The West Chester Railroad, West Chester, Pennsylvania

The West Chester Railroad arrives at the Old Market Street Station Site in West Chester, Pennsylvania

What is special about the town of West Chester, Pennsylvania?  Most of you would say that you have never heard of this town unless, of course, you live in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.  It was originally named Turk’s Head after a local tavern.  It has a courthouse.  Yes, every major town has a courthouse, but this courthouse was designed by Thomas Walter.  Who is Thomas Walter?  He is the same man who designed this structure known as the United States Capitol in Washington D.C.  What other great things are here?  In the 1700’s, it was the center of clockmaking.  In the 1800’s, a wagon wheel company which later made wheels for automobiles was centered here.  In the 1900’s a cream separation company did their operations here, and Commodore computers were also assembled here.  Today, this suburb of Philadelphia is the home of West Chester University and many other historic buildings, but it is also home to one of the nation’s oldest railroad routes.

Inside a Passenger Car on the West Chester Railroad in West Chester, Pennsylvania

Welcome to the West Chester Railroad.  Today, the railroad is an excursion railroad, but, in the beginning, it was a major passenger railroad.  Beginning in 1831, the West Chester Railroad Company took passengers to and from West Chester.  Twenty-five years later, the West Chester and Philadelphia Railroad continued the service.  The Pennsylvania Railroad took over in 1858, and it became a passenger and freight railroad.  The railroad became electrified during this time.  The station on Market Street, officially named the West Chester Passenger Station, was a hustling and bustling place.  Then, the Penn Central Railroad took over, and the Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority began commuter train service to West Chester.  The great West Chester Passenger Station, sadly, was demolished after a fire destroyed the station… but those trains kept coming.

Looking Down Across a Bridge on the West Chester Railroad in West Chester, Pennsylvania

Today, the West Chester Railroad Company is owned by the Four States Railway Service Incorporated, and it is operated by the West Chester Railroad Heritage Association, an all-volunteer company who works and maintains the equipment, and makes sure that your ride is very enjoyable.  The railroad is no longer electrified, but the poles that held the electrification wires remain.

People Waiting for the Train in West Chester, Pennsylvania

Some of you are saying, “This is all wonderful.  I like that this railroad has a great history, but what good is a railroad that has a great history if you cannot take a ride on it?”

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You can ride this train.  This is part of the magic of this railroad.  Unfortunately, it does not take you to downtown Philadelphia, but you can ride just short of eight miles to the town of Glen Mills.  You arrive at the station which is located at the western end of the track line.  (The tracks continued west but have been taken up.)  You board the train from the original platform that many have boarded from.  When the times comes, the train leaves the station.  You pass by the railroad and see the vintage locomotives and rail equipment.  The next thing you notice is that you are surrounded by forest, and you are following Chester Creek.  You will need to be reminded that you are in suburban Philadelphia because you will be totally unaware at this point, but you are not concerned because you are riding on a train.  You come upon the Westtown Station (now an art gallery) with its upstairs.  You then come to the Cheyney Station (not open to the public), and then come to the Lockley Station where you wish you could watch the trains go by but wait.  You are on the train.  You then arrive at Glen Mills, the home of a spectacular train station.  You deboard the train and stroll around.  You go into the station which houses a small museum and has the ticket office in its original look.  You walk to the back of the train and down to a small park next to the creek with picnic tables by the creek.  After a short visit, you must return to the train and head back to West Chester.

The West Chester Railroad on a Bridge Crossing Chester Creek in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania

The West Chester Railroad is in West Chester, Pennsylvania at 230 East Market Street (Pennsylvania Route 3 East) just blocks from the town center.  Parking is on site.  You can get more information at http://wcrailroad.com/.

The Old Train Station at Glen Mills, Pennsylvania

Welcome to the West Chester Railroad, a railroad that keeps its own history on track.

The West Chester Railroad at the Glen Mills Train Station in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania

The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, Nelsonville, Ohio

The Nelsonville Depot

The Hocking Hills in the U.S. state of Ohio is a region southeast of the state capital of Columbus that is full of forests, waterfalls, and other natural wonders.  People come here to hike and to camp and to be in nature.  With all these natural wonders, there is also a mechanical wonder in this region.

