Roanoke’s rail museums are teaming up for Roanoke Rail Day on Saturday May 14 by offering a supersized day of fun for train fans of all ages. Visit the O. Winston Link Museum and the Virginia Museum of Transportation to enjoy special Norfolk Southern rail equipment and historic engines, model trains, rides, photography, kids’ activities and more. A discounted joint ticket is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $8 for children. Visitors can also purchase admission to each museum separately. The Archives of the Norfolk & Western Historical Society will be open free of charge.
As part of the collaboration, the Virginia Museum of Transportation is loaning the unusual Virginian EL-C 135 electric locomotive to the O. Winston Link Museum to serve as the centerpiece of the Link Museum’s celebration. The historic 135, better known as the Rectifier, was one of 12 electric engines built by General Electric in 1956, and is the only one that still exists. The Rectifier will be moved by Norfolk Southern along its mainline tracks to the O. Winston Link Museum on Friday May 13, and back to the Virginia Museum of Transportation on Sunday May 15.
At the O. Winston Link Museum (Festival Hours: 10am-2pm; Museum Galleries Open: 10 a.m. -5p.m.)
This year’s event will feature the Virginian Railway EL-C 135, 1/8 scale train rides, telegraphy demonstrations, antique model trains, railroad photography, slideshows, children’s activities, face painting, food and beverages, a photo booth and more. On the evening of May 14, the Link Museum will hold a night photo shoot featuring the Virginian engine. Admission to the photo shoot is $50 per person and is not included in the joint ticket. Reservations are required: call 540-982-5465 for more information.
Between 1955 and 1960, photographer O. Winston Link created unforgettable black and white images that documented the last days of Norfolk & Western’s steam giants and the people and places along its lines. The Museum’s collection features more than 300 stunning photographs, audio listening stations, a documentary film, artifacts and recreations of Link’s photographic settings. The Link Museum is owned and operated by the Historical Society of Western Virginia.
At the Virginia Museum of Transportation (Festival and Gallery Hours: 10 a.m. -5 p.m.)
Special day long activities include rides by the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society with two of the chapter’s restored, historic diesel locomotives on display. Meet the Museum’s rail artist in residence, Andy Fletcher, who will sign prints. From 10-2, there will be blacksmithing demonstrations in the Rail Yard and the Roanoke Valley Model Engineers will open their N, HO, and ON3 layouts for visitors.
The Virginia Museum of Transportation is home to two of the most powerful steam locomotives in existence today—the Norfolk & Western Class A 1218 and the Class J 611. Through exhibits, artifacts, and an outstanding collection, the Museum tells the rich story of Virginia’s transportation heritage. The Virginia Museum of Transportation is the Official Transportation Museum of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
At The James N. Gillum Archives of the Norfolk & Western Historical Society (Archives Open: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. – 2101 Salem Ave SW)
The Archives is a repository of documents covering over a century and a half of railroad history. These documents primarily include mechanical and engineering drawings and photographic images in many formats. The collection also includes books, magazines, newspaper articles, maps, reports, rule books, timetables, menus, annual reports, promotional and publicity material, forms, ledgers, contracts, correspondence, specifications, bills-of-materials, operating manuals, test results, engineering sketches, and dispatcher’s logs. There is no admission charge to visit the Archives.
Visitors will also enjoy the The David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk that stretches approximately 1/3 of a mile along active Norfolk Southern mainline tracks in the heart of downtown Roanoke – the Railwalk connects the O. Winston Link Museum and the Virginia Museum of Transportation. The Railwalk is part museum, with numerous rail artifacts, interactive exhibits, and story boards, and part linear park with great vantage points for watching modern operating trains, and for watching the Virginian Rectifier moved to the O. Winston Link Museum on May 13, and returned to the Virginia Museum of Transportation on May 15. It is always open and always free.