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Strasburg Railroad Trip 8/5/2018

by Chris Guenzler

Robin, Elizabeth and I left the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and crossed the road to our next stop of this trip.

Strasburg Railroad

The Strasburg Rail Road (reporting mark SRC) is the oldest continuously-operating railroad in the western hemisphere and the oldest public utility in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Chartered in 1832, the Strasburg Rail Road continues to operate under its original charter and original name (Strasburg Rail Road Company). Located just outside of the town of Strasburg, Pennsylvania, the railroad is a heritage railroad offering excursion trains, hauled by steam locomotives, through the heart of world-famous Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Strasburg currently has five serviceable historic steam locomotives (Canadian National 7312, Canadian National 89, Great Western 90, Norfolk and Western 475, Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal 15 (rebuilt as Thomas the Tank Engine) on its roster and has the nation's largest fleet of historic wooden passenger coaches in operation. The Strasburg Rail Road is also one of the few railroads in the United States to occasionally use steam locomotives to haul revenue freight trains. It hosts 300,000 visitors per year.

Across the street from the Strasburg Rail Road is the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. The Strasburg Rail Road serves as the Museum's physical rail connection to the Amtrak Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line junction in Paradise, Pennsylvania.


Strasburg Rail Road is a shortline railroad whose construction in the 19th century was intended to connect the town of Strasburg with the main line. Today, the original 4.5 mile line carries passengers on a 45-minute round-trip journey from Strasburg to Leaman Place Junction through nearly 2,000 acres in south-eastern Lancaster County.

The train includes the United States' only operational wooden dining car on which visitors may dine while riding. Attractions at the station include the fully operational 15 inch gauge Pint-Sized Pufferbelly (Cagney steam-powered ridable miniature railway) a vintage pump car and several c.1930s "cranky cars" along with several gift shops and a cafe.

In addition to the excursion train rides, Strasburg Rail Road mechanical and car shops conduct contract work for a wide variety of public and private clients including fellow steam railroads, train museums, attractions and more. Strasburg Rail Road's freight department facilitates the carrying of goods to and from the main line for a number of local and regional clients. In 2016, it was announced that they are to expand their shop an extra 12,000 square feet due to the increase of jobs from other railroads.


By the 1820s, the canal system had replaced the Conestoga Wagon as the primary method of long-distance transportation. When the Susquehanna Canal opened, the majority of goods were directed through Baltimore, Maryland rather than Philadelphia. The small amount of goods that were destined for Philadelphia traveled via a wagon road through Strasburg. Philadelphia attempted to reclaim its position as a major port city by constructing the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad in 1831. A railroad was easier and more cost effective to build than a canal. Because the new railroad would bypass Strasburg and cause Strasburg to lose its livelihood, a group of businessmen petitioned the state government for the right to build their own railroad to connect Strasburg to the Philadelphia and Columbia. A charter was issued by the Pennsylvania Legislature with the signature of Governor George Wolf on June 9, 1832 to "incorporate the Strasburg rail road".

Although the pre-1852 history of the Strasburg Rail Road is sketchy, it is believed that the line was graded in 1835 and was operational by 1837. The railroad operated as a horse-drawn railroad until it purchased a second-hand Norris-built, 4-2-0 steam locomotive named the William Penn in 1851. Controlling interest in the railroad was purchased by John F. and Cyrus N. Herr in 1863. The rails were replaced around the same time with heavier ones to accommodate the locomotive. In 1866, the Herrs were granted a charter to extend the Strasburg Rail Road to Quarryville; surveys were carried out, but the extension was eventually canceled because of an economic depression in 1867. Isaac Groff managed The Strasburg Rail Road for about 20 years until the destructive fire of January 16, 1871 which destroyed the depot, grist, and merchant-mill, planing-mill and machine-shop. In one night, over fifty thousand dollars' worth of property was destroyed. In 1878, the Strasburg Rail Road and the shops were sold. The railroad was eventually again sold in 1888 to the Edward Musselman, with the Musselmans retaining control of it until 1918, when it was purchased by State Senator John Homsher. By this time, the number of passengers had dropped off due to tracks for the Conestoga Traction Company's streetcars reaching Strasburg in 1908, which offered a more direct route between Lancaster and Strasburg.

