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Train Enthusiasts Flock To Scranton For Railfest

September 2, 2018 GMT

SCRANTON — As historic trains slowly rumbled through the Steamtown National Historic Site railroad yard Saturday afternoon, cameras clicked away and tripods panned as enthusiasts young and old from across the country captured pieces of American history at Railfest 2018.

An estimated 2,000 to 2,500 train enthusiasts came out to share their love of locomotives for opening day of Railfest, said Superintendent Debbie Conway.

The annual event featured train excursions, photo exhibits, live workshop demonstrations, and most importantly for some, an opportunity to view historic trains up close.

After stepping away to film a passing train on his phone, Adam Rothschild, 13, of Marlboro, New Jersey, explained that he got his love of trains from his grandfather, Ben Soloff, a former conductor, tower operator and train dispatcher for the New York City Transit Authority. It’s exciting sharing his passion with his grandpa, Adam said.

“I’m going to remember these moments for the rest of my life,” he said.

Soloff, 75, developed his own love for trains when his father bought him a Lionel train set as a child, he said.

With some help from his brother, Ethan, 15, Adam shot video for his YouTube channel, which is dedicated to filming trains.

Friends Max Harris, 16, of Philadelphia, and Ethan Brodie, 17, of Elysburg, finally got to meet in person at this year’s Railfest after becoming friends on Facebook over their shared enjoyment of trains.

Ethan’s dad got him into trains when he was 4 years old, and a love for trains runs in Max’s family, with his father, grandpa, uncles and cousins all enjoying trains at one time or another. Ethan is especially a fan of steam engines because of their historical significance.

“Since there’s not a lot around the whole country, at least quite a few still operate here today in Pennsylvania alone,” he said.

One of the site’s most well-known trains is a behemoth known as Big Boy. Although the black paint is fading to gray, white lettering along the steam locomotive still boldly displays its official name: Union Pacific 4012. The American Locomotive Co. of New York delivered the first batch of “big boys,” including Steamtown’s, in 1941, according to the National Park Service website. Fully laden with 24,000 gallons of water and 28 tons of coal, the entire thing weighed nearly 1.2 million pounds, according to the NPS.

Railfest will continue today from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and all proceeds will go toward next year’s festival, Conway said.

Contact the writer:

flesnefsky@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5181