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Center for Railway Tourism at Davis & Elkins College receives $75,000 grant

ELKINS – The Center for Railway Tourism at Davis & Elkins College has been awarded a $75,000 grant by the Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust. The funds will enable the launch of an on-going national effort to recruit undergraduate students for the Center’s minor in Railway Heritage Tourism Management.

The 18-credit minor is the only program of its kind devoted to railway heritage preservation and tourism.

“We are seeking high school juniors and seniors, veterans and others thinking of attending college and who have an interest in railroading, history, tourism, and community development,” said Center for Railway Tourism Director Jim Porterfield. “Railroad heritage preservation and presentation is unique and is nationwide. It occurs at more than 1,300 museums and excursions. It also embraces nearly 3,000 rail trails and thousands of restored depots and other infrastructure adapted to new uses.”

The primary mission of the Center is to encourage the sound and long-term protection of that legacy, and to acquaint new and broader segments of society with its presence and importance.

The Center was encouraged to apply for the grant by members of the Trust’s Board of Directors.  Aided by Ben Jankowski, a rail heritage preservation specialist, and with input from Mark Bassett, director of the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, Nevada, the Center submitted a recruitment plan that combines traditional marketing strategies – direct mail, advertising and personal appearances – with innovative contemporary tools such as influencer marketing and earned media content.

“The Trust’s funding is critical to this effort,” said Porterfield.

Students, regardless of their major, will complete six or more courses in railroad heritage preservation and tourism management. Among the required courses is a 12-week hands-on internship at a prominent rail heritage facility.

“Our program is committed to developing and deploying a cadre of young professionals with degrees in management, marketing, history or related fields,” says Porterfield.  “They will be specifically prepared to assume responsibility for preserving and presenting a critical component of our nation’s growth and vitality.”

For more information on the Center for Railway Tourism at Davis & Elkins College and its minor in Railway Heritage Tourism Management, including a free eBook on careers in railroad heritage tourism management, visit www.dewv.edu/center-railway-tourism, or contact Porterfield at porterfieldj@dewv.edu.

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