SCRANTON — Retirees Tom and Rita Zimmerman make it a point to take a day trip from their home in Nazareth once a week. Monday found the couple at Steamtown National Historic Site’s “fee-free day,” learning about trains and history.
Tom said, in his mind’s eye, he could picture passengers of a train as they made their way from place to place at a speed that had, to that point, not been possible.
Also interesting, he said, was how trains were used for commerce, impacting the world.
Roger Eveleth and wife Julia Keen, who had traveled from New Jersey to visit the area, said they were pleasantly surprised when they discovered the site, learning about it online.
Eveleth, a pilot, said he enjoys learning about the history of transportation, and Monday’s event fit the bill.
“We’ve been to various transportation museums across the country,” he said. “And this is … one of the best.”
Julia also enjoyed the afternoon’s adventure and said the two would be following up with a visit to a local restaurant, hoping to learn a bit more about the area.
Eveleth said he appreciated learning about steam engines, how they worked and what they were used for.
“Sometimes we become disconnected from our history,” he said. “A day like this brings us back and puts things in perspective.”
Eveleth also enjoyed learning about personalities connected with the development of the railroad.
“I loved hearing about travelers, workers, people who built it and people who made it work,” he said. “Creating railroad systems took a great deal of vision.”
Ranger Tommy Parker said he especially enjoyed telling people ready to pay for entrance into the historic site that there was no charge because of Presidents Day.
“Some people were really surprised,” he said. “But several fee-free days have become a tradition at the park.”
Parker said that more than 300 people were anticipated to make their way through the park, visiting the bookstore and the museum, looking at the trains, learning about history.
“People ask how long they should expect to stay,” he said. “Some people stay for a whole day. Some people even come back the next day.”
Heidi Peoples, of Scranton, was certainly making a day of it with her three children — Liam, 7, Caroline, 5, and Rebecca, 3.
Peoples said temperatures that hovered near 50 made it a wonderful time to celebrate the holiday and enjoy learning about trains through various presentations, including an interactive display.
She also lauded park staff for their knowledge and enthusiasm in sharing interesting facts about trains.
“Someone was showing Liam two trains that were painted at the same time, but with different quality paints,” she said. “They looked very different.
Liam took time, as the family made their way through the museum, to explain things to his sisters.
“He’s the real train lover,” said Peoples, “He has a big book about trains that is one of his favorites.”
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