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Columns

August 5, 2013

Oneonta railroad traditions shifted in August 1958

Oneontans were starting to realize that the railroad dynasty the city had enjoyed for nearly 100 years was changing, and news from August 1958 was clearly documenting those changes.

With Oneonta so rich in railroad history, the first effort began that month to attempt to capitalize on our storied past. “National Railroad Museum Planned, B-R-T Support Sought” read a headline on the city news page of The Oneonta Star of Tuesday, Aug. 5. A museum committee had been formed the year before and met at City Hall on Monday night to move forward with establishing the museum here.

The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen were set to meet in Oneonta in late September for its 75th anniversary of formation in what was then a village.

“Committee members expressed belief that if BRT can be enlisted in the movement, the support of the nation’s carriers can be obtained, and museum pieces of equipment can be acquired from them,” it was reported.

“Chairman Charles E. Truscott, father of the museum plan, said he will speak tonight to the Common Council to see if the city fathers will back the committee in approaching Grand Lodge BRT officials.”

Lawrence L. Schomo was another member of the museum committee, a longtime railroad worker who said railroads at the time were already taking on the proportions of museum pieces.

“Not one child in a thousand today has ridden a train,” Schomo said. “Unless the present generation does something, there won’t be much for a museum left, because the next generation won’t know much about trains.”

Both the Council and BRT were enthusiastic about a museum for Oneonta, but by 1964, “Steamtown U.S.A.” was established in Bellows Falls, Vt., as multi-millionaire F. Nelson Blount declined to choose Oneonta as the site. Blount owned the largest collection of steam locomotives and equipment in the world at the time and became a major player as to where such a museum would be located.

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