A new exhibit titled Delaware Railroads: Elegant Travel and Timely Transport, will be on display at the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes beginning Saturday, July 7. The exhibit replaces Discovering Delaware’s Maritime Past, which has been on view since June 2015.
Planned and created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the exhibit utilizes photographs and posters, tickets, timetables, maps and historical objects from the collections of the State of Delaware to tell the history of rail travel and transport in the First State.
In particular, the exhibit will explore four railroads that were historically important in Delaware: The New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad (1832), the Delaware Railroad (1852), the Junction and Breakwater Railroad (1857) and the Queen Anne’s Railroad (1896). The exhibit will complement Lewes’ 20th annual Chautauqua tent show – All Aboard: Delaware and the Railroad, which will take place Thursday to Saturday, Sept. 13 to 15.
Economic growth, development and prosperity resulted from the construction of railway lines in Delaware. Due to the increased comfort and speed by which passengers and cargo could be transported, new connections to destinations and markets outside the Delmarva Peninsula were established.
This led to the development of canning companies and seafood-processing plants, allowing products to be shipped to the larger metropolitan areas of Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. Farmers growing peaches, tomatoes, strawberries, wheat and other crops became prosperous during economic boom times. Later on, chickens and holly wreaths became important commodities.
Passengers were able to take popular day excursions to special events such as the World’s Fair in New York City. Railroad travel was elegant and timely. However, with the advent of improved highways, vehicles and freight trucks, rail travel in Delaware outside the heavily utilized Northeast Corridor ended by 1950, and freight lines were significantly reduced. A bright spot remaining today is the Wilmington & Western Railroad, a popular excursion line with steam-powered rides outside Wilmington.
The exhibit will continue for an indeterminate period of time. The Zwaanendael Museum is at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, call 302-645-1148.