Steamtown National Historic Site – Scranton Train Museum

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Steamtown National Historic Site – Scranton Train Museum

Steamtown National Historic Site is a railroad train museum. Lackawanna diesel engine, No.664 drives off the turntable station. This diesel locomotive was built in 1948 and belongs to Anthracite Railroads Historical Society, Inc. The train is on temporary loan to the Steamtown National Park service to operate the park's excursions.

Steamtown National Historic Site is a railroad train museum. Lackawanna diesel engine, No.664 drives off the turntable station. This diesel locomotive was built in 1948 and belongs to Anthracite Railroads Historical Society, Inc. The train is on temporary loan to the Steamtown National Park service to operate the park’s excursions.

RAIL MUSEUM OF PENNSYLVANIA, PA| Sharon Henry

Steamtown National Historic Site aka Scranton Train Museum PA is a must for rail enthusiasts and people who’d enjoy a steam train experience with steam train rides in PA.

On our visit we discovered that a turntable station isn’t just for DJ’s, locomotive train operators use them too. Not to spin records, but to rotate a train engine from one direction to another. Of course a train turntable is totally different to the music variety but they share the concept of rotation.

The locomotive turntable is quite a fascinating contraption and even me, a girl, got excited to see one in action at the Scranton railroad museum.

Steamtown National Historic Site. The turntable station has Lackawanna No.664 getting ready for one of its scenic train rides in PA. This diesel locomotive was built in 1948 and belongs to Anthracite Railroads Historical Society, Inc. The train is on temporary loan to the National Park service to operate the park's excursions.

Steamtown National Historic Site. The turntable station has Lackawanna No.664 getting ready for one of its scenic train rides in PA. This diesel locomotive was built in 1948 and belongs to Anthracite Railroads Historical Society, Inc. The train is on temporary loan to the National Park service to operate the park’s excursions.

Railroad Museum For Steam Trains

Let’s set the scene.  We googled things to do in Scranton PA; a stopover on our USA road trip. And ended up strolling around the Steamtown National Historic Site, a locomotive and train history museum. Steamtown has a large collection of steam trains, freight and passenger cars, which are used to tell the story of America’s steam railway and their importance in the country’s development. It’s full of steam train facts, personal accounts and anecdotes. They also do steam train trips.

Scranton The Electric City

Scranton PA is also known for pioneering the electric trolley streetcar system in 1886, one of America’s first.  The Electric City Trolley museum is right next door to the steam train history museum.

Click below to watch our video of the Scranton railroad train and locomotive turntable in action.  (YouTube, 2m23s)

The locomotive turntable is the centrepiece of the Scranton Train museum; a large circular cut-out with a 90 foot, rail track across the middle. Feeding onto it, like spokes of a large wheel are multiple train tracks. Because stream trains were mostly limited to forward motion, the turntable was invented as a method of rotating them to allow return journeys.

The Steamtown museum is built around a working turntable station and a railroad roundhouse which are largely replications of the original Scranton facilities. It has a 90 foot track in the middle.

The Steamtown museum is built around a working turntable station and a railroad roundhouse which are largely replications of the original Scranton facilities. It has a 90 foot track in the middle.

 

Steamtown National Historic Site

When diesel locomotives came on the scene with reverse capabilities, the steam train and roundhouse turntable were slowly phased out and eventually rendered obsolete. Except, of course, a certain few that have been restored for museums like the Steamtown Historic Site.

We luckily timed our visit for a railroad turntable demonstration and watched a diesel train (which could easily be a friend of Thomas the Tank Engine) be spun 45 degrees onto the complex’s rail tracks ready for one of the Steamtown train rides on the preserved railway. The whole process took all of ten minutes. A pretty neat trick.

Steamtown, Scranton PA. "Did you ever think what those sleepers are that underlie the railroad? Each one is a man, an Irishman, or a Yankee man. The rails are laid on them." Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854.

Steamtown, Scranton PA. “Did you ever think what those sleepers are that underlie the railroad? Each one is a man, an Irishman, or a Yankee man. The rails are laid on them.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854.

 

The Pennsylvania railroad museum exhibit boxcars, the backbone of the steam railways non-bulk freight business. They were containers or sea-vans of the railroad.

The Pennsylvania railroad museum exhibit boxcars, the backbone of the steam railways non-bulk freight business. They were containers or sea-vans of the railroad.

 

Bet this train smokes BIG time! Steamtown National Historic Site displays the Reading No. 2124. Known as 'Queen of the Iron Horse Rambles.' Originally built in 1920s this locomotive train was rebuilt 1947 and used as a heavy duty freight locomotive to transport coal. This steam engine train burnt culm, a waste product of anthracite coal. She was retired in 1956.

