Life in Pennsylvania Dutch country is not as fast paced as life in the city and the rolling hills of its farmland invites visitors to slow their roll too.
One of the best ways experience to this slower pace of life is aboard the trains of the Strasburg Rail Road. Located in Strasburg, Pa., (85 miles from Baltimore, Md.) the railroad transports passengers through Amish country and farmland with its fields of alfalfa, tobacco and corn as well as past local attractions such as Groff’s Grove, an outdoor play space.
The design of the authentically restored, turn-of-the-century rail cars, which are pulled by massive steam locomotives, creates a feeling of being transported back in time as well. In the first-class lounge car, I and friends nestled ourselves into green velvet-like swivel chairs and gazed out the car’s large picture windows while making our way through the countryside. It takes a mere 45 minutes roundtrip from Strasburg to Paradise, Pa., and back, but with snack and bar service it was a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. We sipped on cocktails while looking through the large picture windows at horses pulling Amish buggies through farmland. A railroad representative provided narration via the car’s speaker system.
The Strasburg Rail Road is the country’s oldest short line and travels the same 4.5-mile track that it did when it started. Incorporated in 1832, it became an essential component of central Pennsylvania’s transportation system for passengers and freight. Passengers decreased when the electric trolley was introduced and by the late 1950s with reduced freight revenues and rising operating costs, it was slated to be abandoned. However, a group of rail enthusiasts bought it, invested in rail repairs and equipment purchases and in 1958 it opened as a tourist railroad.
As the train chugs along the tracks, passengers catch glimpses of rural life, passing by livestock such as horses, cows, goats, farms and Amish men, women and children going about their simple way of life. We also saw alpaca and a pot-bellied pig.
Themed events such as a Great Train Robbery, Santa Express and Thomas the Tank engine also are scheduled throughout the year. Tickets range from $2 to $25 depending on whether which of six cars one chooses: president’s, first-class parlor, first-class lounge, dining, coach and open air.
The fun doesn’t end when the train pulls into the station.
The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is a fascinating place for anyone with the slightest inkling of train interest.
Located just past the tracks of the Strasburg Rail Road, the museum houses what it describes as “one of the most significant collections of historic railroad artifacts in the world.” More than 100 locomotives and cars from the mid-19th and 20th centuries are displayed in a huge rail house, where visitors can view, read about and, in some cases, climb upon and walk through trains of all kinds.
The museum is dedicated to “preserving and interpreting the broad impact of railroad development on society.”
Among trains of note on display:
•Lindbergh engine No. 460, known as the train that raced a plane, built in 1914
• Built in 1943 GGI No. 4935 electric locomotive is described as a “workhorse”
• K4 No. 3750 high-speed passenger steam locomotive that was built in 1920
Tickets to the railroad museum are $8 to $10 and various special days are held throughout the year.
For more information on the railroad, go to www.StrasburgRailroad.com. Details on the museum can be found at www.rrmuseumpa.org.
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