Train fans to come to Lee County

Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 6:05 PM CDT
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FORT MADISON (WGEM) - A weekend event is ahead for the people of Fort Madison, and some locals are hoping to cash in on potential tourism money.

River and Rail Weekend celebrates the history of trains in Southeast Iowa.

It’s centered around Virtual Railfan: a community of train fans who watch livestreams of trains passing nationwide.

President and CEO of Virtual Railfan Mike Cyr said from the average ten to twenty million viewers the website has a month, many of those will travel to see the trains, and then end up spending money on local businesses as well.

“They’re coming to wave and checking out the towns that we’re in and of course when they come to visit they’re staying in town, they’re sleeping in the hotels. They’re eating in the restaurants, they’re shopping local,” said Cyr.

Event organizer Chi Eastin said while she hopes this event brings out-of-towners to Lee County, she also hopes locals of Fort Madison take advantage and learn about their history.

“They just don’t understand our rail fans, they’re coming in and I’d love to show them that people are enjoying our river front, they come back, we’ve got someone staying with us right now, it’s their fourth trip this year to come,” said Eastin.

Eastin manages the Kingsley Inn in Fort Madison and said her businesses is benefiting from the tourism as her hotel is full for the weekend.

Railfan Community Manager Bruce Williams said tourism is important, but he wants locals to learn about what’s around them.

“When you live in a place, you take everything there for granted, you take the trains for granted, you probably look at the trains as more of a pain than anything else because they disrupt your movement through the city sometimes, but if you walk down here at the riverfront and look at it from an outsider’s point of view, this area offers everything,” said Williams.

To learn more about Virtual Railfan, click here.

For the full schedule of River and Rail Weekend, click here.

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