Why do we get nostalgic for things we’ve never experienced? I have no idea but I am guilty of it. The golden age of rail travel seems so foreign yet attractive when compared the crowded, uncomfortable sardine can modern air travel can be. I long for the slower, more open, and more luxurious accommodations we often associate with steam trains, ocean liners, and distant times.
If I were logical I’d realized that then travel was much slower, coach tickets meant you were packed in a car with many other people, and boredom probably got the best of you. But reality be damned as I let the hazy, warm glow of misinformed past imagery carry me on. And so you can imagine that I love seeing old rail stock and engines enough that I visit them when I can. I’ve been to the VA Museum of Transportation many a time to view the most lovely engine I’ve ever seen (The Norfolk and Western’s Class J) Now that I’m in Pennsylvania I was happy to discover both a working steam railroad and a railroad museum across from each other in the town of Strasburg.
Strasburg, like so many places here, is picturesque in a way that only well-preserved-mid-19th century towns can be. On its outskirts I visited the PA Railroad Museum and the Strasburg Railroad. They are across the street from each other which means you can ride the rails behind a vintage steam engine and then see a lot more on display.
The railroad there is festive and geared towards families. The station has a number of the usual tourist traps such as vintage portraits, gift shop, snacks of dubious merit, and miniature train rides for the very young. That’s not a criticism since I saw many folks have a great time enjoying it. I am often a skeptic of “family fun” but I think it was nicely presented and you can’t argue with happiness.
The train ride has a steam engine fired by coal and belching smoke. Environmentalists please remain quiet. The clunking and slow take off of a puffing train is entrancing. The brief 45 minute 9 mile journey was a nice vacation from modern times.
When I crossed the street to the museum I was stunned by the amazing indoor display of rectangular things on tracks. There were the typical recreated stations and storefronts but I do love that kind of thing. It’s always amazing to walk by and feel how huge and powerful these old technology behemoths were.
I’ll let my pictures speak from here. Hold on for a crazy batch of images screeching by you at 10 miles per hour. Yes, the train moved very slowly.
Click on both galleries don’t forget.