The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum, Coatesville, Pennsylvania

The Original Office Building of Lukens Steel, Home of the National Iron and Steel Heritage Center in Coatsville, Pennsylvania

The town of Coatesville in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania is 40 miles west of Philadelphia and 40 miles east of Lancaster.  It is a town on the Lincoln Highway commonly known as U.S. Route 30.  (U.S. Route 30 bypasses the town.  U.S. Business 30 follows the original Lincoln Highway through the town.)  The town’s name comes from a local farmer named Moses Coates whose son-in-law created the town.  One of the main features of the town is the arching railroad bridge (aqueduct) that crosses the West Brandywine Creek, Pennsylvania Route 82, and a railroad line.  The town was the home of Lukens Steel Company, a company founded by Charles Lukens. What is great about Lukens Steel?  It was the first steel company to produce steel hulls for ships.  It went on to produce steel for major projects like the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the two World Trade Center Towers in New York City, New York.  When Charles Lukens passed away, his wife, Rebecca, took over the company making her the first woman in the United States of America to be a part of the iron industry and the first woman in the United States of America to be the chief operating officer of an industrial company.  Another accomplishment is that the company is the longest commissioned steel mill in the United States of America.

The Old Steel Factory of Lukens Steel

The original site of the Lukens Steel Company became the home of the National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum.  Here, you will see how the company came about how steel and iron are made and the many uses.  You can even get a tour of the different homes to include the home of Charles and Rebecca Lukens.  A visit to the National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum in Coatesville, Pennsylvania is a must see for anybody who is into the steel and iron industry.

Some of you are saying, “This is wonderful.  It is amazing to see the many accomplishments of the steel and Iron industry, and they chose this town to have the factory.  There is a problem.  As you can see, there is nothing about the railroad here.  Therefore, you will not see me here either.”

You are very mistaken.  The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum has so much to do with the railroad.  The very first thing you will see when you enter the parking lot is a train with a steam locomotive pulling cars with steel items.  That is just the beginning.  This is the National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum at the former shops of the Lukens Steel Company.  What are rails made of?  They are made of steel, and they made rails for many railroads through the United States of America to include the Union Pacific Railroad and the New York Central System, and the steel was used to build the diesel locomotives, for steam locomotives from the boilers to the wheels, and to build the rolling stock.  Also, in the museum, you will see displays on how the railroad was used for the transport of steel products.  If that is not enough, you have model locomotives and rolling stock on display.  Lukens Steel Company is a major contributor to the railroad industry, and the railroad still serves the company as the company serves the railroad to this very day.  While you are at the museum, you may be fortunate enough to see a train go by.

The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum was established to pay tribute to the steel industry in a town that was built around the industry that has been nicknamed the ‘Pittsburgh of the East’.  Along with the museum, there is also a monument dedicated to those who died at the World Trade Center in New York City, New York on September 11, 2001, consisting of steel from the factory that went to New York… and was brought back home.

Steel from the World Trade Center in New York City, Part of a Memorial

The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum is in the original office building of the Lukens Steel Company at 50 South First Avenue in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.  It is just off Pennsylvania Route 82 and U.S. Business Route 30, and five miles south of U.S. Route 30.  It is open Monday to Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm.  Tours of the museum itself and the grounds are self-guided, but there are guided house tours that do require walking and crossing the street plus climbing stairs.  (Some of the houses are not handicap accessible.)  Parking is on site.  You can get information on admission and tours at https://steelmuseum.org/.

A Model of the Railroad at the Steel Factory

Are you up to visit the National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum?  There is much history about steel, and there is much history about the railroad.

A Model of the New York Central System Number 5343

Gaithersburg, Maryland

Old Train Station, Gaithersburg, Maryland

The town of Log Town in the U.S. state of Maryland was established 1765 as a small agricultural town of farmers on the ‘Great Road West’.  The town became famous for a large oak tree on the main road, and, in 1850, was named Forest Oak.  The town was centered on the ‘Great West Road’ until 1873.  What changed?  The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had arrived.

