By Warren P. Russo
---- — Model train hobbyists of all ages will want to be in Amesbury on Saturday for the Salisbury Point Railroad Historical Society’s Railway Express, the annual Christmas train and model railroad show and open house.
The festivities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the society’s facility at 9 Water St., Amesbury, in Carriage Mills Building 2. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children under 13, and kids under 5 get in free.
“We’ll have at least half a dozen model train layouts that children can take turns operating,” said SPRHS spokesman Peter Bryant. “Some of the trains, like the American Flyer, date back to the 1950s, and we’ll have five different gauge railroads on display, including everything from N- and OO-gauge to HO-, O- and G-gauge.”
Visitors will be able to run layouts such as Thomas the Tank Engine, as well as a variety of antique model trains made by Lionel and American Flyer. Visitors can also bring their own old locomotives for test runs to see if they still work, without having to set up tracks at home.
On display will be framed prints of railroad scenes in the Amesbury-Salisbury area, as well as thousands of other antique photographs, maps, books, signal lamps and assorted railroad memorabilia.
Videos of antique trains will be shown continuously in the society’s library, and a selection of model trains and railroad accessories will also be available for sale.
An extra added attraction is a collection of hats dating back to the 1870s that were made at the Merrimac Hat Factory in Amesbury, which closed in 1970. That building has been partially converted into condominiums, and the collection of rare and unusual hats now resides at the train museum.
The Railroad Society is dedicated to preserving the history of the Amesbury branch of the old Boston & Maine line, which also lives on, in a way, in the form of the local rail trails that today are popular with walkers, skaters and bicyclists.
Economic development in northern New England peaked well before the depression, and the B&M’s highest volume of freight was 30 million tons in 1918.
The line also carried some 40 million passengers in 1901, but railroads were hit early by competition from highways, the popularity of the automobile and the rise of the trucking industry. By 1937, it was carrying only 20 million passengers, and was finally down to minimal commuter-only levels by 1967.
Well into the 1980s, however, the B&M still commanded over 1400 miles of track, hauling freight in six states. The main line went from South Portland, Maine, to Rotterdam Junction, New York. Secondary lines stretched from Boston throughout eastern Massachusetts and into New Hampshire.
The group’s 40 members meet on Wednesday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m., and new members or visitors are always welcome.
For more information about the SPRHS, call 978-884-1639, or check out their website at www.salisburypoint.tnsing.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Christmas train show by Salisbury Point Railroad Historical Society
When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Carriage Mills Building 2, 9 Water St., Amesbury
How: $5 for adults, $3 for children age 5 to 13, free for children under age 5.