All aboard! Carillon Park Rail Festival pulls into the station this weekend. Set against the backdrop of the park’s picturesque 65-acre campus, the two-day family fun event features free miniature train rides, live steam engines, model train displays, historical displays, rail vendors, food vendors, and more trains than you can imagine.
Thanks to a hardworking crew of volunteers, Rail Fest has decidedly become one of the Miami Valley’s most popular events. “My wife calls my obsession with trains a genetic defect,” laughs Carillon Park Rail Festival Chairman Dave Oroszi, a train enthusiast who has written multiple rail-themed books, acquired countless archival photos, and interprets the region’s rail history. “A lot of these hardcore rail fans have been excited by the site of a train well before they could even talk.”
Genetic defect or not, Oroszi, alongside Dayton History Vice President for Museum Operations Alex Heckman and the Rail Fest committee, have seen record-breaking crowds of over 7,000 attendees in recent years.
Here are five highlights of the 14th annual Carillon Park Rail Festival that are sure to keep the crowds coming back.
Come on and take a free ride!
Established in 1984, the Carillon Park Rail & Steam Society operates a miniature railroad at Carillon Historical Park on select Saturdays (and the occasional Sunday) from April–December. As of last October, the trains now zig-zags past the 100-foot-tall Brethen Tower, capped by the iconic Callahan Clock.
Rides are normally $1 per person, per ride, with funds directly supporting the CPRSS, however, thanks to an anonymous donor, the miniature train rides at Rail Fest are free.
Little worlds of wonder
Visitors gaze in awe as model trains zoom in and out of hillsides, across snowy hinterlands, and past the county fair ferris wheel. Tiny train worlds cover Carillon Historical Park’s campus, and certain layouts are displayed in suitcases, guitar cases, and even atop a fake sheet cake.
“You’ve got everything from Z-gauge trains, about the size of a lipstick tube, to G-gauge garden models, about the size of a mailbox,” says Oroszi. “And the trains are everywhere.”
Food and rail vendor splendor
Hamburger Wagon, Hart’s Hot Dogs, Cumberland Kettle Corn, Donut Coma, Papa John’s Pizza, Kona Ice, Claybourne Grille, Ritter’s Frozen Custard and Culp’s Café will all provide fare for hungry rail fans. In addition, Rail vendors from across the Midwest will be selling their wares. Collectibles, books, photos, model railroad components, kid items, toy trains, and rail-themed merchandise will all be available.
“Peter Lerro, Jr., who is a very established railroad artist, has been coming to Rail Fest for the past three years from New York,” says Oroszi. “He just loves the event.”
They’re an American band
The Carillon Park Concert Band, a long-loved Dayton tradition, will perform both Saturday and Sunday at Rail Fest. Tracing its roots to the 1945 creation of the NCR Band, this summertime ensemble of talented area high school students was created by famed musical director Clark Haines, and originally performed at Old River Park.
After auditioning to participate, students from across the Dayton region unite to form the Carillon Park Concert Band. Selections include everything from marches to Broadway tunes to movie music to light classics. The CPCB is currently under the direction of Kettering City School District Director of Bands Michael Berning.
This locomotive is #1!
Not only is Carillon Historical Park home to the 1905 Wright Flyer III—the world’s first practical airplane—but it is also home to the 1835 B&O #1, John Quincy Adams, the oldest existing American-built locomotive.
The John Quincy Adams sits distinguished at the back of Carillon Historical Park during Rail Fest—the consummate symbol for the event, an icon of American ingenuity, forever preserved in Dayton.
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