Number 3 at the Depot

All aboard the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway in Nelsonville, Ohio.  It runs on a line that originally was built to connect the city of Columbus and the town of Athens, and it was once part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.  Today, the line only runs between Nelsonville to Haydenville and does not connect to any other line.  The journey begins at the Nelsonville Depot which also houses a small museum.  You enjoy the museum, but you came here to ride the train.

The Number 3 Is at the Nelsonville Depot

You step outside, and you watch the train pulling into the station.  You feel transported back in time.  As you watch the train arrive.  You board one of the vintage passenger cars being pulled by a steam locomotive, and you take a seat.  The time comes when the train pulls out of the station.  You watch as you pull out of the town of Nelsonville.  You cross over a creek.  You pass by open land and houses and an old run-down depot.  They you see a quarry filled with water.  You then arrive in Haydenville.  Sadly, this is the end of the line, but you are not down on your luck because you watch the locomotive go by to reattach to the other end to pull the train back to Nelsonville.  As you are enjoying the ride back, you notice an old kiln.  It was here where bricks were made, and they were shipped by train to locations across the country, but you just see ruins.  The next thing you know is that you are back in Nelsonville and at the Nelsonville depot.  You get off the train, and you are back to normal life.

Steam Comes from Number 3

Along with excursion trips to Haydenville, the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is in the process of clearing old trackage south of the Nelsonville Depot to Robbins Crossing, a living history village operated by Hocking College.  A ride on the train to here will really bring your time travel experience to life.

A Homestead at Robbins Crossing

The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is operated completely by volunteers.  There is no paid staff.  Their real payment is seeing the operation of vintage equipment and the joy of the passengers.

The Number 3 During a Photo Shoot

The Nelsonville Depot is located at 33 West Canal Street in Nelsonville, Ohio.  It is minutes from U.S. Route 33 and Ohio Route 278 and a short walk from the town center.  Parking is on site, and the train is handicap accessible.  You can get more information at https://www.hvsry.org/.  If you have a little time, you can take a short drive to the Robbins Crossing living history village.  Admission to the village is free.

A House at Robbins Crossing

The next time you are in southeastern Ohio, make your way to Nelsonville.  Climb aboard the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway where the history of the Hocking Hills still rolls on.

Here Come Number 3 of the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway

Swigart Museum, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania

The Swigart Museum in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania is an automobile museum.  What is special about this museum?  Their claim is that they are the oldest antique automobile museum in the United States of America.  If you are a fan of antique cars, you will want to make your way to this museum.  Among its collection is the Love Bug, the Volkswagen used in the original movie of the same name and two ‘Tucker’ cars.  It may not be as big as other automobile museums, but it does have a great collection of antique cars.

Some of you are saying, “Wow.  This is cool.  This is the oldest automobile museum in America.  There is one big problem.  This is an automobile museum, not a railroad museum.  Therefore, I will not be driving my car here.”

You have a very good point.  This is an automobile museum.  What does this automobile museum have to do with railroads?

The Swigart Museum was started by William Swigart who collected antique cars.  He also collected license plates of which you can see at the museum.  What is special about this museum when it comes to the railroad?  William Swigart was also a collector of model trains.  As you walk around the foyer area, you will see some of his train collection to include the classic Lionel Trains.  You will also see model trains in the main display hall.  One of the antique car displays has a railroad crossing sign.  Yes, this collector of antique cars was a collector of toy trains.

And you thought that it was a waste of time to visit the Swigart Museum.  Now you have a reason to drop by.  It is located at 12031 William Penn Highway (U.S. Route 22) east of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.  It is open from Memorial Day Weekend to the end of October.  Parking is on site.  You can get more information about admission, their automobile collection, their adopt-a-car program, upcoming events to include their annual car show, and you can read more into the life of William Swigart to include his many accomplishments at http://www.swigartmuseum.com/.

The Salamanca Railroad Museum, Salamanca, New York

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The United States of America is a nation of big cities, and it is a nation of small towns.  While more people are flocking to the big cities, they are leaving the small towns behind.  In the early days of railroading, the railroad made stops in many of these small towns.  Today, very few small towns are served, and the ones that get service are the ones on the passenger routes between two major cities.

