Monday, October 9, 2017

Southeastern Railway Museum

There are some destinations on my to-do list that when I finally make it there, I'm like, "What took me so long!" The Southeastern Railway Museum was one of those. It's now a destination that I'll enthusiastically recommend and will bring friends to experience as often as I can, again and again.. 


Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

When you arrive and have parked, head to the ticketing office. The ticketing agent is a dressed as a Conductor. Totally, cool! The gentleman who helped me was great. I shared that it was my first visit and he patiently gave me all the information I needed to have a wonderful experience.

This is also where you'll get your Walking Tour Map (which I highly recommend), an Equipment Guide, additional ticket(s) for a train ride, tickets to a ride on their restored 1957 miniature train, and other information. There's an additional Information Desk inside is the first building (the one on your left when facing the ticketing office). 

There are two "warehouses" of train cars, exhibitions, displays, and so much more. There are more than 80 pieces of retired railway equipment on display, including two working engines! There's a third display building on the way. The shell is already built.

To say that there's enough to keep you mesmerized for a full-day visit—and consequent visits—would be an understatement!


Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The first train I ever went on—boarded, but not for travel—was the 1975-1976 American Freedom Train. It wasn't until many years later, when I lived in Washington, D.C. and was a volunteer at the Smithsonian, that I realized that some of the artifacts I'd seen were artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution.

The two things that I remember from the '76 Freedom Train—which wasn't the first in the country's history, but it was the most recent—was a Lunar Rover and Dorthy's blue dress and ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, which totally speaks to my being a space geek and cinema enthusiast! 


Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Just to be clear, this is a train "museum", not a contemporary concept-train showcase. What you're going to experience is the magnificence of the yesteryear train...today. I wasn't fully sure what to expect going in, but was mesmerized throughout my visit and really didn't want to leave, but it was minutes from closing time, so had to depart. I can hardly wait to go back!


Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

One of the add-on experiences, wholly affordable, is a train ride! You can ride on the passenger car with the Conductor—the person in charge of pretty much everything other than "driving" the train—or you can ride in the cab—ride in the engine with the Engineer! 

I've been a train passenger before, but never rode in the Cab, so I opted for the new experience. The cab ride will accommodate 1-3 passengers. 

The train, 3 - Diesel Switch Engine, was built in 1948 for Anglo-Canadian Paper Company and spent most of its nearly 70 years in Canada. Today, it's one of two operating engines at the Museum.

Engineer Duncan was awesome! I was totally geeking out, but he maintained his cool and answered every question I had, and once he figured out that I was indeed a train enthusiast, he enthusiastically offered more information than I would have known to ask about. Totally awesome experience! 

Duncan had been training and gaining experience early on, and became a professional engineer at the age of 18! Talk about knowing what you want to be when you grow up...Duncan is an inspiration! 


Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Train enthusiast or not, it's undeniable that trains changed the course of human history. For those of us who are train enthusiasts, the Southeastern Railway Museum is treasure trove of of discovery and experiences!   

Whether you've been on a train or not, being "IN" the engine car is AMAZING! Okay, I don't know 100% that this is the engine car or the car that powered the train—there are so many distractions—but it's totally awesome to see so up close and personal. 

Seriously, you get to stand in a piece of American history, to share the footsteps of engineers, conductors, and railway professionals who forged our country. I stood there in fascination and awe.


Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Of all the train cars I went through—and there were a LOT—I was most "transported" to a time in the past by the mail car. It revived and enhanced my memories of the Smithsonian Postal Museum, and trains' role in mail delivery for most of our country's history.

"There is no position in the Government more exacting than that of a postal clerk, and no one that has so many requirements. He must not only be sound ‘in wind and limb,’ but possessed of more than ordinary intelligence, and a retentive memory. His work is constant, and his only recreation, study. He must not only be proficient in his own immediate work, but he must have a general knowledge of the entire country, so that the correspondence he handles shall reach its destination at the earliest possible moment. He must know no night and no day. He must be impervious to heat and cold. Rushing along at a rate of forty or fifty miles an hour, in charge of that which is sacred-the correspondence of the people..." — The American Railway
Growing up, we moved around a lot. We lived in Knoxville for two weeks, and the longest we lived anywhere was 1.5 years in Jacksonville, Florida. My brother once counted up that we attended 22 schools growing up—I went to four schools in three different states my sophomore year alone! That's to say that I spent a LOT of time writing letters to friends in towns that we'd just moved from. 

