Locomotive lovers still fill the Center of the Universe one fall day to celebrate all things trains. Nov. 2, those who made Ashland Train Day a reality were honored.
Saturday, the town thanked Ashland branch library manager Cathy Bach and Traintown Toy and Hobby owners Jim and Nancy Donlon for their integral part in making Train Day happen.
Train lovers of all ages have Bach to thank for founding the well-loved community event. Her love for Ashland combined with her desire to share the history of the town and the trains that run through it, sparked an idea that evolved into an event focused on bringing all of these things together.
“We have the Strawberry Faire, it only makes sense to have a Train Day. We really should be celebrating trains,” Bach said, explaining her original reasoning.
With the help of other library members, Bach planned and put on the inaugural Train Day inside the Ashland branch library in 2003.
“There were model trains, lots of historical railroad literature, and even two bands,” said Bach. “Over 700 people came to the first train day in the library. The place was packed!”
From humble beginnings in the Richard S. Gillis, Jr. library to taking over a large portion of Center Street, the day dedicated to celebrating all things trains has grown tremendously since its founding.
“We started out with a few hundred people and now we normally have 4,000-5,000 in attendance,” said Jim Donlon, Train Day chairman from 2004-2012.
Jim and his wife Nancy, owners of Traintown Toy and Hobby, have been surrounded by trains their entire life.
“Nancy is from Chicago and I’m from New York. We were always on trains and grew up right next to them. Our love for them just never went away,” said Donlon.
Donlon was excited to have the opportunity to take part in the annual planning of Ashland’s very own train celebration. Often known by his nickname “the train man” it is no wonder that the town would trust Jim to make the day extraordinary.
“Ashland is a special town and because of its train history, it is just a natural environment for this sort of an event to take place,” said Nancy Donlon. “It is so family friendly and well received by the community.”
Among the thousands of train-loving attendees enjoying the food, music and exhibits Saturday was an abundance of children hoping to get an up-close view of their beloved “choo-choo” trains.
“Hopefully what we are teaching our young people is how much it means to live in small towns and what communities mean,” said Ashland Mayor Faye Prichard.
Until next year’s railroad celebration, the people of Ashland will have to enjoy their trains from a distance as they watch them speed down the tracks past their homes and businesses.