The Old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Freight House

Area farmers were able to ship their produce to other towns.  It was named and incorporated as Gaithersburg in 1878 after Benjamin Gaither, a man who had built his home next to the oak tree.  The town grew around the railroad as a freight house and train station were built in 1884.  Gaithersburg became a summer getaway spot from Washington D.C. as the railroad was a means to escape from the big city.

As the years went by, Gaithersburg grew.  Today, it is a suburb of Washington D.C., and the farms that surrounded the town were taken over by tech companies as the region is one of the largest tech regions in the nation.  The ‘Great West Road’ is now Maryland Route 355.  As for the station and freight house, there is no freight in the freight house, and it now houses the Gaithersburg Community Museum, and the train station no longer serves passengers, well, it does.  It houses a coffee shop for commuters to downtown Washington D.C.  There is also a small park that features a steam locomotive Number 14 from the Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad, Caboose Number 904152 from the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, and a self-propelled passenger car from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  Amtrak, unfortunately, does not stop here with the nearest stop in nearby Rockville, but you can still watch the Amtrak and CSX Trains roll by.

Number 14 of the Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad

The next time you here about Gaithersburg, Maryland, think of it as a suburb of Washington D.C. that was transformed by the railroad.

“Thank You for Your Service”

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Number 1961 at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

The train was at the station.  The conductor was assisting passengers as they boarded the train.  A marine in uniform walked up to the conductor.  “Mr. Conductor, I thank you for your service.”

The conductor was puzzled.  “Thank you, but I should be saying that to you.”

“No, sir,” said the marine.  “Because of what you do, the baggage handlers do, the car cleaners do, the engineers do, the mechanics do, the chefs do, the servers do, the ticket agents do, the track repairers do, we are able to serve our nation in the United States Armed Forces.  Because of your work, we in the military are able to go to and from the battlefield.  Therefore, I thank you for your service.”

“Well,” said the conductor, “I am honored and happy to be at your service.  I hope you enjoy your journey.”

“Because of all of you,” said the marine, “I will.”

The marine boarded the train and went to his seat.

Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Caboose Number 90704 at the Hocking Valley Railway in Nelsonville, Ohio

I wish everyone a HAPPY LABOR DAY.

Norfolk and Western Railway Number 611 and 382 at the Strasburg Railroad in Gap, Pennsylvania

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland

Most cities in the United States of America have a zoo.  The city of Baltimore in the U.S. state of Maryland is no exception.  It is the home of The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.  Located in Druid Hill Park, it is a place where you can see animals from around the world.  It is a fun place to go with family and friend, or by yourself, and have an enjoyable time.

Flamingoes

Some of you are saying, “This is really nice.  You have a zoo that has animals.  It is fun to see the animals.  What I really want to see is trains.  Since the zoo has animals and no trains, let me say that I will not be having any fun at this place.”

“I Look Amazing”

So you have chosen not to visit The Maryland Zoo at Baltimore because you only visit places that have trains.  Yes, it has animals, just like any other zoo.  Here, you have the Maryland Wilderness where you see animals from the state of Maryland.  You have the Farmyard where you see animals from the farm.  You have the Polar Bear Watch where you see, of course, polar bears.  You have the Penguin Coast where you see, of course, penguins.  You have the African Journey area where you see lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, and many African animals which include two white rhinos which are a new addition to the zoo.  You have the Chimpanzee Forest where you see the chimpanzees have fun.  You have the Jones Falls Zephyr.

Some of you are saying, “Wait a minute, the Jones Falls Zephyr?  That is a very strange name for an animal.  I have never heard of that one before.”

You just said that you would not visit The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore because there are no trains here.  Well, welcome aboard the Jones Falls Zephyr.  What is the Jones Falls Zephyr?  If you think it is a train, you are thinking correctly.  It is a miniature train with a replica C.P. Huntington steam locomotive that depart from the Jones Falls Station located inside the zoo.