In 1926, the Strasburg Rail Road purchased a 20-short-ton, gasoline-powered, Plymouth switcher-the only locomotive that was ever built specifically for the Strasburg Rail Road. By 1958, the railroad fell on hard times from a cumulative effect of years of declining freight business and infrequent runs, damage caused by Hurricane Hazel, and inspectors from the Interstate Commerce Commission's lack of approval for operation of Plymouth locomotive 4. Upon the death of Bryson Homsher, the Homsher estate filed for abandonment with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Hearing of the potential abandonment, an effort to purchase and save the railroad was organized by Henry K. Long and Donald E. L. Hallock, both railfans from Lancaster. They organized a small, non-profit group to purchase the railroad. After the better part of a year of hard work, the purchase was completed on November 1, 1958. The following week, on November 8, the first carload of revenue freight was hauled to what was then the only customer, a mill in Strasburg.

Our Trip

We went to the Strasburg Railroad station and picked up our comped tickets. It was Robin and Elizabeth's first visit here.

The East Strasburg station and ticket office.

An Amish buggy passing by.

The Cagney steam train with plenty of happy riders aboard.

The steam train returns to the boarding area.

Once all the passengers had deboarded, the steam engine ran around the train in preparation for the 4:00 departure.

Great Western 2-10-0 90 built by Baldwin in 1924 has switched ends. We had picked up our tickets earlier so boarded and made our way to the front open car behind the steam engine.

We departed on time and almost immediately, passed Lancaster, Oxford and Southern doodlebug car 10.

Norfolk & Western 4-8-0 475 built by Baldwin in 1924, the only operating 4-8-0 in the United States.

Reading Company 0-4-0 No. 1187 built in Baldwin in 1903 awaits restoration as we pass the shop area.

The Red Caboose Motel. Now we will take a trip out into the Amish countryside of Pennsylvania, pointing out highlights as we go along. Sit back and relax.

Views of this wonderful Pennsylvania countryside from aboard the Strasburg train.

We passed the Cherry Crest Adventure Farm. Now back to that wonderful Pennsylvania countryside.

The train has taken us all the way out to Paradise. Here the engine will cut off and run around the train so it will be properly facing Strasburg on the return trip.

The front of Great Western 90 before it uncouples from our end of the train.

Looking east at Amtrak's Harrisburg corridor tracks. We had a green signal and hoped for a train but none came.

Great Western 2-10-0 90 as it runs around the train and couples up to the other end for the return trip.

Here you see the train and engine as it backs around the train. Once the engine coupled onto the train and the air test was done, we headed back to Strasburg and we relaxed as we took the train back.

The east switch at Paradise.

The Groffs picnic area.

The Groffs shelter to protect people from the weather. You can ride the train out to Paradise and back to here, have a picnic lunch and take any train back you choose, as long as you make the last train of the day.

Taking the curves back to Strasburg.

A rear view from the observation car platform before we return to Strasburg.

Strasburg Railroad snowplow 66 built in 1902 for the Buffalo & Susquehanna Railroad.

Strasburg yard scene.

Strasburg Railroad SW-8 8618 built by EMD in 1953 as New York Central 9618. We returned to Strasburg where we detrained and thanked our train crew for an excellent trip. I would like to thank the Strasburg Railroad for having the three of us here today. It is always great when you ride a Strasburg train. We went to the restaurant on the property and had dinner before we started heading back to Newark.

East Penn Railroad GP38 2179 crosses the road in Avondale, Pennsylvania.

East Penn Railroad GP38 2173. From we drove down to Hockessin, Delaware.

Avondale Railroad Centre caboose 88, ex. Octoraro Railway 88, exx. Anthracite Railway 88, exxx. Montour Railroad 39, exxxx. Union Pacific 25163, nee Union Pacific 3863, built by Pullman in 1944.

Pennsylvania Railroad 0-6-0 60 built by the railroad in 1903. In 1952, it was sold to Cemline Corporation in Hamarville, Pennsylvania then in 1982, was donated to Historic Red Clay Valley, Incorporated.

The Baltimore and Ohio Hockessin station. We returned to the Rodeway Inn for our last night in Delaware. Tomorrow we head for Cumberland.