For the second year since the pandemic, the Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society is excited to bring its winter fundraising event back to the C&O Railway Heritage Center. The non-profit organization has announced the return of the George Washington Rail Expo, taking place Saturday, February 18 from 10 AM – 4 PM and Sunday, February 19 from 12 PM – 4 PM. Several vendors will be set up in the Freight House museum within the Heritage Center selling models, railroad antiques, and memorabilia.
Admission to the event is $5.00 and includes entrance to the C&O Railway Heritage Center museum in Clifton Forge. C&O Historical Society employees have made a special point to stock the onsite Depot Gift Shop with the full catalog of modeling products normally available only on ChessieShop.com, giving visitors to the two-day festival a special opportunity to see the rail-history group’s full lineup of models and save on shipping and handling.
In addition, the two-day event will also include:
- C&OHS O-scale layout team will be present showcasing large-scale model trains. They will be running the museum’s model layout of the C&O Railway’s route and showcasing equipment representative of the 1940s through the Chessie System era.
- The museum will feature a new railroad photo exhibit on the C&O Railway’s premier passenger train, The George Washington.
- N-Scale Layout and hands-on demonstrations at the Heritage Center train depot by C&OHS member and crowd favorite Dale Perry. Come see a variety of specially-imported Kato passenger sets running including Amtrak throughout the day and hear industry information first hand as Dale demonstrates his catalog of N-scale equipment. Great for visitors of all ages.
- Operation Lifesaver will be exhibiting their crucial message for citizens of all ages regarding railroad safety and security.
Long-time C&O Historical Society Employee Brandy Dudley stated, “After the post-pandemic success of reinventing this annual event to take place exclusively at our C&O Railway Heritage Center museum, we are pleased to be able to organize an even better lineup of vendors and attractions, all taking place in one convenient location. Utilizing our Heritage Center for the George Washington Rail Expo also allows us to showcase our interpretive exhibits and historic C&O rolling stock collection at the same time.”
Ms. Dudley is especially excited for the debut of a new exhibit at the Heritage Center’s indoor Freight House museum—one to which she has made a personal investment. For several months, she has been working to set up a permanent display of the C&O Historical Society’s railroad uniform collection. The completion of the new uniform display throughout the Freight House will be complete just in time for the George Washington Rail Expo.
Ms. Dudley explained what led to the development of this new exhibit, “The Society collection includes a beautiful collection of preserved railroad uniforms from various jobs throughout the railroad’s history. After conversations with a gentleman who donated one of them, our officers and I planned to purchase display mannequins for the uniforms I felt were best suited to exhibit. In the weeks leading up to the Expo, I have been working to properly clean and iron the uniforms for display, arranging them carefully on mannequins so the public can enjoy them.” In addition to uniforms going on display from the C&O Historical Society’s physical archive, and one of the uniforms were donated by retired CSX Rail Agent Glenn Thompson.
Ms. Dudley made a special point to thank donors like Mr. Thomas who entrusted the C&OHS with these historic items.
C&OHS President Mark Totten also thanked the generosity of those who have donated items such as vintage railroad uniforms to the non-profit organization’s collection, “We have a wonderful collection of uniforms from the history of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, some of which may be the only surviving example. Many of these pieces have never been seen by the public until now. With this new exhibit, we are excited to bring these donations full circle and show the individuals and families who donated them that we take these gifts seriously. I’m also very grateful to Brandy, who was the engine behind getting these artifacts on proper display.”
In addition to new museum exhibits, the C&O Historical Society is adding another layer of depth to the George Washington Rail Expo, one that C&OHS President Totten says demonstrates their dedication to the non-profit organization’s mission to preserve and share the history of the C&O Railway. Thanks to the success of a modeling-related presentation given at last year’s Expo by C&OHS member Craig Laing, the restored dining car Gadsby’s Tavern will again be used for seminar-style talks with a full lineup of historical topics planned for members of the visiting audience.
C&OHS President Totten remarked, “The lineup of speakers we are offering this year on board our restored 1922 dining car showcases the academic side of our mission. We have sessions that should appeal to students of transportation history, model railroaders, and to the general public.” Totten added, “The seminars may be attended at no additional cost to our guests.”
The lineup of scheduled presentations on board Gadsby’s Tavern:
- Saturday, February 18, 2023
- Time: 11:00 AM
Title: Taking Amtrak to School – 1973-1976
Presenter: Jesse Smith
Description: From 1973-’76, I rode Amtrak back and forth across the old C&O, commuting for holidays to and from college from Washington, D.C. to Charleston, WV. This show marks some of the best times and scenes of the C&O Railway during that period.
- Time: 2:00 PM
Title: Stories, Laws and Lessons
Presenters: Glenn Thompson, Josh Cease, and John Perry
Description: Glenn Thompson (Retired CSX Rail Agent), Josh Cease (Supervisory Special Agent at CSX Railroad), and John Perry (Operation Life Saver) share first-hand stories about the ups and downs of railroading, especially what it takes to keep the system safe and moving forward at all times.
- Time: 11:00 AM
- Sunday, February 19, 2023
- Time: 12:30 PM
Title: Modeling: Concrete Sidewalks from Styrene
Presenter: Rick Gartrell
- Time: 2:30 PM
Title: Modeling: A Lesson in Selective Compression
- Time: 12:30 PM
The C&O Railway Heritage Center is open six days per week, Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 AM – 4 PM at 705 Main Street, Clifton Forge, VA. Information about the museum is posted to facebook.com/candoheritage.
The C&OHS archive database is available online at archives.cohs.org. Updates and additional information about the 54-year-old organization can be found on Facebook under @cohs.org or on Instagram at @ChessiesRoad.