BRADFORD — The Bradford Ohio Railroad Museum is set to begin a new season of events and fundraising initiatives.
Chuck Petty, a member of the museum’s board of trustees, stressed the importance of preserving Bradford’s historical association with the railroad.
“If it wasn’t for the railroad, we wouldn’t have a town,” Petty said. “Bradford would be just another spot on the road.”
The town, originally called Union Junction, grew out of an effort to build a railroad connecting Columbus and Richmond, Indiana.
“They got to this point, then ran out of money!” Petty said. “When the line continued, they decided to build the stop and repair station here instead of in Piqua.”
The railroad became associated with a lot of local history, including the fact that the train carrying President Abraham Lincoln’s body from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Ill. following his assassination stopped in Bradford to refuel.
The museum’s current main project involves using a $125,000 grant, along with matching funds donated by the community, to revitalize the historic Pennsylvania Railroad signal tower located at 501 E. Main St. in Bradford. Known locally as BF Tower, the signal, or switching, tower was similar to an air traffic control tower at an airport.
Personnel manning the tower would communicate with the train dispatcher and give orders to the crews of trains passing through the Bradford railroad junction. The tower housed steel throw-arms, called Armstrong levers, which were operated by hand by those manning the tower. The tower operator would get the instructions for the movement of trains through the junction and position the signals and switches for those movements. The tower was opened in 1929 and ceased operation on Jan. 3, 1984.
The volunteers who operate the museum plan to repaint the tower’s interior and install signage detailing the railroad’s history with the hopes of turning the piece of local history into a tourist attraction.
“We’re trying to keep it just the way it was when it was built — we don’t want to modernize it at all,” Petty said. “We want it to look just the way it looked in its heyday.”
In the meantime, the museum’s 2019 season of events will begin the first Saturday in April from 2-4 p.m. with Salute to the Railroaders, in which current and past railroaders are invited to share their experiences with the public and each other. The event will also include a visit to the BF Tower.
The museum’s yearly Dining by Rail event will take place May 4 from 6-9 p.m. at the Community Club in Bradford, featuring a meal prepared by Chef Michael James from Railroad Dining Car Service recipes. The event will include a silent auction, tours of the museum and a wine-tasting at Indian Creek Distillery in New Carlisle.
The Railroad Heritage Festival will take place in Bradford on June 1 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., featuring a drone race, a local railroad history essay contest and a Thomas the Tank Engine ride for the kids.
A Run for the Rails 5K race will take place during this year’s pumpkin show, Bradford’s veterans will be honored at an event taking place the second Saturday in November, and kids will get a chance to meet Santa on the North Pole Express the second Saturday in December.
The Bradford Ohio Railroad Museum is open to the public Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April through October.
The writer may be reached at (937) 569-4315.