NORTH CREEK – September 14, 1901 began as a normal day for Theodore Roosevelt, the vice president of the United States. He was enjoying time with his family while vacationing in the beautiful Adirondacks when he arrived at the North Creek Train Depot Station where he would be given a life-changing telegram.
Roosevelt opened the message to learn that President McKinley had succumbed to a fatal gunshot while attending a rally in Buffalo. Roosevelt promptly boarded the southbound train to Albany and the next morning was sworn in as the 26th President of the United States.
This weekend, 112 years to the date of that historic moment, the North Creek Depot Station will reenact that event with nationally acclaimed Teddy Roosevelt reprisor Joe Wiegand.
“He’s one of the best-known reprisors in the nation,” said Sue Wilder, special events and marketing associate at Saratoga & North Creek Railway. “He was actually commissioned by the New York State Museum of Natural History to pose for a sculptor of Teddy Roosevelt because he’s about the same height and weight as Teddy, and they needed to know how he would sit on a bench—he was also asked by President George W. Bush to come to the White House when they were celebrating Teddy’s presidency, so he went and did a presentation there for them. He’s top notch.”
This Saturday morning at exactly 6:45 a.m., Wiegand will recreate that early morning train ride where a period-dressed man will break the news of McKinley’s death. Following the reenactment, Teddy will ride in the dome of the train for a “Breakfast with Teddy” event as the train drives down to the Saratoga Springs Train Station.
A unique aspect of the weekend’s activities is the arrival of the Leviathan No. 63 steam engine, a replica of the original locomotive type built by the Schenectady Locomotive Works in 1868. This weekend will be the steam engine’s first debut in New York State since being built.
The Leviathan No. 63 project began in 1999 when Dave Kloke started his adventure building a full size, standard gauge replica of the train. Kloke and his team have spent thousands of man hours for over 10 years to build the Leviathan, faithful in every detail.
“They built the train exactly to how it was, right down to the nuts and bolts,” Wilder said. “Though it originally burned wood, the replica engine burns fuel oil.”
Continuing, Wilder added that the steam engine experience is totally different from a normal train.
“It’s a completely different whistle sound and there’s smoke billowing everywhere—we did a trial run the other day and it was amazing,” she said. “People came out of their houses because it was completely different—one lady came out with one sock on and one off because she didn’t want to miss seeing the train!”
Attendees can see the train leave from the Corinth station at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, or wait for it to arrive in Saratoga Springs at 10 a.m. where children can participate in the Teddy Bear Train Ride event as the train continues on to the North Creek station.
A Teddy Bear Tea is also planned for 2 p.m., where “Teddy” will tell stories including the tale of how his children’s beloved pony Algonquin took a stroll right through the oval office. Attendees to the Teddy Bear Tea will also have an opportunity to make some “Teddy Bear” take home edible craft projects. There is no cost to attend the outdoor tea as long as children bring their favorite teddy bear along to share in the fun.
Other family-friendly events include the Tales from Teddy storytime, Rough Rider Pony Rides and the Canary College Dance Orchestra, which will perform jazz and ragtime music for all to enjoy. Teddy will also provide platform talks from the train for history buffs interested in the historical aspect of the weekend.
A full schedule of events for both Saturday and Sunday are available at www.sncrr.com. To make train reservations, call (877) 726-7745.
“It’s history in the making,” Wilder said. “You’re actually seeing a part of history re-live itself, and it’s never been in my lifetime that a steam engine has made its way up this track, so this is a cool thing to have happen.”