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In the western part of the U.S. state of New York, about six miles south of Buffalo and the world-famous Niagara Falls and thirty-five east of the city of Jamestown, the birth city of the famous comedian Lucille Ball, is the city of Salamanca.  What is so special about Salamanca?  It has the claim to fame of being the only city in the United States of America to be completely within an Indian reservation.  The town is the home of a casino and the home of the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum.  The town is also home to another museum.

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In the town’s heyday, it was a major railroad town and it was in the heart of the lumber industry.  Although the railroad still passes through the town, much of the old rail yard was taken up.  The passenger depot and freight house were preserved, and it is the home to the Salamanca Railroad Museum.

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When passenger service ceased, the depot and the freight house were left to ruin.  It became a place for vandals to destroy this piece of history.  The depot was rescued, and it was completely restored to the look it once had except that it is fully of artifacts and displays from the different railroads that once served this town.  Outside the museum includes two cabooses and other rolling stock.  Even when the museum is closed, you will be amazed by the structure.

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Some of you are saying, “This is nice that they were able to restore this train depot as many old depots go into disrepair.  Sadly, the railroad will never serve this town,”

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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the town of Salamanca, New York and to the Salamanca Railroad Museum.  Salamanca was selected by Home and Garden Television for a revitalization project to revitalize the main street.  The future of the Railroad Museum will include the return of passenger service of an excursion train bringing the people of Buffalo to various town in western New York to include the town of Salamanca.  You will want to make plans to visit this town.

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The Salamanca Railroad Museum is located at 170 Main Street in Salamanca, New York.  It is just minutes from Interstate 86 and U.S. Route 219.  It is open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm from April to October.  Admission is free, but they could use your donations to help keep the museum running for many years to come.  Parking is at the museum.  You can read more about the museum at https://enchantedmountains.com/place/salamanca-rail-museum and read more about the town of Salamanca at http://www.salmun.com/.

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The next time you are in western New York, make your way to Salamanca.  They will be happy to see you and pay a visit to the Salamanca Railroad Museum while you are there.

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The Stewartstown Railroad, Stewartstown, Pennsylvania

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The south-central region of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania is a region with many farms.  Today, the farmers have access to trucks to ship their products to the warehouses and the stores.  Before the availability of automobiles, the railroad was the fastest way to get their products to the market.  Otherwise, you had to load a horse-drawn cart to the nearest town.  As the railroads were built across the country, they began to connect the small towns with the big cities.  The town of Stewartstown was not considered by and of the railroad companies.  Farmers had to load their carts and go six miles (a long way when you do not have a car or truck) to the town of Shrewsbury Junction (now Railroad, Pennsylvania) to load their products on the train.  With many farmers in the region, it would have been nice to have a railroad pass through the region as the ride to Shrewsbury Junction was half a day’s journey from Stewartstown.

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The idea of a seven-and-a-half-mile short line railroad was born that would run from Stewartstown and connect with the Northern Central Railroad in the town of New Freedom.  Will this short line railroad have any chance of success?

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The answer is yes.

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The Stewartstown Railroad was charted in 1884 and began service in 1885.  Farmers were about to bring their products to Stewartstown, load them on a train, and then have them taken to New Freedom where they would connect to the Northern Central Railway to either south to ports of Baltimore, Maryland or north to York and Harrisburg.  Factories and warehouses were built along the rail line making it more profitable to local farmers and business.  Even when service declined in the 1960’s, the railroad continued to be a great service to the region.

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Then, in 1972, Hurricane Agnes came.

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Bodies of water throughout the mid-Atlantic region of the United States of America flooded.  The good news for the people of the Stewartstown Railroad is that they saw no damage to their tracks.  They were able to continue rail service between Stewartstown and New Freedom.  The bad news was that the Northern Central Railway suffered massive damage particularly in the state of Maryland where the tracks run alongside of many creeks.  The Northern Central Railway made no attempt to recover the line and abandoned it completely.  Without the Northern Central Railway, there was no rail service to the Stewartstown Railroad.  Without rail service, the Stewartstown Railroad was finished.  They were done.  They were no more.  The Stewartstown Railroad is now a thing of the past never to be seen again.

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Well, not exactly.

