Written by Alex Betts
Photos by Thomas Forman
Ferroequinologists, foamers, and gunzels, (otherwise known as rail fans or train enthusiasts, ) showed up at the Los Angeles Union Station Summer Fest on Saturday to admire their favorite mode of transportation up close. The fair provided thousands of civilians with a look back into locomotive history, with Tracks 13 and 14 housing five venerable trains with nearly 350 years of work between them.
The popular event included free tours through four of the five trains: a 1950 Pacific Trail, a 1949 Overland Trail, a 1956 National Forum Pullman Car, and a 1959 Tioga Pass. Each locomotive displayed a unique look into the daily lives of people from the past and showcased special character on both the interior and exterior. The Tioga Pass, a business car used for Canadian executives, comprises a lounge, sleeping quarters, kitchen, and even a dining room, while the Overland Trail had a bar and barbershop for its passengers. The National Forum Pullman and the Pacific Trail, both sleeper cars, retained their original interior, as evidenced by the blue and red upholstery and shiny standing ashtrays popular in the 1950s.
The last train, a 1927 Santa Fe Steam Locomotive, could be explored at a steep fee of $20 for adults and $10 for children. Admittedly, the impressive train was a great spot for photos and the complex infrastructure was captivating.
Advertised as a festival, the event seemed like a hyped-up version of Travel Town, the classic Los Angeles train museum (and best place to purchase toy conductor whistles). While the free access to the trains proved to be an entertaining experience, the rest of the fair didn’t live up to expectations. The wait to get on the trains took over an hour and the heat was relentless. The food trucks supplied overpriced food ranging from basics like pizza and to ice cream. The jolting train whistle that blasted randomly from the Steam Locomotive didn’t compensate for the lack of quality music.
Ultimately, the fair made for a decent experience, with an interesting history but dull festivities. The fest would be an enjoyable time for train lovers but could be boring for others due to the long wait and underwhelming food. The Travel Town Museum in Griffith Park is a year-round option that provides the same benefits as the fest and could make for a quality family experience.