BELPRE - Children big and small turned out Saturday for the 18th annual Belpre Railroad Day event at Depot Park, sponsored by The Ohio and Little Kanawha Division, a chapter of the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society.
"We had a good turnout this year," said Tom Ratkovich, president of the Ohio and Little Kanawha division. "Over the years we've watched the people who come to Railroad Day grow up from little kids still in diapers to adults - every year they keep coming back."
Ratkovich said between 200 and 300 people joined the club for the free activities on Saturday. Organizers did charge for food at the park.
For the past few years, members of the group have been working on restoring an old passenger coach to be used to expand the current caboose museum at the park, said Eldon Young, a member of the Ohio and Little Kanawha division.
"The passenger coach is over 100 years old and we're calling it our evergreen project because it's ongoing," Young said. "Our plan is to change the car into what we did with the caboose and make it an extension of the museum."
The passenger car now has a new floor and wood paneling on the walls, but work has been stalled for about a year as a leak in the roof needs expensive repairs and the money is not available.
"Most of the money for this project comes from grants and there are often strings attached to that money, as it needs to be used for certain things at certain times," Young said.
Young said there are 12 to 14 active members of the club and there are eight to 10 who do a lot of the restoration work. In 1994, the group's restored caboose was placed in the park near where the Belpre depot was located after a two-year restoration. It was also the first year for the Railroad Day event.
At this time, the club has about a tenth of its railroad memorabilia on display in the caboose and when the passenger car is finished, more items can be put out in it.
"We have a lot of plans and hope we can finish the work to open the expanded museum soon," Young said.
Saturday's event was one of two fundraisers the group sponsors each year.
"Our other fundraiser is taking train rides in other areas," Ratkovich said.