On Nov. 7, 2015 the Ashland Main Street Association hosted the 13th annual Train Day. The Main Street Association has organized this event on the first Saturday of every November since 2002. The Ashland Main Street Association aims to “preserve, enhance, and promote downtown Ashland through cooperative efforts among local businesses, community organizations, Randolph-Macon College & the Town.” They also strive to make Ashland a “destination location.” Train Day’s overall goal of celebrating the CSX and Amtrak trains that run through the heart of downtown Ashland everyday has helped to make Ashland become that hoped for destination spot.
This year’s Train Day had poor weather, just like last year’s celebration. Despite the cold temperatures and rain, over 1,000 people showed up to the event. The Ashland Main Street Association prides the celebration on being a rain or shine event.
“There is so much stuff to do inside, it didn’t make much sense to have a rain day for it,” Bill Gatewood of the Ashland Main Street Association said.
Some of these indoor events included shopping, viewing small model trains, and film showings.
The Train Day celebration also recreated the early 20th century by having women dress as suffragettes and walk around downtown Ashland protesting for women’s rights. There were about four or five women dressed in period clothing who held signs that read phrases similar to “Votes for Women” and “We Fight until We Win.” The event also had live music, a small street train for children to ride, a town wide scavenger hunt, and merchandise for sale that included conductor hats, train whistles, bandanas, and commemorative pins.
The main attractions, however, were of course the trains that ran through the town, and the celebration of the historic Ashland train tracks. The Ashland train tracks were built in 1866 and were refurbished in 1890.
The tracks are used for both commercial and freight trains, and have become a defining attribute of Ashland’s identity.
Train aficionado and Randolph-Macon College junior Patrick Lynch says that “the quintessential Ashland Train Day experience has to be seeing a 6000’ + freight train [carrying] lumber.” Patrick says that he loves to see the trains going through town “blowing the horn the entire way through and seeing hundreds upon hundreds of people waving at the crew.”
Randolph-Macon’s Circle-K club also sent some volunteers over to the Train Day celebration to volunteer.
The volunteers worked with the Ashland Main Street Association and the Kiwanis Club. The volunteers did tasks such as selling merchandise, dressing up as the Train Day bear mascots, and conducting a survey about the event.
The Ashland Main Street Association appreciated all of the help, especially since the event required a significant amount of money to put on. According to the Ashland Main Street Association’s yearly report, this year’s Train Day required approximately $10,000. With so much time and money invested in the event, the Ashland Main Street Association was thrilled with the turn out, and encourages and invites everyone to attend the 14th Annual Train Day on Nov. 5, 2016.
-Kayla Koslosky ’18, Junior Features Editor