KINGMAN - After more than a year of searching, a local railroad enthusiast club has finally found a place to show off their collection of railroad memorabilia - at least for a couple of days.
In honor of National Train Day, the Whistle Stop Railroad Club will be setting up its collection of vintage railroad signs, posters, equipment and model trains in the lobby of the Powerhouse Visitors center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The railroaders will also return at the same times the following Saturday, this time to Locomotive Park, to take part in the Kingman Area Books Are Magic festivities there.
Since they formed early last year, the Whistle Stop club, composed of retired railroad employees and train enthusiasts, has been searching for a place where they can show off the many fascinating artifacts they've picked up over the years. But according to founding member Art Dias, himself a 30-year veteran of the Santa Fe Railroad, no agency has been willing to give the non-profit a space for free, and they simply don't have the money to afford rent on any available office space in town.
But as a compromise, Director of Tourism Joshua Noble and Powerhouse Information Services Manager Denise Wilkins were willing to provide the lobby and Locomotive Park for one day apiece to give the railroaders a chance to share their knowledge and heirlooms with the public. According to Noble, the decision came shortly after the Arizona Department of Tourism sent out a news release on National Train Day.
"They were the first thing to come to mind," he said. "We contacted them, and they said 'Unless we have space, we can't do anything,' and we said, 'Well, we can let you set up in the lobby here.'"
Noble is hopeful the two events will give both he and the railroaders a chance to gauge how much public interest there is in Kingman's railroad history. He said the railroaders' public reception may well influence the eventual construction of a railroad museum, which has been proposed to go into the Kingman Train Depot following its renovation tentatively set for later this year.
"Putting it out in the lobby area really opens it right up, and really gives us an indication as to how much interest there is in having a museum for the railroad artifacts," Noble said. "What's also special about this is having Art there to curate this for the day. He was a steam locomotive engineer, and that's something you don't see very much anymore."
For his part, Dias is excited at the opportunity to slip back into his conductor's uniform for the day and share his wealth of experiences working as an engineer and a private detective for the railroad he still looks fondly on today. But he and his group are still waiting for the day when they might finally have a place to call their own - for good.
"I still argued for the depot," he said. "But at least we've got something going now, and we can wake the people up a little."
"At least we've got something going now, and we can wake the people up a little."
Whistle Stop club