The Strasburg Railroad’s steam engines pull old refurbished wooden passenger cars through rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This nostalgic ride on a heritage railroad is a short ride of 4.5 miles with Amish farms working every day on either side of the tracks. Any time of year, it’s an enjoyable steam train trip filled with beautiful farming valley views of the local countryside. There’s also the smell of coal smoke at work, with the piercing steam whistle shrieking at every small country road crossing.
The highlights of a visit to the Strasburg are the 100-year-old working steam engines. You’ll be able to see them up close in their old-school mechanical glory and then ride on an actual steam train. They are well maintained in their own shops by experts. In fact, other steam railroads send work to the Strasburg shops that are known for their experience, knowledge, and skill working with vintage steam.
With the vintage steam locomotives and period wooden passenger cars, a ride on the Strasburg is a time travel trip anyone can enjoy. Additionally, across the road from the Strasburg Railroad station sits the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, another stellar railroad tourist attraction. Be sure to visit both if you go and give yourself plenty of time.
Some Strasburg Railroad History
The Strasburg Railroad has had a long and unusual history since its beginning in 1832. As it approaches 200 years old, the little short line is actually the oldest continuously operating railroad in the western hemisphere.
At first, it was a horse-drawn railroad connecting the bypassed town of Strasburg with the main railroad line 4.5 miles to the east. Then early steam engines were added and the railroad modernized over time. Eventually, revenue service petered out by the late 1950s and the little short line filed for abandonment.
However, two local train enthusiasts stepped in to form a non-profit to buy the railroad. It was their hope to remake it as a heritage railroad for Lancaster County and Pennsylvania tourism.
Over time, that effort succeeded. From a humble rebirth with threadbare beginnings, today the Strasburg Railroad is the most popular tourist railroad in the lower 48 states. It is very well run and excels at giving a great nostalgic experience for visiting tourists.
The main focus is always heritage railroading at the Strasburg, but in recent decades it began to haul freight cars for local shippers. That business increased over the years and the steam engines are actually a part of it. Today, the railroad is the only known instance of freight revenue hauling under steam in the country today.
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