GGC’s history department partnered with the Southeastern Railway Museum (SRM) to host a three-day seminar from March 26 to March 28 on American railroads.
The seminar, located in the Heritage Room in the Kaufman Library, included presentations from teachers and students and attracted 300 guests.
This seminar was inspired by the upcoming sesquicentennial observance to the Golden Spike Ceremony, according to history professor Dr. Frank Smith.
Each day had a particular focus. The first day, the speakers focused on “The Story of a Transportation Industry.” Provost T.J. Arant presided the session. There were five speakers: Dr. Frank Smith and Dr. Michael Gunther of history, Dr. Todd Lindley of geography, Dr. Patrick Coppock of chemistry, and Dr. Scott Boykin from the School of Liberal Arts were all presenters during this session.
“I am not an expert on the technological or corporate aspects of railroad history,” Dr. Gunther said. “The romantic and nostalgic aspects of railroads appeal to me.”
Dr. Gunther teaches various sections of history, ranging from U.S. history surveys to Colonial and Revolutionary America.
“It is important for us to plan events on campus that highlight history to attract non-majors,” Dr. Gunther said.
One hundred and two people attended the first session.
The second day, the hour-and-fifteen-minute session consisted of seven presenters, five faculty/staff, and two students who covered topics of politics, laws, and labors.
On Thursday, two sessions were held — one from 2 to 3:15 p.m. and another from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The first session discussed the social and cultural aspects of American railroads. Dr. Vlad Bursuc presided and four professors presented.
Dr. Erica Metcalf teaches both African American history and U.S. history. She presented on American railroads and the African-American Experience in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Her presentation shed light on slaves’ interaction with the railroads. Many slaves during the Civil War used the railroad lines to guide them north to freedom, and emancipated slaves worked on the railroads as an alternative to low-paying agriculture work. She also highlighted the Pullman Company and its creation of the first official African American union.
“I teach about the importance of the railroads during the second industrial revolution and how many of the most important labor strikes of the late nineteenth century were in the railroad industry,” Dr. Metcalf said. “The railroad seminar really broadened the way I think about railroads.”
Approximately 50 people attended the session.
The final day of the seminar discussed the movies, meals, and memories associated with the American Railroads. Dr. Frank Smith presided over the three student speakers and presentations for Lloyd Neal and Sarah Pearson from the Southeastern Railway Museum.
Lloyd Neal, the assistant librarian at The Southeastern Railway Museum (SRM), delivered three presentations: “Dinner in the Diner: American Railroads and Food”, “Pullmans, Streamliners, and Vista-Dones: A Pictorial History of the American Passenger Train”, and “American Railroads and Film”.
“I saw the film presentation as an opportunity to involve our college volunteer, Sarah Pearson, as well,” Neal said. “Sarah rose to the challenge providing her insights to the presentation.”
Sarah Pearson has been a volunteer for SRM since last February on an on-and-off basis, which became more consistent over the summer.
“I help Steve and Lloyd run the museum library, which entails a lot of filing newspapers, clippings, and books,” Pearson said.
Pearson assisted Neal with presenting “Dinners and Diners.”
“Steve suggested doing the dining cars because we have a lot of dining car stuff, including an actual dining and kitchen car on display,” Pearson said.
“I hope people learned more about trains and railroads and the impact they have had on different areas of study, ” Pearson said. “What I find more interesting is how the development of technology changes society over time and tracking where parts of society that we take for granted today came from.”
Dr. Smith said that they plan on continuing to do education events such as this one.
“There is a great desire at GGC to partner with community organizations,” Dr. Smith said.
Dr. Smith started planning for this event in the summer of 2018 according to Sarah Pearson.
You can find all the presentations here.