Anyone who has played with model trains on the living room floor or has ever seen mammoth steam engines hauling long lines of freight through Sierra mountain passes will enjoy Alan Ramsay's lecture on Thursday, January 19, in Gualala Arts Center's Coleman Auditorium.
In 2008, Ramsay talked about the
last link in the Transcontinental Railroad
that led to the era of rails. In this presentation with numerous photos, he focuses on the explosive expansion of the rail fan movement as the rail era waned beginning with the Great Depression through the post war years.
During the depression, owners abandoned many short line railroads and non-profitable branch lines of major links. Airplanes lured away passengers and interstate highways siphoned off freight, leading to the long decline of railroads that continues today. Those who lamented the passing of the steam era led a movement to preserve steam locomotives before they were sold as scrap.
Labeled "railfans," enthusiasts began photographing and riding trains before they disappeared. Many set up associations to preserve engines and rolling stock in city parks and museums. Ramsay will chronicle this movement that continues to attract enthusiastic supporters.
He will also reveal where visitors may still experience the sights and sounds of a working steam engine pounding down the tracks, blasting out plumes of white steam. For example, both the Niles Canyon Railway in the East Bay and the Western Railroad Museum are within easy reach of Mendonoma Coast residents.
After retiring in 1991, Ramsay was free to pursue his avocation that combined his love of photography, history, and railroads. For fourteen years he was Director of Public Relations for the Pacific Locomotive Association in Alameda County. He continues to collect railroad memorabilia including artifacts from the Gualala Mill railroad behind the Milano Hotel.
Come to this talk and revisit a fascinating time that many can still remember and one that can be relived in tourist excursions. The talk begins at 7:00 p.m. A $5 admission will be collected at the door.