‘Delaware Railroads: Elegant Travel and Timely Transport’ exhibit at the Zwaanendael Museum

The Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Delaware, is currently featuring the exhibit “Delaware Railroads: Elegant Travel and Timely Transport.” Planned and created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Collections, Affiliates, Research and Exhibits (CARE) Team working together with the staff of the Zwaanendael Museum, 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).

Postcard depicting the Lewes, Del. railroad station.

Postcard depicting the Lewes, Delaware railroad station.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.

Cast iron passenger train including engine, tender and three passenger cars. Made by Vindex Toy Company, Belvedere, Ill., circa 1905.
Cast iron passenger train including engine, tender and three passenger cars. Made by Vindex Toy Company, Belvedere, Ill., circa 1905.

“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 are Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.

Administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, 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. 

Zwaanendael Museum
Zwaanendael Museum

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Go to the following for a full listing of exhibits and displays at the museums of the State of Delaware.

Go to the following for a comprehensive, long-term calendar of events sponsored by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

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