Tracking the Past

A new exhibit at the Delaware History Museum explores the state’s rich railroading history.




The railroad ruled in Delaware near the turn of the 20th century.
 
Wilmington was a railroad hub, as all major lines passed through the city. Businesses that would become some of the area’s top employers sprung up along the city’s riverfront to build locomotives and passenger and freight cars. And Wilmington’s landscape was shaped as neighborhoods were created to house its many railroad workers.
 
As the railroad expanded downstate, towns were constructed along the lines and local agriculture prospered. Milton, for example, became famous for its export of holly and other seasonal greens, thanks to construction of the Queen Anne’s Railroad.
 
The Delaware Historical Society’s latest exhibit will take visitors back to this bygone era through a rich collection of photos—including images from the collections of the Wilmington & Western Railroad and Hagley Museum—along with artifacts such as furniture, tools and period costumes.
 
The 10-month exhibit will be held in conjunction with the restoration of a historic railcar built in 1889 by the Jackson and Sharp Company in Wilmington.
 
At its peak, more than 330 miles of track owned by 14 companies crisscrossed Delaware, which had 76 train stations. But as other means of travel developed, freight and passenger rail service headed toward near extinction.
 
Still, plenty of reminders of this grand era exist throughout the state, including the landmark Wilmington Train Station (currently under renovation by Amtrak), the nearby B&O Water Street Station and the Pennsylvania Building (both renovated by ING Direct). These structures form the only remaining campus in the country of buildings designed by famed Philadelphia architect Frank Furness.
 
Other nostalgic nods to railroading include the popular Wilmington & Western Railroad—billed as an operating railroad museum—and the Harrington Railroad Museum, which allows visitors to walk through a 1926 Pennsylvania Railroad caboose and maintains one of the few remaining watchman’s towers on Delmarva.
 
For more on the exhibit at the Delaware History Museum, visit www.hsd.org.
 

Restoring the Past

In conjunction with its exhibit, the Delaware Historical Society is leading a unique renovation of a railcar that was built in Wilmington in 1889. According to Joan Hoge, the society’s executive director, the Jackson and Sharp Company, located on the peninsula between Brandywine Creek and the Christina River, built the car for a Canadian company.
 
The railcar spent its working life in Canada then was acquired by a private museum in Vermont. The U.S. National Park Service took over the museum, called Steamtown, and moved the collection to Scranton, Pennsylvania. The railcar, however, did not fit the service’s mission and was slotted for the scrap yard. The historical society brought the car to Delaware in 2005 and has since worked to raise $650,000 for the restoration, the exhibit, a traveling exhibition, and to develop curriculum for students about the state’s industrial history.
 
The society is partnering with The Challenge Program, which teaches at-risk youth carpentry skills that will help them land jobs. These apprentices will help restore the railcar at a new facility at the Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard in Wilmington—on the site of the former Jackson and Sharp Company.
 
 “It’s a first-class wooden coach,” Hoge says. “Parts of the car that will be restored, including seats, a wheel, and pieces of track, will be on exhibit. People can see the parts before they are restored.”
 
 The public is invited to the society’s annual meeting on April 19, when guest speakers will talk about the state’s railroad history and about the Jackson and Sharp railcar. For more, visit www.hsd.org.
 
 

The Exhibit

“Almost as Fast as Birds Can Fly: The Railroad in
Delaware History” May 7 through March 26, 2011, at the Delaware
History Museum, Wilmington. For more, visit www.hsd.org.
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February 2016

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Cost: FREE and open to the public

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1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

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Cost: Free

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The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
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More information

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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

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Penn Museum
3260 South St.
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Website »

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801 Middleford Rd.
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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

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Philadelphia, PA  19104
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Cost: Free

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The Station Gallery
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View map »


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Delaware Museum of Natural History
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Cost: $13

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1101 Arch St.
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More information

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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

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Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

Penn Museum opens the world premiere exhibition The Golden Age of King Midas—featuring ancient treasures on loan from the Republic of Turkey—with a spectacular daylong public...

Cost: $15

Where:
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3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

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Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
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View map »


Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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"La Sylphide" shares the beautiful and romantic story of our hero, James—a young Scottish farmer who, on the eve of hid wedding, abandons his betrothed, Effie, after being...

Cost: $25

Where:
Salesanium School
1801 North Broom St.
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Sponsor: Academy of International Ballet
Telephone: 1-866-908-5666
Contact Name: Denis Gronostayskiy
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Venture back with us for an evening where we re-imagine the Victorian Industrial Age as seen through our steam-powered, futuristic goggles.  Our biggest fundraiser of the year and all proceeds...

Cost: $100-$110

Where:
Smyrna Opera House
7 West South Street
Smyrna, DE  19977
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A spoiled orphan girl is sent to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire moors and discovers renewed life, for herself and her sickly cousin, in bringing her dead aunt’s secret garden back to...

Cost: $15–$18

Where:
The Secret Garden
47 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Everett Theatre
Telephone: 302-540-8561
Contact Name: Chris Everett
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Location: St. Mark’s High School, 2501 Pike Creek Road, Wilmington Time: Registration: 11:30 a.m. Race: 12:30 p.m. Fee: $25 (until Thursday, Feb. 11), $35 after and day of event...

Where:
, DE

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Location: Beebe Healthcare’s Medical Center, 424 Savannah Road, Lewes Date: Saturday, Feb. 13 (and the second Saturday of each month) Time: 9 a.m. Fee: Free For more...

Where:
, DE

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Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

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A successful writer of Broadway thrillers is struggling to overcome a dry spell when he receives a script from a student —a potential Broadway hit. Thereafter suspense...

Where:
, DE

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Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

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