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The rail line was still maintained with excursion trains running along short stretches of the line.  How?  Although the tracks were taken up on the Maryland section of the Northern Central Railway and was converted into a rail trail, the section of track in Pennsylvania remained although in disrepair.  The tracks were taken over by the York County Parks Association who took up one track to make room for a rail trail while they kept the other track.  However, no trains were using the track.  With no trains using the track, no trains were going to Stewartstown.  With no trains going to Stewartstown, the Stewartstown Railroad was forever doomed.

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Not so fast.

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While in service, the Northern Central Railway was ridden by many great dignitaries.  One of those dignitaries was a man from the state Illinois named Abraham Lincoln.  Yes, this is the same Abraham Lincoln who became the President of the United States of America.  He rode the train along the Northern Central Railway while on his way to Gettysburg to delivery his famous speech known as ‘The Gettysburg Address’.  A few years later, his funeral train also passed through here while on its way to Springfield, Illinois.  After Hurricanes Agnes in 1972, the rail line was dormant for forty-one years when ‘Steam Into History’ began.  What is ‘Steam Into History’?  It is an excursion train along the Pennsylvania section of the old Northern Central Railway that currently runs from New Freedom to Seven Valleys with plans to continue to York.  The trains were pulled (and pushed) by a newly built steam locomotive called the William Simpson Number 17.  William Simpson was the man who helped bring this excursion train to life, and the locomotive is a replica of a locomotive that would have pulled the train that Abraham Lincoln would have ridden in on the way to Gettysburg.  (‘Steam Into History has recently rebranded themselves as the Northern Central Railway and now does excursions with the Number 17 steam locomotive and with diesel locomotives.)  With the rebuilding of the tracks north of New Freedom, the Stewartstown Railroad hopes to rebuild its trackage to New Freedom in hopes that it will be able to bring back freight service to Stewartstown.

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So, what is the Stewartstown Railroad doing now?

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Today, the Stewartstown Railroad run excursion trains from the depot in Stewartstown which was built in 1914 and is on the Historic National Register to about three miles west with old passenger cars pulled by ‘Mighty Mo’, a gas powered locomotive that was built in 1943.  They also run a maintenance train on occasions from the depot all the way to New Freedom.  The future of this railroad is to have the ‘Mighty Mo’ pull trains all the way to New Freedom.  As the old Northern Central Railway tracks are restored, they hope to have freight service return to Stewartstown.  Until then, ‘Mighty Mo’ will still pull those trains, and you can still ride on tracks where you pass old loading platforms and cross over a steel truss bridge.

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The Stewartstown Railroad is, as far as it is known, the longest running railroad in the United States of America to operate under its original 1884 charter.  (There are older railroads still in operation but not under their original charters.)  There have been great efforts to keep this railroad in operation, and the railroad has survived the Great Depression, the loss of business to trucks and even a major hurricane.  This little short line railroad could possibly be the best stories among the railroads of America.

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The Stewartstown Railroad is an all-volunteer railroad company with no paid staff.  The track work, station staff and Board of Directors do not get paid.  The railroad is a complete labor of love to preserve the history of this railroad.  They run their excursions from the old Stewartstown Train Depot at 21 W. Pennsylvania Avenue (Pennsylvania Route 851) in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania.  It is just four miles east of Interstate 83 just north of the Maryland Line.  Parking is a short walk to the depot. They run excursions from April to December.  Please note that neither the depot nor the trains are handicap accessible, and steps are required to enter the train depot.  You can get more information about the excursions and read more into the history and into the plans of the Stewartstown Railroad at http://www.stewartstownrailroadco.com/.  You can also take a ride on the Northern Central Railway which is seven miles west of Stewartstown on Pennsylvania Route 851 (https://www.northerncentralrailway.com/).

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Come to Stewartstown, Pennsylvania.  Come ride a hidden treasure.  Come ride the Stewartstown Railroad.

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The Pullman National Historic Site, Chicago, Illinois

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The U.S. city of Chicago, Illinois is known as the ‘Hub of North America’.  Many major interstates pass through the city, and it is a major railroad hub with many railroad lines serving the city.  For this reason, Trains Magazine refers to the city of Chicago as the ‘Railroad Capital of America’.  The city is famous for being a factory town, and one this that was manufactured here was the Pullman Car.

