Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Steamtown National Historic Site - Scranton, Pennsylvania

Steamtown National Historic Site - Scranton, Pennsylvania 

September 4, 2017

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I think every kid from my era (the late 40's) knew something about steam trains. We were taught that steam trains transported goods, supplies, war materials and soldiers during World War II. We saw westerns that always seemed to have a steam train in them. Every boy I knew when I was nine or ten had a Lionel Train and track. We loved them, we wanted to be engineers.   But when I was nine, steam trains were steadily being replaced with diesel electric locomotives and little by little the opulent train stations in large cities fell silent going the way of horse and buggy before trains. It is, unfortunately. an era gone by.

But there is one place you can go to see how the steam locomotives and the train cars of past were maintained and refurbished. The place is "Steamtown National Historic Site" in Scranton, PA.

Martha and I visited and found the place fascinating. Steamtown had more rail lines coming into and out of it than most vital freight and passenger hubs in the entire United States. The yard itself has been in continuous commercial operation since 1851 and includes a number of steam era buildings including the round house, sand tower as well as other buildings. The large collection includes rolling stock (restored) and a reasonably intact working rail yard.

Among some of the artifacts and working buildings is the roundhouse. The remaining portion of the roundhouse was built between 1907 and 1937. The turntable itself is ninety feet long and is used to turn engines toward the roundhouse. It's construction is original to the plans used in the 1900's. The roundhouse has been rehabilitated and is used to store, maintain, and display engines from the Steamtown collection. It also has an elevated walkway so that visitors can view work in progress being done to restore locomotives and other train cars.

During the last quarter of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad was a major carrier of anthracite, the hard cleaner burning coal which was found in abundance in northeastern Pennsylvania.  The popularity of anthracite spurred the growth and expansion of the DL&W but also the four other main railroads that ran through Scranton, the Central of New Jersey, the Delaware & Hudson, the Erie, and the New York, Ontario and Western railways. The Lackawanna and Wyoming Valley Railroad, and an electric short line began operating in the area.  

The electric line began operations in 1903 and served local passenger and freight needs. Coal and railroads created a huge industrial complex in the Lackawanna and Wyoming valleys. This entire complex of railways is largely in place due to one man William H. Truesdale who was the President of the DL&W from 1899 to 1925,  Many of the structures and infrastructure in the Steamtown complex are a result of the legacies of the Truesdale administration. During this time the railroads and Scranton prospered.

Eventually with the introduction of diesel electric locomotives the rail yard and Scranton began to fall on harder times. Today the rail yard has closed but for the on going restoration of historic steam engines and Scranton has had to re-invent itself.

The following are some of the photos Martha and I took while visiting Steamtown.

Yours truly seeing how it felt to be in command of such awesome power

Outside the round house at the turntable

Many displays depicting the way the rail yard and employees looked and how they worked

The museum featured life like period statues

    What a great bonus in pay eh?                                         


Yard switch room

Harpooning mail

Who knew they had two parts?

Yard freight mover (below)

Restoration nearly complete (below)

Restored Pullman Car 

Dining Car

This woman wasn't very friendly

He's been waiting a while to hop a train

I hope you've enjoyed our trip down memory lane. We welcome your comments please use the comment box and let us know how we're doing.  Remember, to see a photo clearer please click on it for the entire slide show of photos shown on this blog entry.

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