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The Fair of the Iron Horse


When the B&O celebrated its centenary in Baltimore in 1927, this letter opener was one of many items available as a souvenir of the event.
When the B&O celebrated its centenary in Baltimore in 1927, this letter opener was one of many items available as a souvenir of the event.
John B. Corns

­The B&O, which for years had represented itself as the country's first common carrier railroad, celebrated its centenary in 1927 with a huge railroad exhibit and pageant outside Baltimore. More than a thousand employees spent the better part of a year preparing for the fair. They rebuilt the B&O's collection of historic locomotives, crafted comprehensive exhibits on all aspects of railroading, prepared an elaborate historical pageant that was presented daily, and built a magnificent setting at which to host the railroad's "birthday party."

Approximately one-and-a-half million people enjoyed the "Fair of the Iron Horse" during its three-week run in September. The Transportation Building alone was a tenth-of-a-mile long. The parking lot held 9,000 cars, and special trains brought people from as far away as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Admission was free, and the railroad was careful to conduct the entire affair with dignity and consideration for its guests.

This was no cheap promotional gimmick. The B&O intended to keep the buildings open as the country's first public railroad museum, but the Depression intervened. The collection went into storage, until it was reinstalled in historic buildings at the company's Mt. Clare Shops in Baltimore in 1953. The fair, and the subsequent B&O Transportation Museum, provided the precedent for almost every major railroad museum and railroad fair to follow.

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