Tuscumbia Will Celebrate Railroad Heritage as Part of the Alabama Bicentennial

By  | July 3, 2019 | Filed under: News

 TUSCUMBIA-In recognition of Alabama’s Bicentennial and in honor of Tuscumbia’s illustrious railroad history, the City will host an event dedicated to railroad families of the Shoals.  Hail the Rail – Tuscumbia Railroad Day is set for Saturday, July 13, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Tuscumbia Depot and Roundhouse, 204 W. 5th St. The celebration is designed to pay tribute to the Tuscumbia Railway, which was the first railroad west of the Alleghenies of the Appalachian Mountains. It was chartered in Tuscumbia in 1830.  The early railroad connected the town with its river port, Tuscumbia Landing, utilizing horse-drawn rail cars on the two-mile stretch. Visionary citizens, led by Major David Deshler, therefore, were the first to conquer the impediment to transportation that was known as the Muscle Shoals! When this rail was connected to Courtland and Decatur, it provided a means to bypass the shallow, rocky rapids.

The railroad has been central to life in Tuscumbia ever since.  Many individuals and families have gained their livelihoods from railroad service and many older residents fondly recall the railroad picnics formerly held for railroad families in Spring Park.

Norfolk Southern will salute the Tuscumbia’s rail history by sending its signature band, The Lawmen, to provide a free concert at 4:00 p.m. in the Roundhouse.  Dale Henson, spokesman for The Lawmen, says the band is looking forward to returning to Tuscumbia, where the Roundhouse provides a perfect venue to enjoy their varied musical styles, which include classic pop, country, and old-time bluegrass.  The band is nationally recognized for rousing performances.

Ninon Parker, co-chair of the event explained that railroad families will be recognized and should register in advance by calling 256-389-1357 or emailing tuscumbiadepot@comcast.net.  Introduction of these special guests will be made just prior to the concert by the Lawmen and during the morning welcome at 11:00 a.m.  Families are invited to display memorabilia on the tables which will be provided.  Set up begins at 9:00 a.m.

Additional programs and activities will be offered throughout the day:

Antique cars are invited to a cruise-in along 5th Street in front of the depot, with set up from 9:00-11:00 a.m. People attending in antique cars will entered in a 3:00 drawing for a valuable staycation.

Registration on site for railroad families begins at 10:00 a.m. with recognition at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., prior to the concert by The Lawmen.

From 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., the Masonic Hall of Washington Lodge will hold open house, with a special presentation at 2:00 p.m. of the history of Washington Lodge and the people who held major roles in the history of the town.  From 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., a free kid’s safety screening, endorsed by the Tuscumbia Police Department, will be offered by the Masons as a public service.

Topics of railroad history will be discussed in the Depot at designated times by Col. Arthur Graves, Aubrey Smith and Seth Armstrong, an affiliate of the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area.

Food vendors will keep the crowd happy, while an all-day musical line-up, including the Cane Creek Cliff Dwellers and a Mother/Daughter duo, provides entertainment.

Families can enjoy visiting with the “Hobos” at the Mock Hobo Camp, while learning a bit about the hard times of the Great Depression.  Pick up a Scavenger Hunt hand-out and look for the Hobo signs chalked around the town to vie for the $100 prize of Tuscumbia Bucks.  Downtown stores will be holding “Hail the Rail Sidewalk Sales.”

During the event, the model railroad museum of the Shoals Model Railroad Club, located on site will be open with exhibitions of the model trains being run by the collectors.

The Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation will sponsor a Tour of Historic Railroad Homes. Three private residences may be toured and two will offer porch visits.  Their histories will be shared by the homeowners and all are associated with the town’s railroad history.  Tickets are $6.00.  They may be purchased in advance at Colbert County Tourism. On the day of the tour (July 13), they may be purchased at the Roundhouse info table or at each of the individual tour houses, cash or check only.  For more information about the Tour of Homes, call 256-383-0783.

Following the events at the Depot, music and vendors will be set up in downtown as part of the City’s Second Saturday series.

To find out more, call 256-389-1357, 256-383-0783, 256-710-9081; visit www.CityofTuscumbia.org  or follow the City’s Facebook posts.

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