PATERSON, NJ - The newly created Paterson Museum Foundation kicked off two days of festivities in commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad on Friday.
In honor of the part that the City of Paterson played in the historical event, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh and former Mayor Pat Kramer took turns pounding in a golden stake in front of Locomotive 299 which stands in front of the museum. The symbolic act replicated the moment that took place on May 10, 1869, which joined the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad in Promontory Summit, Utah.
The spot, 66 miles northwest of Salt Lake City, is now a national historic park.
Darren Boch, Superintendent of the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, explained the Silk City’s connection to the golden spike that was driven only four years after the completion of the Civil War.
“150 years ago, the locomotive 119 came from the East and met the locomotive Jupiter which came from the West,” Boch said. “Locomotive 119 was built in Paterson. There were 10,000 locomotives built in the 19th century and Paterson made about half of them.”
Boch said that while neither of the steam engines remain in existence the National Park Service created identical replicas of both in the 1970’s.
“This week, as we speak, there is a great celebration in Utah to commemorate that historical event,” Boch said. “Paterson has threads that reach to many national parks throughout the country. The Rogers Locomotive finishing plant may been right here where the museum now stands.”
Sayegh told the audience of over 60 people that the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, “served to unite the country.”
Kramer, who was instrumental in bringing the self-propelled engine 299 to Paterson during his tenure as mayor, spoke of Paterson’s glorious history.
“Industry was born here. Paterson is vital in the life of America,” Kramer remarked. “People got off the ship at Ellis Island and came here to get jobs. This is an important moment of our city’s history and should be shared with generations to come.”
Femi Ayodeji said he heard about the celebration from a friend and decided to invite his three sons, Tayo and Femi Jr. Ayodeji, and Wallace Daniels.
“We wanted to have a guys’ night out,” the elder Ayodeji said. “This has been interesting to learn more about the history of trains and Paterson.”
Giacomo “Jack” DeStefano, Director of the Paterson Museum, said that two historical items related to trains have recently been acquired for the museum through the Foundation.
“We recently obtained a sketch book of preliminary train designs that was made from the years 1903-1905,” DeStefano said.
The second vintage acquisition was described by Glen Corbett, a member of the Foundation. The work depicts a locomotive being constructed in the middle of Paterson’s Mill Street with the Colt Gun Mill in the background. The painting, author unknown, was unveiled at the evening’s conclusion.
Passaic County Historian Ed Smyk explained the impact that Jacob Rogers, builder of the first locomotive in Paterson, had on American history. A large painting of the industrial pioneer is part of the museum’s train related display. Also on hand for observance are several vintage model trains, including a wooden one made by Rogers’ great, great, great grandson.
Activities including souvenir photos, kids’ crafts, information tables, and an opportunity to view the new Transcontinental Railroad exhibit continue on Saturday between 12:30 and 4:30 p.m. Children will also have a chance to meet an engineer and see a model train running around a track.
Admission is free for all.
The Paterson Museum is located at 2 Market Street
Click here for more information about the Paterson Museum.
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