Wattman Mini Express in interactive history program

Winterfest of Pensacola purchased their Mini Express in the fall of 2017. The primary goal was to use the train in conjunction with their core business: Providing themed entertainment during the Holiday season.

 

Background Information and Experience Details

Winterfest of Pensacola has a solid 20-year history of presenting holiday-themed performance tours to the public throughout the Christmas holiday season. What started as a simple trolley ride around the historic district of Pensacola has grown into a professionally-produced theater experience with a cast of hundreds of actors, singers, scenic designers and others.

After establishing as a nonprofit in 2004, Winterfest continued to expand, adding additional trolleys, tours and dates. One of the most popular additions to Winterfest was the “Winterfest Express” miniature Wattman train in 2017, which offered rides around the Winterfest staging area, “Christmas Town.” The immediate success of the Mini Express led the Winterfest team to explore ways to utilize the train throughout the year, such as the Orange Blossom Special experience—a unique, interactive program designed to highlight the prominent role that trains have played in both Pensacola and Florida.

 

The Orange Blossom Special Is Re-born at Pensacola Children’s Museum

Reflecting an historic train that ran in Florida’s past, the Winterfest mini-train will be named the Orange Blossom Special from May 5 to mid-November. Geared to children ages 5 and up, the experience includes a lively program and a 10-minute train ride offered on Saturdays between 10am and 2pm. The history experience provides another great reason for families to visit the Pensacola area between April and November, especially when bundled with downtown Pensacola museums, Historic Pensacola.

The train itself is ideal for this type of programming:

  • The Wattman Mini-train consists of an engine car, a “coal” car, three passenger cars and caboose. The brightly colored electric train runs silently on sidewalks, providing a fun experience for up to 24 children and adults at a time.

  • The mini-train includes a high-quality sound system, along with an authentic-sounding train whistle and “smoke” from the engine.

  • The train rides will be part of an overall interactive history “lesson.”

Discovering the Railroad Heritage of Pensacola and Florida

An entertaining program will be presented an early learning music specialist with the Escambia County District Schools, dressed as a railroad engineer. Each child will be given a wooden toy “railroad whistle” and a sticker or patch identifying them as a “Junior Engineer.” The 10-15-minute program will include:

  • A history of the Orange Blossom Special and railroading in Pensacola in general

  • Musical experiences, with discussion of the traditional mountain instruments that were popular during the time of the old-style railroads (i.e. banjos, harmonicas, washboards, etc.) *Children’s songs of the period will be presented in a sing-along.

  • Discussion of the types of jobs that railroad workers performed, such as engineer, brakeman, conductor, etc.

  • To foster memory and observation skills, the presenter will list several items that the children should be on the lookout for during the train ride, including items such as a lantern, a train crossing sign and a “semaphor” (a bar lowered to block roads for train crossings.

  • After the program, the children and adults will board the Orange Blossom Special for a 10-minute ride, during which the children will be led in singing and blowing their whistles.

The program will be presented in a special room apart from the rest of the museum and will be scheduled for several times per day, either on the hour or every half hour.

The location of the museum is ideal, as it is adjacent to a new addition to the T.T. Wentworth Museum, with an outside Children’s Park that features history and railroads. The park includes a playground that features a boxcar and other railroad-themed play equipment. Following each program presentation, the children will be guided outside by the presenter, where they will board the Wattman Mini Express for a ride that will take them twice around the children’s park.

Winterfest of Pensacola may also be using their Mini Express train in an early learning school program next year.

 

Find out more about Winterfest of Pensacola:

A feature story by Michel Trottier, International sales at Wattman World.
A special Thank You to Denise Daughtry, President Winterfest of Pensacola.

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