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The year is 1857.  A man by the name of George Pullman began to build what became known as the ‘Pullman Car’, a luxurious sleeper car used on long train trips, in a factory in south Chicago.  He employed many people, many of whom were African Americans.  One of the benefits of working for George Pullman was that he built a community for the workers to live in, and they had a short walk to the factory.  A hotel, named for his daughter Florence, was also built.  You can say that everyone enjoyed life at the Pullman Company.

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Not exactly.

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In 1894, the workers went on strike.  Wages were lowered, and workers were laid off.  Unfortunately for the union workers, they would lose the fight, and the president of the union would get arrested.

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The Pullman Company continued with the manufacturing of the sleepers.  As the automobile became more popular, the Pullman Cars became less popular.  The company folded in 1968.

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In 2015, President Barack Obama declared the community a national historic site, and the National Pullman Historic Site was established.  Many of the homes are now private residences.  The hotel and the factory are currently vacant, but plans are in the works to restore both structures making them into museum space.  The old factory will have some of the old Pullman cars on display.  In the meantime, you can visit the museum and see some of the artifacts on display.  The museum is free and is operated by the National Park Service.  (Hours vary by season.)  It is located at 11141 S. Cottage Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.  It is just a few blocks west of Interstate 94 and 20 minutes from downtown.  Once you see the museum, you can walk through the historic community.  (The factory building is currently fenced off and is off limits.)  When you are finish… leave… but plan your return to see a historic site reborn.  You can read more into the National Pullman Historic Site and get more information at https://www.nps.gov/pull/index.htm.

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When you are in and around Chicago, may your way to the Pullman National Historic Site.  Come see a great piece of railroad history.

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The  two  black  and  white  photos  are  photos  from  the  Pullman  site  and  are  the  property  of  the  National  Park  Service  who  retain  the  copyrights  to  the  photos.

The Ma and Pa Railroad Heritage Village, Muddy Creek Forks, Pennsylvania

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What is the Ma and Pa Village?

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Some of you are saying, “Well, duh!  It is a village where somebody’s ma and pa live.”

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That would be a great answer considering the name of the village.  The village is in the Muddy Creek Valley with only one road to access this town.  As you enter, you see nothing but a mill, a general store, and a few houses.  How did this town come to be?

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We ask again what is the Ma and Pa Village?  It is the town of Muddy Creek Forks, Pennsylvania, but where does the name ‘Ma and Pa’ come from?  To answer the question, we must inform you that although somebody’s ma and pa may live here, that is not how the village came about.  The answer to the question… is the railroad.

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What is the Ma and Pa Village?  To make it more official, you can call it the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad Heritage Village.  The village was made possible as a result of the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad which in short was called the Ma and Pa Railroad.  (Pa is the postal code for Pennsylvania.  Ma is the postal code for Massachusetts and Md is the postal code for Maryland.  ‘Ma and Pa’ just sounds better.)  The Ma and Pa Railroad had tracks through south central Pennsylvania and northeastern Maryland, mainly west of the Susquehanna River region.

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As with most of the early days of American railroading, towns were built around the railroad.  Among these towns was Muddy Creek Forks along the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad.  The town had a mill where farmers around the village would come to sell their crops.  Their crops were then milled and packaged to be put on a train to be transported to the cities of Baltimore, Harrisburg, or York or to be sold at the General Store.  The General Store was, of course, a store, but it also was the post office and the train station with a ticket office.

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Today, the Ma and Pa Railroad Heritage Village is a living history village that hold train rides from the first Sunday in June through the first Sunday in September, and it hosts events from June through December.  The Mill is no longer a mill used by farmers to sell their crops, but it is still a working mill.  There are demonstrations during event days with a guided tour.  The General Store is still a store and the ticket office for the train, but it is no longer a post office.  The upstairs is a museum.  You and walk around the village on the walking tour which can be done year-round.  The railroad line still goes through the village in its original location, but it does not connect to any other rail lines.  Trains rides go north of the village and mainly along Muddy Creek.

