The Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del., is currently featuring the exhibit “Delaware Railroads: Elegant Travel and Timely Transport.” Planned and created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the exhibit utilizes photographs; and posters, tickets, timetables, maps and historical objects from the collections of the State of Delaware to tell the history of rail travel and transport in the First State. In particular, the exhibit explores four railroads that were historically important in Delaware: The New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad (1832), the Delaware Railroad (1852), the Junction and Breakwater Railroad (1857) and the Queen Anne’s Railroad (1896).
Economic growth, development and prosperity resulted from the construction of railway lines in Delaware. Due to the increased comfort and speed by which passengers and cargo could be transported, new connections to destinations and markets outside of the Delmarva Peninsula were established. This led to the development of canning companies and seafood processing plants, allowing products to be shipped to the larger metropolitan areas of Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. Farmers growing peaches, tomatoes, strawberries, wheat and other produce became prosperous during the “boom” times. Later on, chickens and holly wreaths became important commodities. Passengers were able to take popular day-excursions to special events such as the World’s Fair in New York City. Railroad travel was elegant and timely. However, with the advent of improved highways, vehicles and freight trucks, rail travel in Delaware, outside the heavily utilized Northeast Corridor, ended by1950, and freight lines were significantly reduced. A bright spot remaining today is the Wilmington & Western Railroad, a popular excursion line with steam powered rides outside of Wilmington.
“Delaware Railroads: Elegant Travel and Timely Transport” opened at the Zwaanendael Museum on July 7, 2018 and will be on display for an undetermined period of time. Museum operating-hours from Nov. 1 through March 31 are Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. From April 1 to Oct. 31, museum operating-hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.
The Zwaanendael Museum was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state’s first European colony, Swanendael, established by the Dutch along Hoorn Kill (present-day Lewes-Rehoboth Canal) in 1631. Designed by E. William Martin (architect of Legislative Hall and the Hall of Records in Dover), the museum is modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands, and features a stepped facade gable with carved stonework and decorated shutters. The museum’s exhibits and presentations provide a showcase for Lewes-area maritime, military and social history.