Bet this train smokes BIG time! Steamtown National Historic Site displays the Reading No. 2124. Known as ‘Queen of the Iron Horse Rambles.’ Originally built in 1920s this locomotive train was rebuilt 1947 and used as a heavy duty freight locomotive to transport coal. This steam engine train burnt culm, a waste product of anthracite coal. She was retired in 1956.

 

Nostalgic Train History Museum

The Steamtown museum is full of interesting artefacts coupled with documented firsthand accounts by the very people who built, worked and travelled the steam railway. Their words, voices and images, like ghosts, convey snapshots of the steam railroads era, from early 1800s to mid 1900s.

Armies of immigrant men, seeking fortunes in a new land were hired to lay tracks across the country. Work was gruelling but plentiful. In 1852 around 9,000 miles had been laid; by the end of WWI in 1918 the network had expanded to more than 254,000 miles.

"Track workers were required to be strong, tireless, and be able to tamp a tie or pound a spike squarely. Photo dated: 6-17-32." Text written on picture reads: "Raising track in yard parallel to crane."  The Steamtown Railroad Museum, Scranton, PA.

“Track workers were required to be strong, tireless, and be able to tamp a tie or pound a spike squarely. Photo dated: 6-17-32.” Text written on picture reads: “Raising track in yard parallel to crane.” The Steamtown Railroad Museum, Scranton, PA.

 

Steamtown National Historic Site. The value of a human life was quite low in the early days of steam trains, as depicted in this poster on display.

Steamtown National Historic Site. The value of a human life was quite low in the early days of steam trains, as depicted in this poster on display.

 

The Steamtown Museum is full of fascinating history showing not only the technological journey of the American railroads, but also the social issues of the time, as demonstrated in this powerful 1893 cartoon.

The Steamtown Museum is full of fascinating history showing not only the technological journey of the American railroads, but also the social issues of the time, as demonstrated in this powerful 1893 cartoon.

 

The Scranton Train Museum has comprehensive exhibits about the history and technology of steam railroads in the United States and vintage trains on display.

The Scranton Train Museum has comprehensive exhibits about the history and technology of steam railroads in the United States and vintage trains on display.

 

Model steam trains on a really cool detailed model railway of the original DL&W Scranton yard and roundhouse station inside the Steamtown Historic Site.

Model steam trains on a really cool detailed model railway of the original DL&W Scranton yard and roundhouse station inside the Steamtown Historic Site.

 

Steamtown – American History Museum

An extract inside the Steamtown museum struck a chord with me, written by Erick Sonnichsen from ‘I Was Workin’ On The Railroad,’ American Mercury, June 1930. “We worked with picks, raising the tracks and tamping stones beneath the ties. It was back-breaking work. After twenty minutes I had to stand up to stretch… My back was stiff. Blisters were on my hands. Worst of all was the hunger gnawing at my stomach, which seemed to have shrunk to nothing.” This snippet really painted a picture.

We walked through the complex and sat inside trains and carriages feeling a sense of the travel conditions in the days of the heritage railway, be it by luxurious business class or through hitching a free ride amongst storage boxes in a freight car.

Inside the Scranton Train museum in Pennsylvania. Darrin making himself comfortable inside one of the freight cars; travelling hobo style. This is one has been preserved as a display piece.

Inside the Scranton Train museum in Pennsylvania. Darrin making himself comfortable inside one of the freight cars; travelling hobo style. This is one has been preserved as a display piece.

 

Those who travelled onboard Erie No.3 business class car also dined in style. Circa 1930s. Steamtown, Scranton.

Those who travelled onboard Erie No.3 business class car also dined in style. Circa 1930s.
Steamtown, Scranton.

 

Lounging in one of the staterooms onboard Erie No.3 business class car built in 1929. Steamtown, Scranton.

Lounging in one of the staterooms onboard Erie No.3 business class car built in 1929.
Steamtown, Scranton.

 

Luggage set for journey onboard business class Erie No.3 car built in 1929 by the Pullman Company. It has two staterooms, two bedrooms, galley, dining room, crew quarters and observation room. It accommodated nine passengers and two crew members. Steamtown, Scranton.

Luggage set for journey onboard business class Erie No.3 car built in 1929 by the Pullman Company. It has two staterooms, two bedrooms, galley, dining room, crew quarters and observation room. It accommodated nine passengers and two crew members.
Steamtown, Scranton.

 

Steam Train Journeys – Hobos & Graffiti

The Scranton Train Museum has umpteen stories. I particularly liked those of the travelling hobos who communicated through graffiti messages left on fences or walls. They informed each other of useful titbits like, a kind lady lives here, or bible talk will get you a free meal there or simply, beware of dog.

It’s the kind of travel stories that ‘Freight Train Eddie‘ a busker we met in Nashville could probably tell.