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The Ma and Pa Railroad Heritage Village is at 1258 Muddy Creek Forks Road in Airville, Pennsylvania.  (Airville is the post office that serves Muddy Creek Forks.)  Please note that the village is in a valley accessible by steep roads.  The parking lot is grass and can become hard to navigate with heavy rains.  Please note that only the first floor of the General Store is handicap accessible, but assistance will be given to those who ride the train or in the mill as the floors of the mill are uneven.  There is no handicap accessibility to the second floor of the General Store, in the mill or on the walking tour.  You can get more information at http://maandparailroad.com/.  You can also read more into the history of the village and into the efforts to keep this village preserved for many generations to come.

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The next time you hear about the Ma and Pa Railroad Heritage Village, you can still think of it as the home of somebody’s Ma and Pa, but think of it as a village full of heritage made possible by a railroad.

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The Ohio History Center, Columbus, Ohio

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What is the Ohio History Center?  If you are looking for a complex answer, you will not find one here.  The answer is that the Ohio History Center is the U.S. state of Ohio connecting the present day to the past.  Yes, the answer is that simple.  If you are still confused, you can visit the Ohio History Center and see for yourself.  It consists of the museum that displays the history of Ohio and the Ohio Village which is a living history village that takes you back in time to the Ohio of yesteryear.  History comes to life at the Ohio History Center.

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Some of you are saying, “Wow!  This looks like a very fascinating place.  This place is about the history of Ohio, but there is a problem.  There are no railroads here.  Therefore, I will be making no history with this place.”

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The place is called the Ohio History Center.  It is a place of history that leaves no stone unturned.  That includes the history of the railroad.

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As mentioned, the Ohio History Center consists of a museum and an outdoor living history village.

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Let us begin with the museum.  As mentioned, it displays the history of Ohio.  One of the exhibits is ‘Ohio Through Time’.  Here, you will find many displays to include models of trains.  One of them is a carved wooden model of ‘The General’, a famous locomotive used during the American Civil War which was also made into a movie.  Other models include the ‘Dewitt Clinton’ and, of course, the ‘Buckeye’.  If you make your way to the Ohio Village you will pass by a streetcar.

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As you enter the Ohio Village, the first thing you will see is the caboose from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  The caboose is only on display and not open to see the interior.  The other thing you will see is an old train depot.  It is also not open to the public and is currently used as an entryway to the village from the parking area.

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Along with the village and museum, you can also make an appointment to visit the library which has a vast collection of books on history to include the history of railroads.

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Now, what was it about you saying that you were not going to visit the Ohio History Center because there are no railroads there?  You officially have a reason to visit the Ohio History Center.  By the way, you do not have to be a resident of Ohio to enjoy the Ohio History Center.

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The Ohio History Center is located at e. 17th Street in Columbus, Ohio.  It is just off Interstate 71 north of downtown, and, for you Ohio State University fans, it is right next to MAPFRE Stadium.  Parking is on site, and both the museum and village are handicap accessible.  You can get more information at https://www.ohiohistory.org/, and you can also check out the other historic sites across the state of Ohio.

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Knoebel’s Amusement Resort Park, Elysburg, Pennsylvania

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You have amusement parks, and then you have Knoebel’s Amusement Park in Elysburg, Pennsylvania.  What is Knoebel’s Amusement Park?  It has roller coasters.  It has water rides.  It also has a pool and waterslides.  It is a family amusement with a difference.  What is different about this amusement park?  The difference is that this park has free admission.  Yes, you have read correctly.  Parking is free and admission to the park is free.  The only thing you pay for is to ride the individual rides and food.  (Multi-ride passes are available.)  This makes it for those who just like to watch can come and do that.  Knoebel’s Amusement Park is a great amusement park that everyone can enjoy.

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Some of you are saying, “Wow!  This is wonderful.  An amusement park with free admission and free parking.  It has roller coasters, water rides, shows, exhibits and all the stuff amusement parks have.  There is one problem.  There are no railroads here.  Without trains, I must say that I will find that Knoebel’s Amusement Park is not amusing at all.”

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So, you are not amused with Knoebel’s Amusement Park simply because there are no trains in the park.  Those who say that there are no trains in the park have not visited Knoebel’s Amusement Park.

