because many of the exhibits are outdoors, the Southeastern Railway Museum varies its operating hours seasonally. Current days and hours, along with educational programming and other information, are available on the museum website at SoutheasternRailwayMuseum.org.