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Friday, February 20, 2015

The "Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania: Part I - The Visit" Story

Main entrance to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg.
It was an ordinary day.  Just walked out into the cold with grandson Caden after enjoying a visit to the Railroad Museum of Pennsyl- vania in Strasburg, Pennsylvania.  I had been meaning to take my grandson to the museum for some time and after obtaining a few free tickets decided this was the time.  
The lobby of the Railroad Museum
We arrived to an empty parking lot about five minutes before the museum opened at 9:00 AM.   Could have been because the outside temperature was 2 degrees or maybe because it was President's Day and most people may have assumed the museum was closed.  Anyway, we were the first customers in the front door.  The Museum opened in 1975 and added a train-shed like addition in 1995 which doubled the indoor display area to 100,000 square feet.  The collection of more than 100 locomotives and cars comes from the historical collection of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) following the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair.  Some of the rolling stock (engines and cars) was actually used on the Strasburg Railroad, which sits across the street from the Museum, before it was retired to the Museum.  If you "

Google" the Strasburg Railroad Museum and click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railroad_Museum_of_Pennsylvania you will be able to get a more detailed rendition of the history as well as see the list of the rolling stock that is housed in the Museum.  
The Steinman Station and loading platform
After entering we passed into the Rolling Stock Hall and were amazed at the size of the place and the number of locomotives and cars that were on display.  Turning to the right took us through what looked like a "real" train station named Steinman Station which was a 1915-era station with wooden benches and a wooden platform as well as a Western Union Telegraph and Cable office and a Railway Express office.  
Inside the Western Union office
I can still remember when I was a kid heading across the street from my house on North Queen Street and walking about 100 yards to the Lancaster Train Station to visit with the trains, walk the platform and visit the nearby Railway Express office with my friend Jerry whose dad worked at the Railway office.  Can still remember the the soda machine that had the glass bottles of Coke that you had to put your dime in the machine and slide it to the chamber where you could pull it out.  
Store fronts along the platform and stone walk
Caden and I listened as a telegraph message was tapped out in Morse Code then wound our way down the cobble-stone walk next to the wooden platform where we found a general store, a lodge, photographer's store and a hotel and bar.  Sitting along the walk was an old horse-drawn US Mail wagon.  On the rails next to the end of the platform stood an old train car that was in the process of being restored.  
Mailwagon along the platform
At the end of the platform we entered the Stewart Junction Railway Education Center where Caden …. and I …. were able to operate the miniature trains that ran on tracks that had working switches built into the layout.  I really had as much fun as Caden did in this display, operating the engines and switches.  
Stewart Junction Railway Education Center
Then we began our tour of the rolling stock that towered next to us.  Tours of an electric engine and steam locomotive were highlights this morning, especially since Caden got to talk with volunteers of the Museum who were actually train engineers from the past.  We climbed the sides of the engines and had a chance to try some of the switches and levers that stood in front of us as we sat in the engineer' seat.  I have added photos from out visit, but a few of the locomotives were so impressive that I have placed stories about them in other posts.  Follow them if you want to see the history of railroads in the United States.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Interior of the Railroad Museum
A bronze state of Matthias W. Baldwin who built "Old Ironsides" in 1932 and later went on to build over 1,500 steam locomotives at his Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, PA.  This statue stands inside the Railroad Museum.
Another view from inside the huge museum.  Platforms along the locomotives and cars allow you to enter or view what is inside.

More views from the platforms along the trains.  The trains actually sit on rails and were brought into the museum on these rails.
These two photos were taken in the Eduction Center of the HO layout.  The bottom photo shows the PRR Station in New York with the underground loading platform beneath it. 

Sign outside the Railroad Museum in Strasburg.  This is located across the road from the Strasburg Railroad where you can take trips to Paradise, PA on an operating steam engine pulling train cars from yesteryear.

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