JHS all aboard for visit to train museum

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To say that members of the Johnston Historical Society celebrated “Railway Day” in a unique manner and setting would be an understatement.

The chant was “All Aboard” for some JHS members who on Saturday took an educational road trip to the historic Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum in Willimantic.

“It was a fabulous day,” said Anthony Ursillo, a JHS Board member, about the trek to one of New England’s most noted train museums that was founded by the National Railway Historical Society. “Believe me, this is a must-see and do for the train aficionado.”

As Ursillo and other Johnstonians who took the trip pointed out, they all benefited from the knowledge of Rolph Johnston, a long-time JHS member who happens to be a volunteer at the Eastern Railroad Museum. Johnson, who was dressed in an engineer’s cap and traditional coveralls that are common garb among railway personnel, has been a volunteer at the museum since 2005 and served as a special “tour host” for the attending JHS members.

“Rolph’s knowledge of trains and especially the railways made for a very educational and interesting afternoon,” Ursillo said. “Our trip also included music, railroad folklore, and a demonstration of a mini-sized steam-powered locomotive and, of course, we all enjoyed some food, as well.”

The Eastern Railroad Museum is home to a replica Columbia roundhouse built in 2000. Ursillo noted that JHS members, as well as others who visited the historical train facility Saturday, holds many exhibits including the former train station for Chaplin, a dozen diesel-electric trains and four steam locomotives.

“There’s the AirLine Trail that runs along the edge of the property as did the Connecticut Eastern Railroad for which the museum is named,” Ursillo said. “As for the roundhouse, it contains a 60-foot Armstrong Turntable, and everywhere you look you see a variety of trains, engines and even a caboose.”

Like the day’s other visitors who enjoyed walking around the Eastern Railroad Museum and checking out each and every display, the JHS members who took the trip were also treated to a ride on a wooden and open boxcar that tours the entire facility while moving along the rails.

“This was another great day for JHS members,” Ursillo said. “We’d also like to thank Paul Lotito for driving us all by min-bus to the [Eastern] Railroad Museum.”

Those JHS members who Ursillo said “were very, very impressed with the entire [Museum] operation and its many old and historic trains, were Sharon Rogers, Christopher Martin, Rolph Johnson, Timothy Kee, Rick Rogers, Wendy Ingram, Lotito, Joe Jamroz, President Louis McGowan, Laurie Lemoi and Ursillo.

The JHS is planning another day trip – this one in October – where members will take in the Clouds Hill Mansion in Warwick. Details will be forthcoming.

On Wednesday evening, Sept. 27, the JHS will resume its monthly meetings replete with a guest speaker. Captain Phil DiMaria will deliver the night’s address about the Gettysburg Gun that’s on display at the Rhode Island State House. The event will be at 7 o’clock in the Museum Barn at 101 Putnam Pike and admission is free.

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