Hoboes left these graffiti messages on fences and walls for others passing through an area. Can you guess what each of these graffiti messages meant? Answers on the next photo. Steamtown museum, Scranton.

Hoboes left these graffiti messages on fences and walls for others passing through an area. Can you guess what each of these graffiti messages meant? Answers on the next photo.
Steamtown museum, Scranton.

 

How many did you guess right? All useful information left for fellow hoboes passing through an area. Steamtown museum, Scranton.

How many did you guess right? All useful information left for fellow hoboes passing through an area.
Steamtown museum, Scranton.

 

Louisville & Nashville No.1100 RPO (Railway Post Office) car, built 1914, now a museum exhibit in Steamtown, Scranton, Pennsylvania. Postal clerks, experts in the geography of the country, travelled in crews aboard these cars to sort and pouch mail. A video played inside this display carriage comes courtesy of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

Louisville & Nashville No.1100 RPO (Railway Post Office) car, built 1914, now a museum exhibit in Steamtown, Scranton, Pennsylvania. Postal clerks, experts in the geography of the country, travelled in crews aboard these cars to sort and pouch mail. A video played inside this display carriage comes courtesy of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

 

Poignant stories also came from the Railroad Post Office mail clerks. From 1864 to 1977 mail was sorted by hand on trains for distribution to local post offices up and down the country. Seated inside those mail carts we watched videos of postal workers’ speaking nostalgically of the skills required, including geographical knowledge and the ability to decipher handwriting. Most evident was the camaraderie amongst the postal teams.

The Scranton Train Museum – Big Toys For Boys

Stiff competition from motor vehicles and airplanes pretty much marked the end of the line for train travel in the USA. People preferred other modes of transport.

The Steamtown National Historic Site is a 40 acres, and opened in 1986 on the site of the former Scranton yard of Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. It’s main collection of steam locomotives and cars were originally the private collection of millionaire, F Nelson Blount, who died in 1967.  It also serves as a museum of the American railroad.

: Illinois Central No. 790. Originally built in November 1903 for the Chicago Union Transfer Railway Co and is the only surviving locomotive of the company. Rebuilt and modernised in 1918 as a superheated heavy freight locomotive. Sold to Nelson Blount in 1966. Now proudly on display at the Scranton Train Museum in Pennsylvania.

: Illinois Central No. 790. Originally built in November 1903 for the Chicago Union Transfer Railway Co and is the only surviving locomotive of the company. Rebuilt and modernised in 1918 as a superheated heavy freight locomotive. Sold to Nelson Blount in 1966. Now proudly on display at the Scranton Train Museum in Pennsylvania.

 

How a steam engine works. Inside the Steamtown Railway museum, Pennsylvania, a cut-out section of a steam engine demonstrates the engineering inside of a working machine.

How a steam engine works. Inside the Steamtown Railway museum, Pennsylvania, a cut-out section of a steam engine demonstrates the engineering inside of a working machine.

 

Reading No. 902 diesel train built June 1950 to replace the passenger steam locomotives operated by the Reading company. It was retired in 1981 and in 1995 received a complete restoration. No. 902 has been on display in Steamtown, Scranton, since 2010 and is now out of service.

Reading No. 902 diesel train built June 1950 to replace the passenger steam locomotives operated by the Reading company. It was retired in 1981 and in 1995 received a complete restoration. No. 902 has been on display in Steamtown, Scranton, since 2010 and is now out of service.

 

For train enthusiasts, kids and adults alike, like the friend we have whose loft holds a massive train set, Steamtown would make a fascinating visit. The Scranton Train museum captures all aspects of the steam era from the human interest element to the technology side. Although, dare I say it, boys might enjoy this more than girls…Darrin certainly did.

Admission costs $7 for adults and under 16’s get in for free. Address: Steamtown National Historic Site, 150 South Washington Ave., Scranton, PA.

Steamtown National Historic Site. A wide angled view of the locomotive turntable from inside the roundhouse building that has been reconstructed from remnants of a 1932 structure.

Steamtown National Historic Site. A wide angled view of the locomotive turntable from inside the roundhouse building that has been reconstructed from remnants of a 1932 structure.

By |2018-09-28T03:07:43+00:00June 24th, 2016|Culture, Tourist Attraction, USA|2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. John Lockwood November 11, 2018 at 2:10 am - Reply

    I am wondering if you folks might have a copy of a recording made by Robert Hathaway for the Vermont Central railroad of a live steam engine working pulling a train? He did the recording from inside the cab.

    • WTSDN November 11, 2018 at 9:30 am - Reply

      Thanks for getting in touch John. Sorry but we don’t have that recording.
      Can only suggest contacting Steamtown, possibly?

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