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RailFest keeps gathering steam

Dave Gross of Bethlehem takes photos of an old locomotive at the Steamtown National Historic Site during RailFest 2011 in Scranton on Saturday afternoon.

BILL TARUTIS/For The Times Leader

SCRANTON – Train whistles signaled the beginning of the fifth annual RailFest at Steamtown National Historic Site on Saturday as thousands of railroad enthusiast gathered for the attraction’s "Celebration of Railroading" weekend.

The festival, which features special railroad exhibits and old-fashion scenic train excursions, marks the museum’s 25th anniversary in the Scranton area.

"The response is overwhelming," said Mark Brennan, Steamtown’s director of marketing. "We partnered with the organizers of LaFesta Italiana three years ago, and it’s worked out very well for both of us. In fact, we expect over 5,000 visitors for RailFest this year."

The 2011 RailFest also features live music by local artists, food vendors and a large selection of rail memorabilia, as well as an ingeniously designed railroad-themed Leggo exhibit.

Brennan stated that Amtrak is celebrating its 40th anniversary at the festival with a visit from Amtrak CEO Thomas Boardman and a special commemorative train which showcases "displays of photos, uniforms, china, and memorabilia from Amtrak’s storied past, while also offering a glimpse into the future."

"We’re excited to be hosting the Amtrak Bomb Squad this weekend," added Brennan. "With the 9/11 anniversary coming up in a few days, it’s especially timely."

Brennan said the bomb squad, which traveled from Amtrak’s Syracuse hub, will perform demonstrations of its crucial skills throughout the weekend.

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