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Field Report: The Strasburg Rail Road in Strasburg, Pennsylvania!

Click on each picture for a closer look!
On my recent vacation, I visited the the Strasburg Rail Road , one of the finest Heritage Railways in North America. The original railway was founded in 1832 and the earliest timetable found to date indicates that Strasburg trains were scheduled as early as December 1851. Originally used for passenger and freight transportation, the railroad's main purpose became a freight interchange with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Following World War II, improved highway transportation decreased the need for the railroad. By the mid 1950s, the Strasburg Rail Road was nearing the end of its usefulness. In 1957, destruction of the tracks caused by a series of storms placed an immediate embargo on the carload freight. The owners were unwilling to invest in the necessary repairs.
While petitions for abandonment were being considered, Henry K. Long, an industrialist and railfan from nearby Lancaster, along with Donald E. L. Hallock, another enthusiastic railfan with a vision, formed a group of interested individuals to save the railroad. With perseverance and a creative idea, the Strasburg Rail Road was saved. After repairing the worst spots on the four-and-a-half mile track, the owners began acquiring an inventory of historic locomotives and passenger cars from all across North America. Using the old feed mill as a station, the ambitious band of "rail barons" opened the railroad to visitors in 1958. 2008 marked the 50th anniversary of Strasburg Rail Road as a tourist railroad.
We arrived in late afternoon after the daily trains had run so we did not see any of their steam engines and trains in action, but I did take the pictures shown here of their magnificently restored Pennsylvania Railway Control Tower, their passenger station and their beautifully restored passenger cars. These passenger cars were reinforced with truss rods under the floors so they definitely date back to at least the very early 1900's. The heritage railway is also unique in that it has a complete restoration facility and will restore anything which can be brought to their shops.
The Strasburg Railway has eight steam locomotives and six of these are in operating condition. Their collection contains three former Canadian steam locomotives as follows:
  • Strasburg's #7312 (formerly Strasburg #31): An 0-6-0 built by Baldwin Locomotive Works (#32894) in 1908. It was Grand Trunk Railway's #118 (GTR) and then became #1708. As a Canadian National Railways (CNR) engine, it had the numbers #7157, #7240 and then #7312.
  • Strasburg's #972: A 4-6-0 built by Montreal Locomotive Works in 1913. It was formerly a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPS) engine and is currently being restored by the railroad
  • Strasburg's #89: A 2-6-0 built by Canadian Locomotive Company in 1910. Originally it was GTR's #1009 and became CNR's #911 and then #89
And to top it all off, right across the street from their station is the equally impressive Pennsylvania Railway Museum. I will post news and pictures of that museum in a subsequent posting.
For more information about the Strasburg Rail Road, visit Wikipedia's entry by clicking here
and visit their website by clicking here.
Posting and pictures by Russ Milland

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