Hear local train stories at Sheldon Museum

MIDDLEBURY’S TRAIN TRESTLE collapsed on May 5, 1893. Danielle Rougeau will discuss the wreck on Thursday, Jan. 9, at noon, at the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury.

MIDDLEBURY — This month the Henry Sheldon Museum will host two talks about trains in conjunction with the museum’s annual elaborate model train layout. Paul Bortz, a member of the Sheldon Museum’s train crew, will present a brief hands-on talk, demonstration, and discussion entitled “The History of Lionel Toy Trains and Others,” on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 11 a.m.
Bortz’s talk will explore what makes Lionel wonderful. The short answer to that question is: innovation. Bortz is an enthusiastic collector and operator of over 1,200 trains and two layouts dating from the early 1900s to today, and he specializes in the history of toy trains. Anyone interested in bringing in their trains for identification (year, history, etc.), feel free to do so.
Then, on Thursday, Jan. 9, at noon, Danielle Rougeau, president of the Henry Sheldon board and Middlebury College Archivist, will use the Sheldon’s photo of the Otter Creek train trestle collapse of 1893 to talk about the town, the train industry, and the forces that shape the story behind that photographic moment.
The covered wooden railway trestle spanning Otter Creek collapsed under the weight of a coal train in the early morning hours of Friday May 5, 1893. The engine, boxcars and five fully loaded coal hoppers made it safely onto land on the Water Street side, but as the next five fully loaded coal hoppers rolled onto the 200-foot span, the trestle gave way, sending the five cars to the bottom of the creek and derailing the remainder on the southern side. Less than thirty minutes earlier, a passenger train had safely crossed the bridge.
Following the talks, the audience is invited to see the Sheldon’s model trains in action. The fee for each talk is $5, which includes museum admission. The trains are running through Jan. 11, 2020. Visit the Sheldon’s website, for information or call 802-388-2117.

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