Hope is a town that is immersed in railroad history. The town developed as the Cairo and Fulton Railway (predecessor to the Union Pacific) tracks were being laid from Argenta (now North Little Rock) to Fulton. The first passenger train pulled into the station in 1872. James Loughborough, the railroad company’s land commissioner, named the workmen’s camp in honor of his daughter Hope. The town was incorporated in 1875. Three more railways arrived in town by 1902.
The 6th annual Hope Train Day is taking place May 5 in town in honor of this heritage. “I would describe it as a celebration of the rails that really made Hope boom back in the late 1800s,” said Summer Powell, who is involved in the festival and works for the Hope Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. “This festival pays tribute to the Cairo/Fulton Depot established in 1875 where the train would stop and Hope was formed. In more recent years it also celebrates the stopping of the Amtrak passenger train. However, this celebration has much more to offer than just train activities.”
Starting off this free event is a 5K run and Kids Fun Run in the morning. A BBQ cook-off and Baggo Tournament are also on the lineup and the day also marks the opening of the Farmers Market in Hempstead County. On site will be vendors, live music and entertainment, and a Kids Corner with features such as train rides and face painting. Rib competitors will also be selling rib plates for people to enjoy. Throughout the day local shops will also be open. “Both of our Train Depots will also be open all day,” said Powell. “The Cairo-Fulton Depot, which is our original depot from 1875, has been restored and is now home to our local Arts Council. And the Hope Depot now serves as an AMTRAK stop, Visitors Center and a museum dedicated to Hope.” The festival closes with an evening concert in front of the Hope Depot featuring musician Charlie Farley.