You board the train.  You take your seat.  You see mini-longhorns in the pen to your right.  You go around the track.  You cross the first bridge.  You ride by the Chimpanzee Forest.  Then you return to the station.  Once you get off the train, you may be hungry.  You have your choice of eating at the Sidetrack, the Pizza Depot, or the Whistle Stop Grill.

Now you have a reason to visit The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.  Therefore, you have no excuses.  Along with the animal habitats, you also have experiences that allow you to get up close to some of the animals including the penguins and the giraffes, and you can even feed some of the animals.

The Maryland Zoo is located at One Safari Place in Baltimore, Maryland.  It is minutes from Interstate 83 and ten minutes from downtown Baltimore.  Parking is free and on site.  The zoo is wheelchair accessible and so is the train.  There is an admission fee to enter the zoo.  The Jones Falls Zephyr and the other experiences cost extra.  Animal encounters may require reservations.  You can get all of the information you need at https://www.marylandzoo.org/.

Do you want to go to the zoo?  Sure you do.  Why?  Because the Jones Falls Zephyr is telling you to come.  That is why.

Percival’s Island, Lynchburg, Virginia

The city of Lynchburg in the U.S. state of Virginia is a city of many treasures.  Among them is Percival’s Island.  Situated in the James River, it is a natural place in an urban city.  Part of Lynchburg’s Riverwalk, Percival’s Island surrounds you with nature.  Whenever you are in Lynchburg, make the trek to this island.

Downtown Lynchburg

Some of you are saying, “This is nice that this island is an oasis in an urban jungle.  The problem is that there are no trains on this island.  Therefore, I will not be trekking here.”

As some of you know, Lynchburg is rooted with railroad history, and CSX has a yard and shops here today.  What does this have to do with Percival’s Island?

The James River

You are walking along the Riverwalk Trail where it parallels the CSX line.  You come to a bridge to cross onto the island, but you notice something.  You say to yourself, “This looks like an old railroad bridge.”

Ladies and gentlemen, it is an old railroad bridge.  The path that runs across the island follows and old railroad line.  At the east end of the island, you cross on an old truss bridge.

Now you have a reason to visit Percival’s Island for other reasons than exercise and to see natural beauty.  Just think of it as an island that has the nature of the railroad.

Rockhill Trolley Museum, Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania

Trolley 163

Do you remember the days when the trolleys ran up and down the streets of the city?  Well, some of us do not remember as many cities removed the trolley lines many years ago before many of us were born, but cities like San Francisco, California still use trolleys.  Today, some cities are bringing back the trolleys, but would it be nice to relive the glory days of the trolley?

Trolley 172

Welcome to the Rockhill Trolley Museum in Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania.  You arrive at the museum, and you purchase your ticket at the ticket booth.  The trolley awaits you just steps away.  You climb aboard the vintage trolley.  When it is time to go, the trolley leaves the station.  You stroll past the repair shops, and then you see the ruins of the furnace where the town gets its name.  Then, you are in the woods.  You arrive at the end of the line with U.S. Route 522 before you and a stream below on the left side.  From here, you return to the station.  The ride is over but wait.  You see another trolley.  You take a ride to the end of the line and back.  This ride is over, but they decide to bring out a trolley that was used on the San Diego Trolley system in San Diego, California.  Oh, you have to ride this trolley.  You go to the end of the line and come back again.  It is then time to leave the museum, and you have to return to the present day.

Number 1019 from San Diego, California

The Rockhill Trolley Museum is a great place to live or relive the days of the old trolleys.  A ride really takes you back in time.  With the East Broad Top Railroad across the street, the Rockhill Trolley Museum is a real compliment to your visit to the region.  Let us say that you can have two great rail journeys in one.

Trolley 311

The Rockhill Trolley Museum is at 430 Meadow Street (Pennsylvania Route 994) in Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania.  It is open on Saturday and Sunday from Memorial Day Weekend through October at 11:00am with the last trolley departing at 4:15pm.  Parking is on sight. You can get more information on the trolleys and admission at http://rockhilltrolley.org/.

