Prior to my trip to Vermont earlier this week, I believe I had actually only been there once before and that was long ago when I was in third or fourth grade. At the time we were living in Connecticut while my Dad was stationed in Vietnam and one day my grandfather - who was always big into trains - packed my three brothers, my Mom, and myself into his former State Police cruiser and made the trek to Riverside, Vermont where Steamtown U.S.A. was located.
Steamtown was founded by F. Nelson Blount who was the President and Founder of the Blount Seafood Corporation which provided chopped clams to soup manufacturers throughout the US, including Campbell's Soups. The business was very successful and as Blount became a millionaire, he also became a collector of vintage steam locomotives and rail cars. His collection was originally displayed at "Engine City" in Wakefield, Massachusetts as part of the Pleasure Island amusement park in the mid-1950's but when space restraints became a problem, Blount's collection was moved to North Walpole, New Hampshire, switched to Keene, New Hampshire, moved back to North Walpole, and finally - in 1964 - settled into a site that was abandoned by the Rutland Railroad near Bellows Falls, Vermont.
It was to there that I made my first foray into Vermont way back in 1967 and I can still remember how excited my grandfather was to bring us there and show us the big steam locomotives that he so loved. Unfortunately for Steamtown, F. Nelson Blount died in a small plane crash in August of 1967 and, without his funding, the collection was left without care and began to deteriorate in the harsh Vermont winters. In 1984 the collection was moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania where several years later it was taken over by the US Government and established as the Steamtown National Historic Site. A member of the National Park System, the new and improved Steamtown officially opened to the public in 1995 and finally fulfilled F. Nelson Blount's original dream to have a museum in a working railroad yard with excursions on steam trains as well as a functional locomotive shop.
I have no doubt that were he still alive, my grandfather would have absolutely loved it. I've driven through Scranton quite a few times over the years and every time I see the signs for Steamtown I think of my grandfather and that trip to Vermont to see the locomotives and share in the passion that he had for a way of life that had been replaced by something sleeker and faster. Perhaps one of these days I'll stop in Scranton and visit Steamtown; I've got no doubt that if I do my grandfather will be right there along with me and enjoying every minute of it.