WINNSBORO — On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, veterans received a complimentary ride on the rails courtesy of the South Carolina Railroad museum.
The promotion brought patrons to Winnsboro from as far away as Germany, Hawaii and Florida.
For Duncan Kuhn, the trip was an opportunity to honor her grandfather, Robert Kuhn, a veteran of World War II. Kuhn flew a B-25 for the U.S. Air Force during the war.
The 93-year-old said he had not ridden a train since his days in the service. His daughter Joyce, a resident of Blythewood, learned about the train rides and said the free ticket appealed to her father’s thrifty side. This was Kuhn’s first trip to the railroad museum, though he is still active and able to get out and around.
He received dialysis treatment that morning and was doing well enough that the family could make the excursion. Kuhn served in the Solomon Islands and at Guadalcanal. He worked as a flight instructor after the war.
“The only train ride I gook was as a second lieutenant pilot when I had 10 days leave in Missouri and then had to report to the Greenville Army Air Base in 1942,” he said. “It’s been 61 years since I have been on a train, but I sure am enjoying the ride.”
Kuhn said it was more comfortable in Winnsboro in the open air car.
“There was no air conditioning on the train (taking me to the army base) and it was hot even in November. I remember the smoke filling the passenger cars from the coal fired engine, too,” he said. “The smoke was really bad in the tunnels.”
Greg Lamrie from Sumter served 21 years in the Air Force, being stationed later in his career at Shaw Air Force Base.
Tom Hood from Ridgeway served in the Navy in 1965 during Vietnam.
“Today was a great day for a train ride,” he said, as he thought of the men he served with all those years ago, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice for their comrades.
Molly and Matt Stevens made the drive up from Columbia for their son, Brandt, who is really into trains.
James and Donna Douglas made the train ride, also. Donna said that although they now live in Camden, she had lived in Winnsboro for a lot of years but had never visited the railroad museum.
“I love it.This is a great day for it,” she said. “My husband’s father found out and invited us because it was Memorial Day.”
Douglas said he is a big train guy. He rode one to the Great Lakes region while he was in the service and the train derailed in Kentucky. Douglas said his time in the Navy Reserves from 1959-60 taught him a lot about boiler rooms and ships, which got him more interested in steam locomotives.
Bronwyn Liddle from Columbia had never been on a train before the veterans ride, but she thought it was fantastic to ride in the open car.
“This is the first time I have ever seen Winnsboro granite,” she said. “I always wanted to ride a train and I think this country needs more public transit, so this train museum is a great idea.”
Liddle attended with her parents, Maia and Brett, and her relative Jean Behrens who came to visit from Hawaii. The museum had 185 people ride the rails Memorial Day.
Gordon Sparks brought his granddaughter Lauren Knoblack with him from Irmo for the day. Sparks retired from the Air Force after 30 years including a stint in Vietnam from 1966-67. He was stationed mostly in Charleston as a maintenance superintendent for three squadrons.
“I would not have traded my service for anything in the world,” he said. “And I am grateful places like the Railroad Museum appreciate the sacrifices veterans made for their country.”
Sparks has worked for years volunteering with Pearl Harbor survivors.
The railroad museum officially opened for the summer season June 1 and will offer rides to patrons on Saturdays throughout the summer. For more information call (803) 712-4135 or visit www.scrm.org.