National Railway Historical Society film curator Mitch Dakelman will present a collection of vintage 16-mm films created by professional filmmakers to develop positive public relations for the railroads to help them generate freight and passenger business.
The program, Railroads Return to the Silver Screen, part of a twice yearly film festival, will return to the Jim Thorpe Memorial Hall, East 10 Street off Route 903, Jim Thorpe, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 18. Admission is free, and the event is sponsored by Pufferbellys Railroad Gifts located in Jim Thorpe and the Carbon Model Railroad Society of Bowmanstown. Refreshments will be available. In previous years, the program has attracted between 100 and 200 rail fans.
Dakelman, of Highland Park, N.J., has authored several transportation related books. His recent book, Trackside Pennsylvania, which chronicles the railroads operating through Pennsylvania – the Lehigh Valley, Jersey Central, Lehigh & New England, Lackawanna, B&O, and Pennsylvania – will be available for signing.
As Hollywood used railroads as props and subjects in their films, the railroad industry did the same but in a different way. Motion picture films, which were recognized as a medium which could reach out to large audiences before television, were used as training films for their employees, and to inform shippers and the public of what services were provided by the industry.
Railroads such as the New York Central and Union Pacific had their own film departments, while others hired industrial film production companies. Those included Audio Productions, Carl Dudley, Jam Handy and Wilding Productions. Many of these productions were outstanding in their use of creative photography, narration, and original music composed for these movies.
Dakelman, a collector of films for many years, will showcase several from his collection, in addition to several from the archives of the National Railway Historical Society, which has large holdings of professional and amateur films.
The program will include: Big Trains Rolling (1946, American Association of Railroads), Clear Track Ahead (1948, Pennsylvania Railroad), Riding the Maybrook (1948, New Haven/Alco-GE), Once Upon The Wabash (1953, Wabash Railroad Company), and Coming Home: The Story of J Class 611 (1982, Norfolk Southern.)
These historical films have not been publicly screened for many years. Fortunately, these films were saved and preserved for future generations to enjoy.
The Railroad Film Festival serves as a kickoff to the Carbon Model Railroad Society's Spring Train Meet which will be held March 28 at the Palmerton High School Gym.
"Train meets are like craft fairs for model railroaders," explained Garry Mack, president of the Carbon Model Railroad Society. "Dealers come in, set up their wares and sell to the public. It's a fundraiser for the club."
They will have nearly 80 tables of railroad model vendors plus operating exhibits. Members of the club will be available to answer your model railroading questions.
For information, call Gary Mack at (610) 826-6636.