Strasburg Rail Road

Strasburg, Pennsylvania | C.1832

Photo Credit: Strasburg Rail Road

The Strasburg Rail Road is the oldest continuously operating railroad in the Western hemisphere. Despite this, plans for the railway would have never been realized if a group of savvy businessmen didn’t save the small town of Strasburg’s economy in the early 1830s.

In the early 19th century, swift canals replaced sluggish wagons as the primary method of transporting goods. When the Susquehanna Canal opened, its route bypassed Philadelphia and the majority of goods were directed towards Baltimore, with a small amount traveling through Strasburg. Philadelphia was eager to reclaim their place as a port city, constructing the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, which ultimately bypassed Strasburg.

Committed to maintaining the town’s livelihood after a crippling reduction to their means of commerce, a group of businessmen petitioned the Pennsylvania state government for the right to build their own railroad connecting Strasburg to the Philadelphia and Columbia rail line. In 1832, the Governor signed the charter, and not five years later, the rail line was up and running.

The Strasburg Railroad thrived and operated for more than a century until 1958, when declining freight business and infrequent runs threatened its closure. After its owner passed away, the estate considered abandoning the railroad. Thankfully, railway enthusiasts Henry K. Long and Donald. E.L. Hallock organized a non-profit to purchase the rail line and tourist excursions began on the train the following year.

Today the Strasburg Rail Road hosts 300,000 visitors each year, hauled by five steam locomotives along 4.5 miles of track in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. With the nation’s largest operating fleet of historic wooden passenger coaches, we’ve got two words for you: All Aboard!

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