Arkansas Train News for National Train Day

Zoie Clift
Did you know the National
Train Day
( which is tomorrow May 8) 
spokesperson is Taye Diggs? Hmm…neither did I. National Train Day is a
coast-to-coast celebration of our railways and events across the nation highlighting this mode of transport take place tomorrow. In Texarkana, the Amtrak Station will be
celebrating from 11-3.
In other train news, for over a century The Reader
Railroad, which ran through Nevada and Ouachita counties, carried everything
from timber to tourists. Though it is no longer rolling, steam locomotive No 2.
has a steady role these days. That of movie star. 

Currently it is being used in the filming of the upcoming Coen Brothers movie True Grit starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. 

 The train has many film
credits to its name and a solid and versatile film career in it’s wake.  
In 1985, ABC Television and Warner Brothers came to south Arkansas and used the
railroad cars and station for the filming of train shots for the miniseries
North & South.

More recently, crews
filming O Brother Where Art Thou?, 3:10 to Yuma, There Will be Blood, and
have all needed the railroads rolling stock for authentic footage.
Over the years stars such as Johnny Cash, George Clooney, Russell Crowe, and
Helen Mirren have been on the trains. 

Richard Grigsby has served
as general manager of Reader Railroad for 34 years.  Located in Reader,
this historic railroad operates the last exclusively steam-powered short-line
common carrier standard gauge railroad remaining in the nation. 

As to it’s history, the
short-line railroad, known to some as The Possum Trot Line, started in the 1880’s
when Lee Reader came to the state to erect a sawmill.

The railroad was originally
built as part of a lumber company when logging camps were harvesting virgin
timber from the area.  The extension to Possum Trot went into the woods,
bringing the timber to the mill.

Over the past decades, the
railroad has had several owners, all lumber companies. In 1925, it was
established as its own company, separate from the mill.  After oil was
discovered and several other industries were established in the area, Reader
became a common carrier that same year. The railroad operated until 1991.

The railroad owns an
impressive stash of equipment including two oil-burning locomotives, one
wood-burning locomotive built in 1907, passenger cars, excursion cars,
flatcars, boxcars, a tank car, and stove-heated caboose cars. Staff are also in
the midst of constructing a little rail 1915 era motor car. Even though the
train no longer runs, it’s present trek in the film business makes sure the
equipment is showcased and that the history of the line is carried on.



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