Trolley 6

Do not waste time looking for a time machine.  Just visit the Rockhill Trolley Museum, and go back in time.

Prickett’s Fort State Park, Fairmont, West Virginia

A Replica Fort near Fairmont, West Virginia

It was the early days of what would become the United States of America.  People came from across the ocean to settle in this new world.  Many of the settlers encountered Indian tribes.  While some of the tribes welcomed the settlers and interacted with them, there were tribes that wanted the settlers gone, and they attacked them.  To protect the settlers from attacks, various forts were constructed.  When an attack occurred, nearby settlers went into the fort for protection.  Among them was Prickett’s Fort which was built in 1774 on a hill overlooking the Monongahela River by Jacob Prickett near Fairmont, West Virginia.  The fort you see in the state park today is a recreated fort of what was there before.  When you visit Prickett’s Fort State Park during the summer months, you will meet people in costume who recreate life in the fort.  There is also the Job Prickett House, a house built by the great-grandson of Jacob Prickett, and a museum in the Visitor Center.  Although none of the original structures remain, you can still get a glimpse of life in the early days or North America.

A Blockhouse

Some of you are saying, “This is really nice.  They build these fort to protect the early settlers from attacking Indian tribes.  There is a problem.  These people did not use the railroad because the railroad did not exist.  Therefore, I will not settle on visiting this place.”

Neither Prickett’s Fort nor the Prickett family have anything to do with the railroad… but the park does.

You arrive at the Visitor Center at Prickett’s Fort.  It has a small museum that tells the history of the park which, of course, the history of the fort.  Then you get a tour of the recreated fort.  You see the recreated barracks and the general store where someone may try to sell you something.  There are other artisans at work at the fort.  From there, you can visit the blacksmith who you will find working on his creation.  Then you visit the Job Prickett House.

The Job Prickett House

After the tour, you cannot leave the park until you get a view of the Monongahela River and Prickett’s Creek.  As you enjoy the view, you take notice of what looks like a railroad bridge.  No, it is not a recreation, but it was once a bridge used by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  The trains no longer come through here, but you can walk across the bridge as it is part of the Mon River Trail which follows the old railroad bed from the park north to Morgantown.  As you walk along the trail and arrive at the river, you will see an old railroad bridge crossing the Monongahela River.  Sadly, you cannot cross this bridge, but you can get a great view of the bridge from the trail.  (It was a different rail line, and it is currently unknown who owned that line.)

The Old Railroad Bridge Crossing the Monongahela River

And you thought that Prickett’s Fort State Park is just about a fort.  It is about a fort with a little railroad history as well.

The Mon River Trail

Prickett’s Fort State Park is located at 88 State Park Road in Fairmont, West Virginia.  You can follow signs from Interstate 79.  There is no entrance fee for the park or to walk on the Mon River Trail, but there is an admission fee to tour the fort and the mansion. The fort and mansion are open during the summer months, but the visitor center hours vary through the year.  You can get more information at https://wvstateparks.com/park/pricketts-fort-state-park/.

Old Railroad Bridge Crossing Pickett’s Creek. Now part of the Mon River Trail

It is time to head out to the great frontier, and make a detour to Prickett’s Fort where the railroad once roamed.

Railroad, Pennsylvania

Is there a town called Railroad, Pennsylvania?  The answer is yes.  To answer the next question, there is a railroad in the town of Railroad.  It owes its existence to the Northern Central Railway that connected the ports of the city of Baltimore in the U.S. state of Maryland to the city of Harrisburg, the state capital of Pennsylvania.  However, it was not always called Railroad.  It was originally called Shrewsbury Junction because it was the closest main line service to the town of Shrewsbury, which was served by the Stewartstown Railroad, a spur line from the Northern Central Railroad that also connects the town of Stewartstown.

