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Railroad Heritage Days chugs into town

June 08, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN - When Joe Fillippi got married in 1982, he didn't even consider wearing a tuxedo.

Instead, he exchanged vows in a train conductor's uniform, complete with black hat and stopwatch.

"You might say I went full steam into marriage," the York, Pa., resident said.

Fillippi has been a railroad buff since childhood, when he used to help his father place the family's Lionel train set around the Christmas tree.

Today, he still has that set and much more.

"It's a hobby that kind of got out of control," he said. "I love trains."

Fillippi was in his element on Saturday. He was among hundreds of people who attended Railroad Heritage Days, a two-day event hosted by the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum.

The festival continues today at the museum on South Burhans Boulevard, as well as the Hagerstown Railroad Museum in City Park. A trolley will shuttle people with paid admission to both sites.

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According to Crystal Sprecher, chairwoman of the event, this is the 18th year for the celebration.

"It's a way to spotlight this town's railroad heritage," she said.

Sprecher said the festival always has been a popular event, with visitors coming from all over the United States, as well as other countries.

"It just gets bigger and bigger," she said. "There are a lot of people out there who love trains."

Sprecher said this year's Railroad Heritage Days features a range of activities, including locomotive and caboose tours, operational model train layouts, displays of train memorabilia, railroad art and photographs. There also are displays of law enforcement, military and firefighting equipment.

Sprecher said the festival appeals to everyone, from families looking for a day of fun to serious train enthusiasts.

"We also see a lot of older people who used to work on the railroad who love to look at the pictures we have on display," she said. "It brings back a lot of memories, a lot of history."

Among the people looking at the photographs was Jeff Brown, whose father was a railroad worker in Hagerstown during the 1960s.

"This place brings back a lot of memories," he said. "I can remember coming here with my dad when I was just a kid. I'm glad someone has made the effort to preserve an important part of this town's history."

Cheryl Owens of Hagerstown attended with her two grandchildren, Talia Raynor, 6, and Vincent Raynor, 3.

"Vincent loves trains," Owens said. "Every time we drive by the CSX yard, he loves to point to the trains. So this was the perfect thing to do today."

"There is so much railroad history in Hagerstown," said Bob Tracey of the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum. "We're trying to keep it alive. This festival is just one way to share that history with the public."

If you go

What: 18th annual Railroad Heritage Days

When: Today, noon to 5 p.m.

Where: Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum, 300 S. Burhans Blvd., and Hagerstown Railroad Museum, City Park

Cost: $4 for adults; 50 cents for children ages 12 and younger

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