NRHS sets RailCamp 2014 agenda

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

The National Railway Historical Society each summer sponsors RailCamp, a venue that gives hands-on contemporary railroading and railroad preservation experience to high school students, allowing them to interact directly with rail employees, learn what it takes to be a railroader, and explore career opportunities. In its 15-year history, RailCamp has hosted nearly 500 high school boys and girls. NRHS has announced the agenda for RailCamp 2014, for which limited space remains.

RailCamp 2014 will be held in two locations, on the East Coast and West Coast. Among this year’s rail industry partners are Amtrak, short line Tacoma Rail, and the Strasburg Rail Road.

RailCamp East will be held July 6-11, 2014, and be based in Newark, Del., with some activities in Strasburg, Pa. RailCamp Northwest will take place July 27-Aug. 2, 2014, in Tacoma, Wash.

At RailCamp East, longtime partner Amtrak will host campers at its National Operations Center and High-Speed Rail Training Facility in Wilmington, Del., where they will be immersed in daily operations. Students will also spend two days at the Strasburg Rail Road and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, where they will learn about restoring steam locomotives and vintage passenger equipment. The railroad museum will also teach campers about the unique history and culture of Pennsylvania’s railroads. Lodging and meals will be provided at the University of Delaware in Newark.

RailCamp Northwest will include a day with Amtrak at the newly renovated King Street Station in Seattle and its adjacent maintenance facility. Students will visit the operations center of Tacoma Municipal Belt Line (Tacoma Rail) and participate in a working intermodal operation. Other locations include the Northwest Railway Museum at Snoqualmie, Wash., and the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad at Mineral, Wash., where campers will help with preservation activities, physical plant maintenance, and train operations. New to the program is a day at Seattle’s Sound Transit facility to explore commuter train and light rail transit operations. Students will be housed at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

RailCamp 2014 East Schedule

Sunday: An opening presentation from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania exploring the history of railroading in Pennsylvania and today’s industry.

Monday-Tuesday: RailCamp students will explore Amtrak’s Training Facility and use it themselves. They will learn about long-distance operations, dispatching, and equipment management. Campers will also spend time in the Wilmington Training Center with the simulators used to teach those skills, and take a class on air brake systems. The visit will conclude with a walk-through tour of operations at Wilmington Station.

Wednesday: At the Strasburg Rail Road and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, students will see examples of steam locomotive restoration, tour museum facilities, and begin a special project. A special event will be a one-of-a-kind “Scavenger Hunt” on the museum property.

Thursday: During a day at the steam-powered Strasburg Rail Road, students will perform hands-on yard operations: switching, coupling, and brake tests, and shadow the train crew as they perform a pre-trip inspection. In the shops, wooden car restoration will be under way. Students will also operate the railroad’s 15-inch-gauge live steam train.

Friday: Students will return to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania to complete a special project and give an interpretive presentation, which they will have prepared the previous night. After lunch, they will ride the Strasburg Rail Road to Lehman Junction and back. They will also have time to explore both yards at the museum and the Strasburg Rail Road, in full safety gear.

RailCamp 2014 Northwest Schedule

Sunday: RailCamp Northwest will begin with an evening presentation about how Tacoma became the railroading hub of the Northwest Coast.

Monday: Students will travel to Seattle by train to spend a day with Amtrak, learning how long-distance passenger trains are serviced and prepared for outbound trips. They will learn about station operations in the newly-restored King Street Station, plus get a close-up look at the Talgo technology used in the Cascades trains that run between Vancouver, B.C. and Eugene, Ore. They will return to Tacoma via Talgo train.

Tuesday: At Tacoma Rail, students will experience the assembly of container trains, from unloading containers off ships and onto railcars to assembling full trains, followed by servicing the locomotives and delivering them to train crews. The day ends with a freight yard barbecue.

Wednesday: At the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, students will join in restoring historic passenger cars and build a special project to take home. Campers will learn the necessary steps to decide if a railroad artifact should be cosmetically restored or fully refitted for service, and view and discuss examples.

Thursday: A day with the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad will include steam locomotive restoration, track maintenance, and tourist operations. Students will inspect a steam locomotive before it enters service, and possibly fire up a steam locomotive from cold boiler to full pressure. Every student gets to operate a locomotive under the supervision of the railroad’s chief mechanical officer.

Friday: Students will visit Sound Transit in Seattle, where they’ll learn how rail transit agencies move people in an urban environment. They will also tour the maintenance shops and dispatching facility.

Saturday: Students will work two of the three scheduled tourist trains on the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, including pre-trip inspections, brake tests, loading and unloading passengers, taking tickets, and passenger service en route.

Registration forms and news updates for RailCamp 2014 can be found at, as well as the society’s Facebook page at E-mail the society with questions at [email protected].

Founded in 1935 in Lancaster, Pa., the National Railway Historical Society preserves and raises awareness of America’s railroad heritage. NRHS operates historic rail excursions and tours throughout North America and supports more than 150 regional chapters. Since 1991, the non-profit organization has awarded nearly $600,000 in railroad preservation grants. The late Robert G. Lewis, Railway Age’s long-time publisher (who joined Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp. in 1947 and worked there until his retirement in 1995), was in 1935 a founding member of the NRHS Philadelphia Chapter, which today is among the society’s largest.

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