When Hurricanes Agnes destroyed much of the railroad in 1972, the town of Railroad did not see the railroad, and Harrisburg was no longer connected to the ports of Baltimore by rail.  A single rail line remained while the other line was removed to become the York County Heritage Trail.  The rails that passed through Railroad did not see the railroad.

In June of 2013, ‘Steam Into History’ began to run along the rails through the town.  The town of Railroad was seeing the railroad again.

Today, you can still see the railroad in Railroad (now rebranded as the Northern Central Railway).  The town consists of a bed and breakfast, and old factory no longer in use, and a crab shack.  If you ever visit the town, you will be very fortunate to see the railroad in Railroad.

A Stroll Through Elkins, West Virginia

Old Train Station in Elkins, West Virginia

The city of Elkins in the U.S. state of West Virginia is in the eastern part of the state.  Although no interstates serve this city, it is a crossroads for U.S. Routes 33, 219 and 250.  (It is also possible that Interstate 66 may make its way here in the future.)  It was once a railroad hub for the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway.  When they merged with the Western Maryland Railway, luxury passenger train service came to the town.  Sadly, that all died in 1958.  What was once a railroad hub was a hub no more.

Today, the train station remains, and it is the home of the Tygart Flyer, the Cheat Mountain Salamander, and the Mountain Explorer Dinner Train, and it is also a tourist information center.  (Information on the trains is at https://www.mountainrailwv.com/.)  A rail trail follows the rail line north of the city and parallels U.S. 219 to Thomas.  A short walk west of the depot is the foundation of the old roundhouse.  (It is currently fenced off.)  You can see where the turntable once was.  A short walk south of the depot along the rail line is the West Virginia Railroad Museum.  It may not have any rolling stock, but it gives a detailed history of the history of the railroad in West Virginia.  (More information at https://wvrailmuseum.com/.)  As you walk around, you will feel that the trains never left town.

Where the Turntable of the Roundhouse Once Was.

Elkins, West Virginia is a small city with great railroad charm.  Also it is not a railroad town anymore, the people at the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad and the West Virginia Railroad Museum keep the city’s railroad heritage alive… and kicking.

Point of Rocks, Maryland

The town of Point of Rocks in the U.S. state of Maryland is a small town on the Potomac River that gets its name from a rock formation.  It is a place with a historic train station, and it is known as a great train watching spot as it is at a junction of two rail routes.  (They were original lines of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, but they are owned by CSX today.)  Once a passenger train station, it is a commuter train station for trains going to Union Station today.  The train station, built by Ephraim Francis Baldwin in 1876, is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is not open to the public as it serves as offices for CSX.  As a railroad town, it has seen some railroad battles.

As the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was building the railroad toward the Ohio River Valley in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was being built to connect barge traffic between the Chesapeake Bay and the Ohio River.  Both the railroad and the canal converged at Point of Rocks.  Both wanted the passage along the Potomac River.  The result was that the passage was shared by both the railroad and the canal.  Originally constructed as a single line, a second line was constructed by tunneling through the mountain with two tunnels with the original line still on its original route around the mountain.  The tunnels are still in operation today and can be seen from the old Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Tow Path.

The second battle at Point of Rocks and the railroad took place during the American Civil War.  This war was led by the famous Confederate General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson who led the Confederate Army across the Potomac River to Point of Rocks attacking the railroad line and seizing 56 locomotives and 300 rail cars.  During the war, the railroad line attacked numerous times.  Henry A. Cole was put in charge of what was known as Cole’s Maryland Cavalry who was set in the town to protect the railroad from future attacks.

Today, the main action in the town of Point of Rocks, Maryland are the trains passing through the junction.  The trains pass through safely today, and many train watchers flock here to watch them roll by.

Point of Rocks, Maryland is served by U.S. Route 15 which crosses the Potomac River.  The old train station is on Maryland Route 28 east of U.S. Route 15 beside the Marc Commuter lot.  It is wheelchair accessible.

The next time you are in Point of Rocks watching the trains, remember that it is a quiet place where the railroad brought much turmoil.