Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
|Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania|
Entrance to the museum
The museum is located on the east side of Strasburg along Pennsylvania Route 741. It is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission with the active support of the "Friends of the Railroad Museum."
The museum has more than 100 historic locomotives and railroad cars that chronicle American railroad history. An interactive display allows visitors to "take the throttle" on a simulated run in a real freight locomotive, climb aboard a caboose, inspect a 62-ton locomotive from underneath, view restoration activities via closed-circuit television, enjoy interactive educational programs, and more.
The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania was created to provide a historical account of railroading in Pennsylvania by preserving rolling stock, artifacts, and archives of railroads and trolley companies of the Commonwealth.
Building and grounds
The initial display building opened in 1975, featuring an operating turntable from the Reading Company. In June 1995, a trainshed-like addition opened, doubling the indoor display capacity. A newly designed entrance and gift shop were opened in June of 2007. Some larger or more modern engines and cars are displayed outdoors, but a $5 million roundhouse is planned.
Rolling stock collection
The nucleus of the collection of more than a hundred locomotives and cars comes from the historical collection of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), steam locomotives in particular. The famous "Lindbergh Engine", #460, is on display, as is PRR's streamlined 1943 GG1 electric locomotive #4935. The museum is endeavoring to diversify its collection. More modern examples of motive power and equipment from a variety or railroads have been obtained, including rolling stock from the Reading Company, Lehigh Valley, Amtrak, and Conrail. This additional equipment has come through private and public donations, in addition to limited purchases.
Although PRR steam engines #1223, #7002, and the John Bull replica have operated since the establishment of the museum, there have been desires to see more engines returned to operating condition. However, the state has chosen to leave the engines as static displays citing the preservation of historical integrity. Given the limited trackage on site, the current mainline steam excursion climate, and being able to see operating steam across the street at the Strasburg Rail Road, this stance is not likely to change.
This collection of Pennsylvania Railroad steam locomotives is the most representative of any railroad in the East, if not the whole country. Key examples, however, have been lost, such as the PRR T1 and the PRR J1. This was due to the bias of the PRR management at the time, who believed that only successful locomotives be preserved. While only several out of hundreds of types of engines were saved, historians and patrons are fortunate that the Pennsylvania Railroad did indeed care enough to save these historic locomotives.
Over time, the PRR had saved examples of their main classes of steam motive power, either for display or posterity. Unfortunately, they only saved examples of engines considered to be successful, thus no examples of classes Q, S, and T steam locomotives were saved. Class J locomotives, although successful, were built to a Chesapeake and Ohio Railway design and were thus not considered representative of a PRR locomotive. Consequently, none of the 125 J1 or J1a locomotives were preserved either. Engines had been quietly stored in the engine facility at Northumberland, Pennsylvania. A few engines there were officially cosmetically restored, while thoughtful employees took it upon themselves to clean up and paint other engines (as documented in the book Pennsylvania Railroad Hudson to Horseshoe).
With the state looking to establish a railroad museum and PRR successor Penn Central Railroad looking to rid itself of the collection in the late 1960s (and also to be cleared of back taxes), the engines were moved piecemeal to the new museum in Strasburg. During the initial site selection period for the planned museum, there was much debate of various options, including Northumberland and Altoona. Ironically, a recreated roundhouse has been tentatively planned for the roundhouse area to provide much needed cover for rolling stock.
PRR K4 engine #3750 was once renumbered to represent class pioneer PRR #1737. The PRR wished to display #1737 but since the original engine was in deplorable condition, engine #3750 was renumbered #1737. It has since regained its original number. This was also done in the case of PRR #7002, which is actually engine #8063. Unlike #3750, it has not been restored to its original number.
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