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February 2016 : All Aboard for Railroad Evangelism!

Established in 1941 by Luther S. Harkey, a locomotive engineer for the Sea Board Airline Railway, the Railroad Evangelistic Association (REA) sought to spread the Christian gospel to railway employees across America. After converting to Christianity while working as a locomotive engineer, Luther Harkey quickly recognized how the itinerant lifestyle of railway workers prevented many of them from opportunities to hear the Christian gospel or regularly attend church. As a result, Harkey began publishing The Railroad Evangelist in 1938 (see below), a free evangelistic magazine whose masthead proclaimed "Two Safest Ways to Travel, the Bible Way and the Railroad Way." The Railroad Evangelistic Association was officially formed three years later, headquartered in Harkey's hometown of Sanford, Florida. Describing itself as "interdenominational and non-partisan," membership in the REA was open to any self-professed "born again" Christian employed in railroad work. In addition to The Railroad Evangelist, the REA published various tracts and evangelistic pamphlets which REA members distributed on the job. While some publications were clearly aimed at railway employees who had never heard the gospel story, others attempted to recruit current railroad workers who were not openly sharing their Christian faith. As one pamphlet urged readers, “Our purpose as Christian railroad men is to serve the Lord in every way possible. To encourage each other and to help evangelize railroad employees of America by means of shop meetings, dinner meetings, through the printed page, and other evangelistic efforts" (CN 378, folder1-1).

After Harkey's death in 1949, Herman Rose became the secretary, treasurer, and editor of The Railroad Evangelist, and the headquarters of the Railroad Evangelistic Association was moved to Indianapolis, IN for a time before relocating to Vancouver, WA, where it remains today.

 

Right: An evangelistic tract distributed by the Railroad Evangelistic Association. The cover art compares rail travel to Christian pilgrimage.

To find out more about the REA or any of the documents and photographs featured in this exhibit, please visit our online collection guide for Collection 378 Ephemera of the Railroad Evangelistic Association.

 

 

 

 

Left: The attendees of the 1985 Railroad Evangelistic Association convention in Winona Lake, Indiana. Included in the picture is Herman Rose, secretary-treasurer, and his wife, Thelma, bookeeper for the REA.

Below is an adverstisement for The Railroad Evangelist, the Association's magazine which began circulation in 1938.


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