Letter writing, and I'm guilty, is a lost art. Other forms of communication have replaced letter writing, but I still try to write cards to friends in other cities and states from time to time, because I know how special it is to receive something in the mail these days that's not a bill.

If you want to make someone feel truly special, write them a letter, or at the very least a hand-written card or even a postcard. I promise, it'll make their day!


Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

I grew up with cats as my pets and my brother had dogs. As an adult, when flirting with the idea of adopting a dog, the Dalmatian was one of the extremely few contenders. I never did have a dog, but if I had, I think a Dalmatian would have been the breed for me. Not only are they beautiful creatures, they have a revered place in firefighter history.  

In addition to all the awesome trains, there's a collection of buses, antique vehicles, taxi cabs and other unique vehicles...don't miss these!


Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

This model trail reminded me of a particular Christmas morning. My childhood train wasn't nearly as magnificent as the one pictured above, but the joy it brought me I'm sure was just as fulfilling. That particular Christmas morning was the one that was the most magical, the one that was the last time when I woke and walked into the living room, the tree had a glowing ora around it...a moment that even at that age I savored for a moment before diving into the festivity of the day.

If you happen to visit on an incredibly hot day, you're going to thoroughly enjoy the environmentally controlled theatre! On this visit, I didn't have time to take in the film playing, but I did pop in just to see if it was cool or not...I almost didn't leave! It was a hot day and the theatre air-conditioning was a welcomed respite. 

Be sure to stop by the Gift Shop, too. They have lots of train souvenirs and gifts. I got a 500-piece "History of Trains" jigsaw puzzle, the first one I will have put together in about a decade. I can hardly wait!


Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The train depot that you pass as you enter Southeastern Railway Museum grounds is not a replica! It's the original, restored 1871 Duluth Passenger Depot. After several moves, the Depot relocated here. 

The restored depot is today the headquarters of the Duluth Historical Society, and the Depot is a fantastically outfitted history museum, covering history as far back as when the Cherokee Indians called these lands home. My grandmother and great grandmother were born on the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina, so that this museum brings light to the Cherokee means the world to me. 

The history chronicled inside the depot also includes a "Cities on the Rail" exhibition, which includes Duluth, Norcross, Buford, and more.


Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Southeastern Railway Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

From the earliest history of trains, whether for freight or passengers, time plays one of the most important roles, perhaps second only to passenger and crew safety. 

The Station Agent, typically a single individual in smaller cities, was responsible for ticketing passengers, loading and unloading passenger luggage, sending and receiving telegraph messages, and quite a bit more. Imagine the people a Station Agent met!

The Southeastern Railway Museum is owned by the the Atlanta Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, is managed by a community based Board, and its operation is bolstered by a "fleet" of volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds.

Check out the Events page on the Southeastern Railway Museum website. Coming up very soon include the Classics at the Crossing on Saturday, October 21; Train or Treat on Saturday, October 28; and the Polar Express Experience 2017 on Saturday, November 25, to name just a few.

Make your way to the Southeastern Railway Museum for a ride (read: experience) you'll want to go on again and again.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Scarecrows in the Garden 2017

A family favorite, popular date night, and just plain fun, is the Atlanta Botanical Garden's annual Scarecrows in the Garden exhibition! It officially opened today and will be on display through Sunday, October 29. Come out and see the more than 100 totally awesome scarecrows!


Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Every Tim Burton fan will know this "scarecrow" from The Nightmare Before Christmas, one of my favorite Halloween movies!

Did you know that the Atlanta Botanical Garden has been the film site for numerous movies and television shows? A few of them include The Vampire Diaries, Endless Love, and Devious Maids...all with wicked and/or scary scenarios! 


Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

I'm amazed year-after-year by the talent that goes into making the scarecrows for this exhibition. Some are made by families, some by clubs, some by companies...anyone can submit a scarecrow, as long as it won't scare the dickens out of the little ones.

