The Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Georgia, will open a restored Park Train ride at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6. The Park Train dates to 1957, when it started service at the Birmingham, AL, 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, according to a press release issued by the museum.
“My family has enjoyed these trains for 25 years,” said Bryan Black in the press release. “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.” Black is a volunteer at the museum. He works 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.
Fundraising began on an ambitious project to create an extensive set of track for the trains four years ago. 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 done by museum volunteers.
“Railroading and transportation impact our lives in far more ways than we generally consider,” said Southeastern Museum Administrator Randy Pirkle in the press release. “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,” Pirkle said.
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 bought in 1957 for use at the Birmingham Zoo, where they remained in service until their replacement in 1976.
The original trains were purchased by the Black family when they were retired.
The Black family 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 plans 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 Oct. 27, the museum’s recognition of National Model Railroading Month Nov. 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 hours and programs can be found on the web at www.SoutheasternRailwayMuseum.org.