All aboard! Carillon Park Rail Festival pulls into the station this weekend. Set against the backdrop of the park’s 65-acre campus, the two-day event features family fun, 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,” said Carillon Park Rail Festival Chairman Dave Oroszi, a train enthusiast who has written multiple rail-themed books, acquired countless archival photos, and interpreted the region’s rail history. “A lot of these hardcore rail fans have been excited by the sight of a train well before they could even talk.”
Genetic defect or not, Oroszi, alongside Carillon Historical Park Director of Education & Museum Operations Alex Heckman and the Rail Fest committee, had a record-breaking crowd of more than 7,000 attendees last year.
Here are 5 highlights of the 13th 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. Rides are typically $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.”
Acclaimed Dayton-raised musician plucking and singing
As the principal songwriter for Southeast Engine, Dayton-born musician Adam Remnant was featured on NPR World Café, NPR Mountain Stage, and has received critical acclaim across the country. With the recent release of his debut solo album, he has furthered his folk sensibilities, honing a sound that recalls the roots of America. At Rail Fest, Remnant will be playing traditional numbers, originals, and old-time favorites on both banjo and guitar.
Food and rail vendor splendor
Heart’s Hot Dogs, Cumberland Kettle Corn, KJ’s Cajun Cuisine, Kona Ice, Nannette’s Country Kitchen, Ritter’s Frozen Custard and Culp’s Café will 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 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 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 Michael Berning, band director for Kettering schools.
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.