Railroads & Locomotives Tourist Railroad Profiles Young Guns in Preservation: Kristen Fredriksen

Young Guns in Preservation: Kristen Fredriksen

By Lucas Iverson | December 1, 2023

The role for the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum’s Manager of Public Programs and Outreach involves storytelling that evokes nostalgia

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Young preservationist riding a train.
As one of the young guns in preservation, Kristen Fredriksen tells stories that evokes nostalgia through rail preservation. Paul Grether

Outreach is the name of the game for any organization in rail preservation looking to remain relevant. For Kristen Fredriksen, who serves as the Manager of Public Programs and Outreach at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington as well as being a board member of the HeritageRail Alliance, it’s about the storytelling and evoking nostalgia to get people engaged and on board.

How did you get involved in rail preservation?

Kristen Fredriksen: My family traveled a lot when I was growing up. We went to museums worldwide, including the Deutsche Bahn Museum in Nuremberg, Germany, and the National Railway Museum in York, England. So, before I started working in rail preservation, I’d always been interested in museums, history, and transportation.

In 2015, a friend and I were looking for somewhere new to hang out and we ended up going to the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Ga., which was only about 15 minutes from where I grew up. I was amazed by the collection, as they have everything from steam locomotives and dome cars to taxi cabs and trolley buses. I applied to volunteer in the area of social media and marketing, and the museum actually asked me to interview for a position in the education department.

That’s what got it all started. I began giving tours there and helped with school programs. Eventually, I moved up to coordinating all the film and television shoots taking place at the museum. Then in 2019, I moved to Pittsburgh for a new opportunity at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.

As a young preservationist at age 35, what have you found to be the most challenging aspects in the industry?

Kristen Fredriksen: Not only being a young person but also a woman, I think it took a lot more to prove that I was serious. I really had to study my history to earn respect when starting out. I think a lot of older folks who have been around these museums for decades may have a tough time relating to or accepting young people. At the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, I’m focused on figuring out ways to recruit and engage the next generation of volunteers to make sure the younger volunteers feel welcome.

What’s been the most rewarding for you so far?

Kristen Fredriksen: I love all the firsts at these museums. The first time you see a restored piece of equipment undergoing testing and then going into service. The first time you see volunteers here at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum come together and essentially operate a miniature transit system during the Washington County Fair, where we run up to seven cars at once which is very exciting. The first time you see a car arriving at the museum for preservation such as the PCC “Terrible Trolley” car. And watching kids take their first trolley ride. Knowing all the teamwork that goes behind these experiences makes them goosebumps moments.

Where do you see rail preservation as it is today and what do you hope it’ll become for the future?

Kristen Fredriksen: Our organizations are trying to figure out how to raise awareness. We’re doing all these events that are mission adjacent or “edutainment”, such as Bunny Trolley or Pumpkin Patch trains. Because that aspect is bringing in new audiences, these types of events are always going to exist because they continue to attract more and more people to the museums and hopefully a small subset of them someday turn into benefactors or volunteers.

We’ve been talking about how young volunteers are so valuable right now, but none of them remember steam locomotives or riding trolleys. However, they may remember coming out to your museum to ride the Holiday train. Hopefully, that sparks their interest to start learning the real history. Because of this, organizations have to find ways to stay relevant with the next generation so they can still host other interesting events and programs that are more directly railway and history related.

What advice would you give for any young person looking to get involved in the industry?

Kristen Fredriksen: I’ve come across this with our volunteers here. You may think you’re the only person you know of at your school or job with this interest and is a railfan, but there are more people out there like you. So, find a rail preservation organization near you, reach out, fill out a form, and chances are you will have dozens of people to connect with right away.

My next piece of advice is don’t get wrapped up in the politics of these organizations. Focus on what you enjoy about preservation including learning about the history and technology, sharing the stories, and seeing the fruits of your labor. Enjoy the accomplishments.

Contact Trains.com Staff Writer Lucas Iverson to help spotlight the next young gun in rail preservation.

2 thoughts on “Young Guns in Preservation: Kristen Fredriksen

  1. Kristen is an amazing person to meet. She is very passionate about preserving the history of trolleys and other railroads.

  2. Perfect example of why we need more young people like Kristen to get involved with this wonderful hobby of rail preservaton and railfanning. If this hobby is to survive and grow, we need young people and women and girls to be accepted into this hobby and end the stereotyping that the hobby of railroad preservation and railfanning is only open to “an old boys and mens club” but rather all folks are welcome to this hobby and young folks and women can and will bring some new energy and a fresh perspective as well new ideas to this hobby. Hats off to Kristen for making this happen and hopefully her story will encourage and open the door for more females to join this hobby. The old folks in this hobby and pastime are not going to be around forever and they must pass the torch to the next generation to keep the trains rolling.
    Joseph C. Markfelder

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