Friday, July 17, 2015

Strasburg Rail Road

Last weekend we took a trip on a steam train, and in the Presidents' Car, no less!  We visited Strasburg Rail Road, just south east of Lancaster, which offers 45 minute round-trip train rides through some beautiful Lancaster countryside on restored steam trains.

Strasburg Rail Road was founded in 1832 and was used for both passenger and freight transport, becoming a key freight interchange point with the Pennsylvania Railroad.  When its use decreased with the growing efficiency of highways, it eventually fell into disrepair.  The idea to make it a tourist attraction was formed in the 1950s, and a group of railroad enthusiasts worked to repair the tracks and buy up historic locomotives and passenger cars.

There are still sidings filled with rusting engines and carriages, presumably waiting for repair or being used for parts.  Some of the restored locomotives and cars have been featured in films such as Hello Dolly and Wild Wild West (Will Smith).  On certain days, you can meet Thomas the Tank Engine, take a Steam Punk ride, or participate in a Murder Mystery Dinner.

We rode on Reading Car 10 - originally built in the early 1900s at a cost of $55,000.  It was referred to as a "business car" - ie built for company presidents and other high level officials to travel in style.  Beautiful handcrafted inlaid and carved woodwork (mahogany and maple), cut glass crystal, flushing toilets and showers and even air-conditioning - these carriages were designed for the higher echelons of society.

Sadly, the train was mothballed and auctioned off in the 1960s due to declining rail company revenues, but was eventually restored and renovated to it's current glory in 2002. 

Obviously we travelled in style, partaking of a beverage and nibbles to complement the experience!

Later, we took a tour of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, where they have a large warehouse stacked to the rafters with historic steam and electric locomotives, rail cars and carriages.

A lovely way to spend a few hours on a weekend, with a lovely drive through Amish countryside at either end, too.

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