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As you enter the park and walk past the big roller coaster on the right, you will come upon the Pioneer.  What is the Pioneer?  It is a miniature train with a replica steam locomotive.  Well, steam do not rise from the stacks, but the locomotives do pull trains.  You board the train, and it pulls away from the station.  You cross one creek.  Then you pass under a waterslide and then a wooden roller coaster.  You enter the first tunnel.  Then you are in the forest.  You enter the second tunnel.  You cross the creek, and you are back at the station.  You then walk over to get your picture taken with one of the original Pioneer locomotives that serves one purpose: to have your picture taken with the Pioneer locomotive.

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Some of you are saying, “Wow!  That sounds like fun.  That is a lot to visit this place just to see this one train.”

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That would be a lot, but you time would not be wasted because the Pioneer is not the only train here.

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Welcome to Ole Smokey.  What it Ole Smokey?  It is another miniature train like the Pioneer, but unlike the Pioneer, the locomotive has real steam coming out of its stack.  Hence the name ‘Ole Smokey’.  You board at the station.  The train leaves the station, and you cross over the creek on a truss bridge.  Then you cross another creek on another truss bridge.  You cross a third truss bridge, and then you cross the same truss bridge you cross as you left the station.  You have now returned to the station, but the train keeps going.  You continue, and you go around a loop before you return to the station.  As you leave the train, you come to the reality that this ride was really smoking.

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Some of you are saying, “That is such a cool ride.  Two great trains in one great park.”

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But there is more.

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Knoebel’s Amusement Resort Park is home to an anthracite mining museum.  What is normally associated with mining?  With most coal mines come coal trains, and although you do not ride on a coal train at the museum, there are a few mine cars on display to include a steam locomotive that was used to pull mine cars, and the museum displays how the mine cars and the railroad played a major role in the mining industry.  It is also where you will find the Knoebel’s History Museum where you can see how this amazing attraction came to life.

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Some of you are saying, “Amazing!  I guess I need to make plans to visit this place.”

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Another railroad feature you will see in this park has is an old railroad bridge that crosses on of the creeks.  You cannot cross the bridge itself, but it can easily be viewed from nearby.

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Knoebel’s Amusement Resort Park was built on what was originally ‘Peggy’s Farm’.  The park was open in 1926 with a swimming pool, a merry-go-round and food stands.  Through the years, the park added many attractions.  In 1940, the Nickel Plate, now ‘Ole Smokey’, was the first train to run in the park.  The Pioneer train begins its run in 1960.  The park continued to add new rides and attractions to include the Nickel Plate Bar and Grill for the parks 90th anniversary.

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Today, Knoebel’s Amusement Resort Park is the largest amusement park in the United States of America with free admission.  It features the amusement park plus a campground and cottages for overnight stays.

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Knoebel’s Amusement Resort Park is located outside of the town of Elysburg, Pennsylvania off Pennsylvania Route 487.  Although the amusement park is only open from April to October, the cottages are available year-round.  You can get information on the rides, park hours for the day, directions and read more into the history of the park at https://www.knoebels.com/.

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Welcome to Knoebel’s Amusement Resort Park, a place where you can ‘pioneer’ your fun with ‘Ole Smokey’.

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Pioneer Mine Tunnel and Steam Train, Ashland, Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania is the state where the United States of America officially became an independent nation.  It also has the chocolate capital of the world.  (In case you are wondering, that is Hershey, the home of Milton Hershey.  It is a suburb of the state capital, Harrisburg.)  It is a state of many factory towns.  It is also the home of anthracite coal.  With coal comes coal mines.  The town of Ashland was one of these mine towns until the local mine closed.  Well, it is closed to those who mine anthracite coal, but it is open to those who want to take a tour of an old mine.

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Welcome to the Pioneer Mine Tunnel and Steam Train in Ashland, Pennsylvania.

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Now some of you are saying, “Wait a minute.  Mine tunnel and steam train?”

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Ladies and gentlemen, if you are a rail fan, this place is the place for you.  As you enter, you see an old mine train next to the parking lot.  You walk over to what looks like an old office.  This is the actual gift shop, snack bar and the place where you pay your admission.  You have a little time, so you walk around.  You get a closer look at that large chunk of anthracite coal.  Then you have the coal car full of, of course, coal.  You step into the short locomotive.

