All aboard for the Derry Railroad Festival!
Modern-day hobos, train enthusiasts and fun-seekers alike will find something of interest when the annual event chugs into town, celebrating the small borough’s heyday as Derry Station, a Pennsylvania Railroad hub.
The street festival portion of the event will take place in downtown Derry 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 21 and noon-5 p.m. Sept. 22, featuring food, music, vendors, information booths and children’s activities.
Featured entertainment on Saturday will be 13 Stories, an ’80s rock show band. Country band Saddle Up will headline on Sunday.
Preceding the main event will be a hobo picnic, a 5k run/2-mile walk and a bonfire.
Make like a true, rail-riding hobo at the picnic, at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19 in Derry Railroad Heritage Park, where a $3 donation will get you a bowl of stew, a cookie, a drink and some hobo-style camaraderie.
Diners — especially the kids — are invited to attend in hobo regalia. There will be a contest for the young ones to preside as king and queen of the hobo parade, scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 21.
Visitors can roast hot dogs at a bonfire 6-10 p.m. Sept. 20 at Heritage Park and then return at 8 a.m. Sept. 21 for the walk/run.
“That’s the new thing this year,” says festival president Patrick Showalter of Derry Township. “We’re trying to establish it as a yearly thing, so if attendance is good, we’ll keep going with it.”
Participants can register on site.
Preserving the past
Also in Heritage Park, the Caboose Gift Shop will be open both days of the festival, offering commemorative T-shirts and other souvenir and gift items.
Founded in 1852 to serve the railroad, Derry provided the railway with access to water and an elevated location along its right-of-way.
Back in the late 1800s, Derry had four hotels, mostly catering to railroad workers, a roundhouse for locomotive maintenance and a massive railroad yard.
“My family moved to Derry in 1957,” Showalter says. “That’s about when they tore the old roundhouse down — not that I paid much attention at the time.”
But the heritage obviously remains important to local residents, he says.