The Sun News

Take a trip back in railroad history

If you missed the ribbon cutting celebration March 4 recognizing the 75th anniversary of the city of Warner Robins, it’s not too late to see the special train display set up for the celebration at the Elberta Depot Heritage Center directly in front of the Watson Boulevard main gate of Robins Air Force Base. On loan from the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, the collection on display is a group of fun artifacts appealing to train enthusiasts of all ages. There is even a sign dedicated to those who study trains — folks known as ferroequinologists. “Ferro” is Latin for iron, and “equine” is Latin for horses. So, ferroequinology is the study of railways, trains and railroads, both current and historic.

Hanging at the front door of the Elberta Depot Heritage Center is an authentic outfit worn by brakemen, including overalls, cap, cotton scarf, goggles and the much needed rugged denim and leather gloves to protect the hands. In the early days of railroading, the brakemen rode the caboose and manually applied the brakes on each car to control the speed. After the introduction of air brakes, trainmen still rode the caboose to monitor air pressure and load shifts. The caboose had a whistle and emergency brake when backing the train up over crossings, so it was critical to the safe operation of the train.

More things to enjoy seeing up close are real railroad signage, flags, lanterns and even some artwork. Robert West, active member of Society of Steam Era Artists of America, has two pieces on display, including his painting “Red Tails & Black Smoke,” of the 229th Fighter Group, Tuskegee Airmen. West is well known for his technical renderings representing North American railroading, bringing back memories for some older viewers, while educating a younger group.

The Elberta Depot Heritage Center display is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday through March 23. Admission is free, but groups must call 478-922-5100 at least two days in advance to arrange a tour.

Marsha Priest Buzzell is the executive director of the Warner Robins Convention & Visitors Bureau and may be contacted at 478-922-5100 or