On this visit to the Garden, a new friend Jeff joined me. Jeff is an Atlanta native who just moved back to Atlanta from St. Simons Island—which I visited for the first time earlier this year. We met through our mutual friend Nikki—my dear friend, social media influencer, and partner on our "By the Numbers" restaurant series.

Jeff and I went to the Chef Demo in the Edible Garden where Chef Megan was making an amazing Brussels sprouts dish. We said "Hello" before she started and it turns out that she and Jeff had met back in St. Simons Island at a chef event! 

Small world.


Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

You don't have to be a fan of the 1970s group Three Dog Night to get the humor of the totally brilliant "III Dog Knight" scarecrow. I've said it before and I'll say it again and again...I love clever! And the knight seems to think it's pretty funny, too. 


Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

I didn't catch the name of this one, but it makes me think it's what Maria von Trapp from The Sound of Music would look like if she were a scarecrow...as beautiful as always, even if Maria was wearing a Carmen Miranda headdress! This one should have come with a soundtrack!


Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Just as we were coming up on "Labrador Crowtriever", a youngster came up behind him and touched him. There was no button, no "touch here", but this kid discovered that this "scarecrow" has an audio feature! Barking! I'd have been on the floor if it had broken into Who Let the Dogs Out!


Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Ice cream!!! Ice cream!!! We all scream for ICE CREAM!!!

I don't know that I'd ever indulge in Stinky Strawberry, Nasty Neapolitan, or Wormy Watermelon, but you'd order it and ask someone else to try it, right? I come from a family of practical jokers. I try not to over indulge in the practice, but sometimes it just accidentally happens. That's not a warning, just saying. 

I won't share a link here, but if you're a grownup and you've never seen Eddie Murphy's 1983 "Delirious" concert, check it out. The ice cream sequence will have you laughing so hard you'll spit out your ice cream!  


Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

I mentioned that companies can submit scarecrows. There are professional (designers) and non-professional categories. This one is from Georgia Public Broadcasting ... Masterpiece's Queen Victoria. Brilliant, isn't it?


Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Steampunk! I'm a fan. I've not done steampunk cosplay, but I've bought a couple of pieces—a stunning pocket watch for one—just in case I ever go in that direction. I could see the Atlanta Botanical Garden being the setting for a gorgeous Steampunk wedding, as well as nearby Rhodes Hall


Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Did I ever tell you that I was on three bowling leagues at the same time? And that sometimes we would also practice a fourth day during the week? It was great fun. We traveled the U.S. going to tournaments and playing tourist. We won a few times, too! 

My average was okay, but my biggest win was right here in Atlanta when I bowled a game, at a tournament, and made the first eight strikes in a row! I was sooooo close to a 300, but ended with a very respectable 244.

One of my bowling buddies is Chef Phil, a pastry chef whose delicious work can be found in the Garden's gift shop. He was in a "market" at the Tuesday night member event and after a tiny taste of his Rosemary-Ginger Shortbread, there was an immediate purchase. I shared the box with co-workers and EVERYONE raved about how delicious they are!


Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

All the scarecrows in this exhibition are awesome...love them!

THIS particular "scarecrow" is also an opportunity to be a humanitarian, to help those affected by the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico, which is a United States Territory, for anyone who doesn't realize. 

For every picture of "Frida Kahlocorn" posted on Instagram and/or Twitter with the hashtag #ATLunicorns, DigitasLBi will donate up to $500. Snap away, tag, and help those who are in desperate need, please.


Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Scarecrows in the Garden 2017 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

There was PIE!

So, the evening we went was the Fall Member Evening. We each got a coupon for a free mini pie! I had the apple and Jeff had the blueberry. I wish I knew who made them (anyone know?), because they were AMAZING! The flakiest crust and the filling was perfectly flavored...not too sweet, just wholly balanced fruit flavor.

One of the perks of membership, in addition to visiting the Garden during daytime hours and Thursday evenings during the summer, is that we get to experience exhibitions before they open to the general public and we get Gift Shop discounts, too! That's only some of the membership benefits.

Make your way to the Atlanta Botanical Garden to see this year's totally fun "Scarecrows in the Garden" exhibition, now through Sunday, October 29.