Sunday, May 8, 2011

Naples, Florida celebrated National Train Day on Saturday

Quite a few communities did...

Train Day to revisit Naples’ rail history
All aboard! National Train Day rolls into Naples on Saturday, May 7, at the Naples Depot Cultural Center. Organizers want to raise the awareness of the importance of trains to the history of Southwest Florida — also, they add, it’s a chance to play with really neat model trains on exhibit there.

“It’s our playground,” says Si Lyle, volunteer at the Naples Depot. And an elaborate playground it is. The layout at the depot is a labyrinth of model trains — some big, some small.

The colorful Lionel Train Layout Room features a series of toy model cities with nine trains zipping around a complex layout of miniature rail routes.

“When I look at this thing, I look at it as being interactive and attention-getting,” says Michael Fleming, another volunteer at the depot. “A way to show all of the different kind of things that make up a good hobby.”

This Train Day, however, will include much more of Florida’s history along with its trains. Attendees at the free event will see trains set up on 12 different modules, each representing a different part of Southwest Florida economy in the 1950s.

“You’re going to see ... fruit and vegetable, packing and shipping, which was a huge industry. You’re going to see the timber industry, fishing industry. You’re going to see the downtown layout,” says Fleming. “One will represent the middle of Naples itself with residential area.”

A module of the downtown Naples area will feature a scale model of Four Corners, just a block from the depot itself.

The railroad first came to Naples in 1927 and greatly contributed to the economic growth. Since agriculture has always been a big part of that growth, trains were vital to transporting goods out of town.

Volunteers can explain the importance of real trains but introduce people to smaller model ones. Their hope is to raise visitors’ level of enthusiasm for trains and what they meant to this country.

Mohammed Lati, another train enthusiast and volunteer who is planning the event, wants not only to entertain but to educate as well.

“The most important thing is to introduce people back to the train,” he says.

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