BILLINGS – Frederick Billings. Does that name ring a bell? It should. This city bears the name of the former Northern Pacific Railway president.
The railroad had a lot to do with how this city grew and developed at the turn of the 20th century. On Saturday, the Billings Depot brought that history full circle by celebrating National Train Day.
The first time event is dedicated to “understanding and learning about the history of Billings and the railroad,” said Billings Depot Executive Director Michelle Williams.
The event is geared toward people of all ages with a variety of activities for kids and adults. The kids could enjoy a model train set, science experiments, or even a ride around The Depot in a miniature train. And for the adults, The Depot offered a selection of beer, wine and champaign.
Williams hopes this event can shed some light on some often overlooked history.
“I think mostly it’s to educate people on the development of communities around the railroad. Billings is most definitely a railroad town,” said Williams. “There’s just a romanticism around rail travel and the big size and impressive nature of the trains themselves and all the products that they carry. It’s really exciting.”
Safety education was also a large part of National Train Day. Kids got to “race a virtual train” to make the point that: no matter how fast you think you are, no one can out run a train.
Bernie Shelton, Montana Operation Lifesaver Board president, said that people need to give trains more respect on the road.
“We have a lot of problems with distracted drivers having collisions with trains. There is a marked increase of trespassing on railroad property,” Shelton said. “People just don’t pay attention. Trains are so quiet anymore with new technology that you don’t hear them until they are right on top of you.”
Shelton added that every three hours in America someone is hurt or killed on railroad property. In order to stay safe you should stay off the railroad tracks and obey all flashing lights and signs at railroad crossings.
– Story by Mitch Lagge