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2nd Annual Cotton Belt Symposium this weekend


By Scott Harvey

Commerce – Railroad enthusiasts from across North Texas are encouraged this weekend to participate in the Second Annual Cotton Belt Symposium.

The free, public event is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the James Gee Library on the Texas A&M University-Commerce campus. All former and current railroad employees, family members and anyone else interested in the topic are invited to attend and even share their stories of the railroad industry and its impact.

The symposium will feature a panel of authors and historians, including Jonathan Gerland, Dr. Otha Spencer, and Cheryl Westhafer. Gerland will discuss the service of the Cotton Belt and connecting railroads to early logging operations in East Texas, Spencer will discuss the social impact of the railroad in the communities in and around the Commerce area and Westhafer will present artifacts from, and discuss the railroad collection at the Commerce Public Library.

The program is also expected to include a panel comprised of current and former railroad employees and family members recounting various aspects of railroad life, with the proceedings videotaped for entry into the Gee Library's Digital Archives.

Cotton Belt and railroad artifacts from the Commerce Public Library and the Arkansas Railroad Museum's Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society collection will be on display, and those attending the event are being invited to bring and display their own railroad photos and other artifacts.

More information is available by calling the Gee Library at 903-886-5737.