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Pennsylvania’s Steamtown Offers Glimpse of Railroad Heyday

CN #3254 pauses atop Tunkhannock Viaduct, PA

CN #3254 pauses atop Tunkhannock Viaduct, PA.

Steam rises around you. A giant turntable revolves. Excitement sim­mers in your chest.

It might sound like you’re danc­ing the night away at a trendy club, but the turntable before you (used for posi­tion­ing loco­mo­tives) isn’t manned by a DJ, and here, steam cre­ates power not ambiance.

Our entire fam­ily has a dis­tinct love of trains, and Steamtown is one of those places made for peo­ple like us. At Steamtown National Historic Site, thrills sweep through you as you travel by rail or watch an “iron horse” race along its track. The park offers train excur­sions of vary­ing lengths. In 2010, trips start in April, but don’t delay a visit until then. Steamtown, like the United States in the 19th– and early 20th-century hey­day of rail travel, boasts plenty of oppor­tu­ni­ties in addi­tion to rid­ing the rails.

You can enter loco­mo­tives for a view of their con­trols and take a peek inside one loco­mo­tive that has had parts of its exte­rior cut away to reveal the oper­a­tion of its steam engine. You can also walk through a post office car and a busi­ness car and check out museum exhibits.

The History Museum at Steamtown acquaints vis­i­tors with life on the rail­road and with early rail­roads, as well as with the inter­ac­tion between busi­ness­men, labor­ers, mem­bers of the gov­ern­ment, and peo­ple who used, owned, or worked on railroads.

After you’re done indulging in the his­tor­i­cal aspect of early rail­road­ing, head over to the Technology Museum, where you’ll learn about freight cars and the build­ing of rail­road tracks.

Find out more about the rail­roads’ archi­tec­ture, a sam­ple of which is avail­able at Steamtown in sur­viv­ing por­tions of the Scranton round­house and loco­mo­tive repair shops of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad, and other attrac­tions at Steamtown, includ­ing its win­ter­time movies, by vis­it­ing the National Park Service’s Steamtown web­site.

Photo by Ken Ganz. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

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