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National Train Day

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, May 10

Historic Train Depot

400 N. Toole Ave.

623-2223;

tucsonhistoricdepot.org

Anyone who has spent time downtown or lives near Interstate 10 as it heads north to Phoenix is well aware that trains still roll through Tucson. But there's far more to the country's oldest form of mass transportation than just a loud whistle breaking the nighttime silence.

"I think trains are very misunderstood," said Ken Karrels, chairman of the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum.

This is a sentiment shared by Amtrak, the nation's leading passenger carrier, which is why in 2007 it established National Train Day. This year's celebration is set for Saturday, and the Southern Arizona Train Museum is hosting festivities inside the Historic Train Depot downtown.

The free event will feature train models and exhibits maintained by the museum, which is a division of the Old Pueblo Trolley that used to operate along Fourth Avenue before the city's modern streetcar project pushed it to the curb. Representatives from Amtrak and Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit organization devoted to reducing collisions, injuries and deaths in and around train crossings, will be on hand to talk about what they do.

Those groups will also be giving away "goodies," Karrels said, that will include free train caps for the kids.

Anthony Haswell, vice president of the Arizona Rail Passenger Association, will give a talk at 1 p.m. on the evolution of Amtrak. (Amtrak's Sunset Limited train comes through Tucson on its way to either Los Angeles or New Orleans every other day.)

"If you want to have a vacation and travel, that's the way to go," Karrels said.

Saturday's festivities will also include face painting and access to Locomotive No. 1673, a 114-year-old steam engine that was once operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad. The locomotive used to be stationed at Himmel Park, but now is maintained by the transportation museum.

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