All Aboard! for the 16th Annual Ashland Train Day

It all started in 2002, when friends gathered to read stories and play games to celebrate trains. Now, 16 years later, more than 8,000 visitors from Virginia North Carolina and Maryland are expected to descend on Ashland on November 3rd for the annual Train Day Festival. 

“We are proud to showcase all that Downtown Ashland has to offer. This is a great event for our community and for visitors,” says Train Day Chairman Bill Gatewood. Ashland Main Street Association hosts the event annually with business and community partners.

Ashland Train Day features something for everyone, including kids’ activities, model trains, railroad history, antique cars, touch-a-truck area, farmers market, live music, arts and crafts vendors and local food. Trolley buses bring participants from parking to the festival, two kiddie trains offer rides, and an average of 18 freight and passenger trains pass through the heart of the event.

“The event takes place rain or shine,” says Suzanne Hemingway, owner of Tiny Tim’s Trains and Toys in downtown Ashland (104 S. Railroad Ave). “Smile at the sun or walk like a duck,” she jokes. Tiny Tim’s Trains and Toys hosts the popular scavenger hunt at Ashland Train Day, leading participants to visit special train exhibits and earn a prize at the end. 

S.T.E.A.M. technology will also be prevalent at the festival. According to Hemingway, “the first S.T.E.A.M. technology hobby was model trains.” While many people think of model trains as being somewhat antiquated or outdated, Hemingway describes model railroading as “cutting edge.”

Running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., “Train Day is thoughtfully designed to allow kids of all ages to see it all before or after nap time,” Hemingway says, adding, “On second thought, there is so much fun you should skip the nap!”’

The best part of this festival, Gatewood explains, is the community. Ashland Train Day is free to all participants because business sponsors and volunteers contribute. “Our community comes together to provide an extraordinary event every year,” he says. Ashland Main Street Association is still gathering sponsors and volunteers for this year’s event. There is also a raffle of four tickets to ride the Ashland Santa Train on a private historic rail car (an $800 value). Check the website for more info: AshlandTrainDay.com.

Cosima Pellis
Author: Cosima Pellis