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Bob Lind, Published November 30 2009

Lind: Railroads got the Scouts to annual Jamboree

It was one of the last great movements of people by train. It took place in 1957, when the Boy Scouts National Jamboree was held in Valley Forge, Pa.

It drew more than 52,000 Scouts. About 35,000 of them came by train.

David Barth, Glyndon, Minn., seeing a Neighbors item about past Jamborees, sent in a story from the “Classic Trains” publication about it.

Dave, who was a Boy Scout in Bismarck, wasn’t able to attend any national Jamborees. But he has talked to guys who did. So this story caught his attention.

The article says the 1957 Jamboree was the second of three held at Valley Forge. The first was held in 1950, and trains also carried most of the boys to the event. But when the third Jamboree was held there in 1964, railroads no longer were the chief form of transportation, giving way to the highways and airlines.

The 1957 Jamboree was held, the article says, because “the onset of the Cold War and the threat of world communism was a factor in showcasing the merits of America through a free gathering of her youth.”

So it was that this Jamboree became the largest gathering of youths in the history of the nation.

Good meal prices

Boys from every state (48 at the time) were there, along with boys from several countries including Brazil, Cuba, Denmark and Israel.

President Dwight Eisenhower was unable to attend, but he sent Vice President Richard Nixon to greet the Scouts.

Special guests included the Cleveland Indians’ ace pitcher Bob Feller and singer Rusty Draper, and the Air Force Thunderbird flying team put on a show.

The railroads ran 126 special trains to the site over the Reading and Pennsylvania lines.

And the railroads, like the Scouts they carried, did their share of daily good deeds. Examples:

When tickets for 300 Scouts from Seattle were lost in Chicago, a railroad official wired ahead so conductors would allow the boys to continue despite not having tickets.

Scouts coming from San Antonio, Texas, planned to spend a day sightseeing in Washington, D.C., on their way to Valley Forge, but a bridge washout held them up. Fortunately a railroad official juggled the schedule so that the boys got their tour of Washington in.

Here’s more trivia about the railroads:

Today, the article notes, Valley Forge no longer has passenger train service. But the boys who attended the 1957 Jamboree probably would agree that the railroads back then, like the principles of the Boy Scout law, were trustworthy and helpful.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com