Trains are the stuff of childhood lore, so National Train Day comes as no surprise.
For the seventh year, the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum will invite the public to the Historic Tucson Train Depot and Amtrak train station to celebrate and learn a thing or two about train safety. It is part of a national campaign called Operation Lifesaver.
“Stop, look, listen,” said Ken Karrels, chairman of the museum. “Stop what you’re doing, look both ways and make sure there’s not a train coming.”
The Amtrak train makes a stop in Tucson, whisking travelers from the Old Pueblo to Los Angeles, New Orleans and beyond.
It often comes and goes with the sun, chug-a-lugging into the station mornings and departing later in the day.
“My wife and I have taken it to San Jose,” he said. “It’s nice because you can have a bite to eat at Maynards, catch the train and then you’re in LA the next morning and in San Jose up the coast.”
At National Train Day, the museum wants to promote intercity travel by rail. Amtrak crosses 46 states, connecting Tucson to cities including El Paso, Texas, and Palm Springs, California.
Kids and grown-ups alike can get a bird’s-eye view of a train snaking through town.
At least three model trains will be set up at both the Amtrak depot and the museum.
As visitors browse the museum exhibits, Union Pacific diesels hauling mile-long freight trains will transport the stories of the railroad from museum to reality.
Sure, trains make a lot of noise when they go by, but it’s the whistle everyone wants to hear.
A Union Pacific simulator puts visitors in the engineer’s seat to re-create the whistle, and the cab of Southern Pacific Locomotive 1673 from the film “Oklahoma!” will be open and its bell primed for ringing.
Some adults may remember the steam engine’s earlier life at Himmel Park before the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum moved it to its new home in 2000.
“It’s the motion,” Karrels said of a train’s nostalgic effect. “It’s getting in this little compartment and you’re moving along in this little moving house, like a cozy cabin … and what you find with adults is they want to go back to that experience from when they were little kids and capture that moment.”