Delaware’s vintage railroad celebrates 50 years [video]

    (Andrea Gibbs/WHYY)

    (Andrea Gibbs/WHYY)

    The Wilmington & Western Railroad began as a tourist railroad in 1966 and, starting Memorial Day weekend, has a variety of events planned throughout the summer.

    The Wilmington & Western Railroad, a heritage tourist railroad, remains a big hit in Delaware and beyond.

    David Ludlow, executive director of the Wilmington & Western Railroad, says people still get excited about riding the vintage trains. “Every weekend, you can come and listen to people say, this is the first, even adults, this is my first train ride.”

    The staff and crew at the WWRR work hard to make sure your experience is memorable.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Ludlow says about 90 percent of the workers are volunteers. The crew goes through a series of training classes. Once completed they are promoted to trainman. From there they can apply for other positions such as brakeman, conductor, fireman or engineer.

    But some crew members, like James Moran, a retiree whose neighbor convinced him to join the railroad, are content with their trainman status. Moran says he’s not looking to move up because he’s doing what he enjoys. “I’ve always liked trains, but this over the top.”

    Conductor Gisela Vazquez has been with WWRR for 12 years. The mechanical engineer started working in the shop helping to build the steam locomotive. Aside from interacting with the passengers, Vazquez says working at the WWRR is more than just a job. “I love the camaraderie and the friendships among our volunteers. It’s like a big family.”

    Ludlow too sings the praises of the “family style” atmosphere among the volunteers and staff. “These are people from the local community sometimes as far away as Baltimore and Philadelphia. They come down to volunteer their time, just because they enjoy working and riding on the train.”

    That’s why Ludlow is making sure volunteers, staffers, members and passengers are all a part of the 50th anniversary celebration. There are several events planned that will run until late this fall.

    To learn more about those events and others, log onto Some of the railroad’s most popular attractions include the Wild West Robbery Train, Autumn Leaf Train, and of course the Santa Claus Train. The train is also available for private events.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal