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LA GRANGE, Ky. (October 2015) – When he was a young boy, Charles Bogart grew up in Newport, Ky., next to the railroad and watched C&O cars roll by daily. The rumble of the railroad and everything about it that he experienced instilled in him a love of trains that he carries with him to this day.
“I just like trains,” said Bogart, 74, who often hung out at the depot while growing up. He has written several books on the subject, including the topics of streetcars and 1940s and 1950s railroads in Kentucky.

Photo provided

Charles Bogart, a U.S. Navy veteran, grew up with an interest in trains.

Bogart, a U.S. Navy veteran, earned his bachelor’s degree in history at Thomas More College and his master’s degree in Urban Planning at Ohio State before spending 40 years working for the Kentucky Department of Military Affairs as a Plans & Operations Training Officer. This job enabled him to visit all of Kentucky’s 120 counties. In many of them he aided in developing emergency management plans.
Since 1987 he has been a conductor for the Bluegrass Railroad Museum in Versailles, Ky. He and wife, Mary Ann, an English teacher, often travel and he takes pictures of trains wherever they go.
In addition, Bogart has also worked for the last 10 years as an interpreter for Frankfort Parks & Historic Sites. “I work at a Civil War battle site and give railroad walking tours of the town,” said Bogart. Known as Fort Boone, the site is one of two earthworks located at Leslie Morris Park at Fort Hill.
Bogart discovered military history books in grade school and was hooked. He enlisted in the Navy straight out of high school and became a radar operator on the USS Dennis J. Buckley.
Bogart will be one of two railroad historians to speak about the railroad’s heritage during the upcoming La Grange Railroad & Bluegrass Festival. Now in its fifth year, the festival will have different events taking place at CityPlace and the La Grange Railroad Museum from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9; from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10; and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11.
Friday evening at CityPlace there will be an open bluegrass jam session from 7-9 p.m., and speaker Bob Dawson will give a 7:15 p.m. presentation on “The Iron Road Through La Grange.” Retired from the Louisville Gas & Electric Co., Dawson is a member of the Louisville History League, National Railroad Historical Society and the National Model Railroad Association.
On Saturday afternoon, a second bluegrass jam session will be held from 3-5 p.m. Bogart will speak at 1 p.m. on The L&N and the distilleries and again at 4 p.m. on “The Streetcars and Interurbans of Kentucky.” Throughout the day and again on Sunday, clinics will be held on model railroad basics and scenery by members of the K&I Model Railroad Club. The Ironman competition will also take place on Sunday in La Grange.
The festival is a family friendly event with something for all ages. A kiddie train from Fall City Live Steamers will be on hand at CityPlace from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. A Cardboard Box Train Parade will take place on Second Street and the Farmer’s Market & Artisans will be set up at the La Grange Courthouse
The La Grange Railroad Museum, operated by the Ohio Valley Railroad Historic Foundation Inc., will feature Christian country music and country music performers, along with tours of the museum. “A Great Train Robbery,” staged by Cowboy Posse, will take place at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. “Last year’s turnout was very good,” said Bob Widman, organizer for the museum portion of the festival.
Nathaniel King is a member of the K&I Model Railroad Club and said members will “give classes on what it takes to get into model railroading and what it’s really all about. There’s a lot of interest in this hobby.” The club has a model layout at the old fire station in Buckner.
“We’re working to get a lot of people interested,” said King. “We want to make this a yearly event and expand it more.” K&I will have a portable layout on display at CityPlace.
“We’re a family-oriented group that enjoys the hobby of model railroading.” There’s something for all ages, he said, and such skills as electrical, carpentry and scenery can be learned.
A local hobby shop, Roundhouse Trains Inc., will have a vendor booth set up, as will the National Model Railroad Association, Division 8. 
“A huge portion of our heritage is wrapped around the railroad,” said Karen Eldridge, executive director for La Grange Crossroads District, a Main Street program, which is organizing the festival.
“La Grange has long been a center of transportation,” said Eldridge. From horseback to wagons to trains to Interstate 71, it is this transportation “hub we want to celebrate.”
The railroad has played a vital part in the history of La Grange and Oldham County even though it was not fully established until the 1850s. La Grange had begun to flourish as the county seat by then as visitors and residents alike traveled by foot or horse over dusty roads, or by boat down the Ohio River. Many hotels sprang up as a result of the railroad and one of the most important tasks of the railway was that of delivering mail.
The establishment of the railroad brought about a new mode of transportation for goods and provided a quicker destination route for those who could afford to travel by train. It connected communities and brought easier access for development.
In 1869 the Louisville & Frankfort consolidated with the Lexington & Frankfort to form the Louisville, Cincinnati & Lexington Railroad Company. A “short line” was established between La Grange and Covington, making La Grange the junction town.
In 1913 two round trip passenger lines between Lexington and Louisville via La Grange were extended to include Sundays. By the 1940s, freights had discontinued use of the La Grange route, leaving only daily passenger trains running.
It’s not uncommon to see 30 or more trains rumble through La Grange in a 24-hour period. The only remaining railroad depot in La Grange, built circa 1910, still stands on its original spot at 412 E. Main St. and houses the La Grange Railroad Museum.

• For more information, contact La Grange Crossroads District at (502) 269-0126.

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