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Then, it is time.  You step onto the mine train.  The mine train hauled coal and people, but today, it is hauling people.  Where?  You are going into the mine.  No, you are not mining.  You are on a tour.  As you ride the train into the mine, you first experience… that the train ride is not smooth.  It was not smooth during the days when the mine was active.  By the way, you are only riding for the tour.  The miners did this daily.  What the miners did not have is a tour guide explaining everything along the way.  When you stop at a vein of coal, the tour guide explains about the vein and how it is dug out.  The miners on the other hand had to get off and work.  You continue deeper into the mine until you reach the end of the track.  You get off the train, and the tour guide walks you through the mine.  You see the different places where the miners worked.  You imagine the life they had and the dangers and difficulties they went through.  You even get to set off some explosives.  Worry not.  The tour guides have everything set in place to keep you safe from the blast.  The tour comes to an end, and you must take the not-so-comfy train ride out of the mine and to the outside.  So, you are at the end of the tour.

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Not exactly.

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Remember.  It is called the Pioneer Mine Tunnel and Steam Train, and it is called that for a reason.  You did the mine tunnel.  Not it is time to do the steam train.

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You begin on the great journey to the steam train.  How long is this great journey?  This great journey is about… twenty feet or six meters.  Right in front of you is Locomotive Number 1 Henry Clay, a steam locomotive.  The train runs on a track that is wider than a narrow gauge but narrower than the standard gauge most trains run on today.  You board the train, and you sit back and enjoy a very scenic ride up the mountain.  You reach the top, and the tour guide shows you other mining locations, and he tells you how the train transported the coal down the mountain.  While there, you take in the great view from the overlook.  Unfortunately, your time on top of this mountain comes to an end, and you take the train ride back down.

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Now the tour of the Pioneer Mine Tunnel and Steam Train is over.  Well, not exactly.

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You may be finished with the mine tour and the steam train ride, bit just down the hill is the Museum of Anthracite Mining.

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Some of you are saying, “Wait a minute.  I rode on a mine train and a steam train.  This place has no trains.  Therefore, I will bypass this museum.”

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It would be wise not to bypass this museum.  Why?  It tells the story of anthracite mining and how the coal is use in industry and in modern technology.  The story includes how the railroad plays a major part of the coal industry.  Although the railroad still passes southeast of the town, it no longer stops here.

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Some of you are saying, “I am glad that you said that.  Otherwise, I would have just driven past the museum.  I see how why the town is called Ashland from all those ashes you get from the coal.”

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That is a great observation as Ashland was a mining town.  However, you are wrong.  The name is derived from Henry Clay’s estate in Lexington, Kentucky.  As you noticed, the name of the steam locomotive is ‘Henry Clay’ in honor of the man whose home is the name of the town.  Ashland is also the home of the Mother’s Memorial which honors mothers.

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Just north of Ashland is another former mining town called Centralia.  What is special about Centralia?  As you drive through, you will get an eerie feeling.  You will find very few structures and a few houses.  These empty lots were once a thriving mining town.  Things tragically changed in 1962 when an accident caused a fire in the mine.  That fire is still burning today making the town uninhabitable.  Many attempts to put out the fire have failed.  The few homes that remain are residents who have lived in the town when the fires began, and the government is awaiting the passing of the residents before claiming the property.  Please note that if you do want to visit the town, you will want to observe from the seat of your car as fumes from the fire may contain toxic gasses, and the fire will be burning for many, many years to come.

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The Pioneer Mine Tunnel and Steam Train is in Ashland, Pennsylvania at 2001 Walnut Street.  It is just of Center Street (Pennsylvania Route 54 / 61) and it fifteen minutes from Interstate 81.  Please note that the street from Center Street to the mine is narrow and may be difficult for busses.  Parking is on a gravel lot that is on a hill.  The mine and train and gift shop are all in a short distance.  The Museum of Anthracite Mining is down a short hill.  You can get more information on the operating hours, admission, directions and to read more into the history of the mine at http://www.pioneertunnel.com/.

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When you hear about Ashland, you think a great estate.  You think about Henry Clay.  You think about an old mining town in Pennsylvania.  You think about a place where you can ride into a mine and to a mountain top all in one place.

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