Strasburg Rail Road

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Strasburg Rail Road
Locale Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Dates of operation 1832 – present
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8½ in)
Headquarters Strasburg, Pennsylvania
Strasburg Railroad #90
Strasburg Railroad #475

The Strasburg Rail Road, located near Strasburg, Pennsylvania in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, is a steam locomotive-powered tourist railroad dating back to 1832.

Across the street lies the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (the Strasburg Rail Road functions as the Museum's link to the Amtrak main line in Paradise). The website [1] has links to nearby Pennsylvania Dutch region attractions.

Rail Road and facility description

Known as America's oldest short-line railroad[2], the 4½-mile Strasburg Rail Road takes visitors on a 45-minute journey from Strasburg to Leaman Place, past breath-taking scenery and real working Amish farms. The train also has a dining car which allows visitors to eat while enjoying a scenic ride. During the summer months, the Strasburg Rail Road is one of the only locations in the world where you can witness a meet between two regularly scheduled steam trains. Back at the station, visitors can take a ride on a Cagney miniature steam train, power a vintage Pump Car or watch little ones try their hand at the Cranky Cars. Many gift shops are located at the station including a Thomas the Tank Engine gift shop. Train buffs will enjoy a tour of the mechanical shop where steam engines and passenger cars are built and restored. The railroad's website contains more information and how to purchase tickets. A percentage of each train ticket is donated to the Lancaster Farm Trust which purchases farmland along the train route.

Three times throughout the year, the railroad has Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine events. Children can come take a ride pulled by Thomas the Tank Engine and engage in other railroad related activities. This is one of the highlights of the year at the Strasburg Rail Road.


The Strasburg Rail Road was incorporated by the Pennsylvania General Assembly on June 9, 1832. It is not known when construction was completed; the earliest known timetable is dated December of 1851, and passenger service began on February 22, 1861 when Abraham Lincoln visited Leaman Place.

After some decades of quiet, lucrative service, the Conestoga Traction Company opened a new tram line from Strasburg to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1901. Due to this competition, the railroad ceased operating regular passenger trains, but operated one daily mixed train for some years more.

The railroad fell into the same hard times faced by other American operations following World War II, and in addition was damaged in the 1950s by storms. Because of the extensive washouts resulting from these storms, the Hosmer Estate, owners of the line, ceased all operations in 1957 and filed for abandonment.

At that point Henry K. Long, a railfan from Lancaster, organized a non-profit group to purchase the railroad and operate it. The fundraising was successful, and the railroad was purchased for $18,000 on November 1, 1958. On November 11, the first carload of revenue freight was hauled to what was then the only customer--a mill in Strasburg.

Tourist passenger service began on January 4, 1959, and steam trains began the following year with the purchase of No. 31.

Locomotives of the Strasburg Rail Road

Operating steam locomotives

No. 1
No. 89
  • 0-6-0T 1 1917 Porter Brooklyn Eastern Since 1999
  • 0-6-0 31 1908 Baldwin Canadian National Since 1960
  • 2-6-0 89 1910 Canadian Canadian National Since 1972
  • 2-10-0 90 1924 Baldwin Great Western Since 1968
  • 4-8-0 475 1906 Baldwin Norfolk and Western Since 1993
  • 4-6-0 972 1913 Montreal Canadian Pacific Not in operation
  • 0-4-0 1187 1903 Baldwin Reading Last Operation 1967

No. 1 was formerly BEDT [Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal] engine #15, converted into a Thomas the Tank Engine look-alike by Strasburg Rail Road. In a private letter from Strasburg Rail Road's Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer to S. Berliner, III dated March 13, 2000 the V.P. repotedly stated that "Thomas is indeed made from BEDT #15. While I know this is disturbing to BEDT fans the fact remains that the locomotive is operating and well cared for. Though Thomas is not exactly in line with our mission of recreating early 20th century railroading he serves a more important purpose. He makes steam exciting for the next generation. Hopefully sacrificing the historical integrity of #15 will ensure that steam will be around well into the future." [3]

No. 89 was purchased from the Steamtown Foundation in 1972. Enroute to Strasburg that June, it was caught in Penn Central's Buttonwood, Pennsylvania, yard when the Susquehanna River flooded over the locomotive's stack, delaying its debut at Strasburg.

No. 1187 ran as No. 4 between 1962 and 1967. It was retired as being of inadequate strength for the Strasburg's heavy trains.

Former steam locomotives

  • 4-4-0 1223 1905 Juniata Pennsylvania Railroad 1965 - 1990
  • 4-4-2 7002 1902 Juniata Pennsylvania Railroad 1983 - 1990
  • 4-4-0 98 1909 ALCO Mississippi Central Never oper.

All three former steam locomotives were owned by outside individuals or companies.

Both 1223 and 7002 were leased for operation. 1223 was leased by the P.R.R. from 1965 to 1968, by the Penn Central from 1968 to 1979 and from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania from 1979 to 1990. 7002 was leased from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Today, 1223 and 7002 are static displays in the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

Number 98 was owned by Thomas Marshall. It sat on the property from 1962 to 1964 as a static display. Originally, it was planned to be operated on the Strasburg Railroad, but Mr. Marshall moved it to Delaware to operate on his Wilmington and Western steam railroad. 98 is in operation today.

Early internal-combustion locomotives

The Strasburg Railroad also has a collection of early internal combustion locomotives. All are in operation.

  • 1 1926 Plymouth Owned by the Strasburg since 1926
  • 2 1910 Plymouth Owner by the Strasburg since 1984
  • 10 Railcar Former Lancaster Oxford and Southern
  • 33 44-ton Former Pennsylvania Railroad

Locomotive No. 1, a gasoline-mechanical Plymouth, dieselised the short-line. It was the only locomotive in service until the arrival of No. 31 in 1960.

See also

External links


  1.   Strasburg Rail Road. Retrieved on November 13, 2006.
  2.   The Pennsylvania Dutch Country / Lancaster County, PA Welcome Center. Retrieved on November 23, 2005.
  3.   S. Berliner, III's BEDT Page: BEDT #15. Retrieved on January 15, 2007.