Steamtown National Historic Site


Background

Located in the heart of anthracite coal country lies the Steamtown National Historic Site, a division of the National Park Service (NPS), and a historic landmark.Located in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Steamtown is located on the site of the former Delaware Lackawanna & Western (DL&W) Scranton rail yard, and serves as a working rail yard for the Delaware Lackawanna Railroad. The site is located on 62.48 acres of land and is home to nearly thirty historic locomotives. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places, and attracts thousands of tourist and rail enthusiasts annually.

Steamtown can trace its roots to Vermont, as its very first location was founded by avid rail enthusiast and millionaire F. Nelson Blount, who amassed his fortune in the seafood industry. Blount had a very large collection of historic steam locomotive collection located in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Blount, attempting to give the collection to the state of New Hampshire, ultimately failed, leading him to create the”Steamtown Foundation for the Preservation of Steam and Railroad Americana”.

Steamtown utilized the Green Mountain Railroad’s right-of-way, of which, was owned by Blount. Steamtown’s excursions over this trackage passed through scenic valleys and streams, much to the delight of the passengers. However, Steamtown received much lower ridership than anticipated, and became bankrupt after only a few years in operation.

Upon Blount’s death in 1967, the Steamtown excursion services were met with much turmoil, as the Green Mountain Railroad and Steamtown could not reach an agreement as to which entity would maintain the trackage. Additionally, Vermont’s strict pollution regulations strictly prohibited the steam locomotive excursions, however, these were made possible through a waiver.

Recognizing the historical importance of Steamtown and its collection, the organization began searching for a new home. Scranton was chosen due to its importance to the railroad industry and its contribution towards the industrial revolution, being located in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania.

This was seen as a time of economic expansion in Scranton, as Steamtown’s arrival sparked much interest in the city, and set the foundation for an economic boom. Upon arrival, Steamtown offered a variety of excursions and exhibits, and it was estimated that well over 200,000 tourists would visit annually. However, the site only attracted around 60,000 visitors, and went bankrupt a couple years later, as they were in debt over $2 million.

Recognizing the importance of the site, the organization began to seek alternatives, such as nationalization. This plan came to fruition when Joseph M. McDade, a native of Scranton, began to take interest in the collection, and approved a $8 million budget for the site. By 1995, the site was incorporated into the National Park Service, which ultimately carried the cost of well over $60 million.

The nationalization of the site was met with much backlash, as many critics stated that the site was not worthy of historical recognition, and its incorporation of the site into the National Park Service was a mistake. However, many advocates of the site tirelessly praised the historical significance of Steamtown, as they argued that other events in history such as the Civil War and western expansion received more historical recognition than the industrial revolution, and emphasizing the impac that rail travel had on the country’s history.  Advocates also stated that the collection of historical railroad artifacts was one-of-a-kind, and could not be duplicated.

Also of importance was the historical significance of the collection to the city of Scranton. Scranton was established for its iron ore industry and its ability to produce iron railroad tracks, along with its contribution to the coal mining industry, of which, railroads played a significant role. According to John A. Latschar, who represented the National Park Service stated that

“The funds which have been appropriated for development at Steamtown have been in addition to funds appropriated for other parks, If those funds had not been provided for Steamtown, they would not have existed for use at any other parks.” (New York Times)

Latschar was a devout advocate for Steamtown, and saw this as an opportunity to display an important part of American history.

Although the site was met with much skepticism, Steamtown National Historic Site opened to the public in 1995, and continues to be a critical asset where tourists can view the trains that helped industrialize the nation.

Events

Steamtown hosts a variety of events including tours, train rides, and steam locomotive tutorials, that highlight how railroads operated in the age of the steam locomotive.

There are various tours throughout the 40 acre facility, which demonstrate Steamtown’s history, and how the anthracite railroads operated. Some of the tours include visiting the roundhouse area, as well as locomotive shop tours that include a guide teaching visitors about the shop and how the locomotives are maintained.

The museum hosts a “Rangers Choice Tour” segment which highlights a different set of tours monthly. The theme of these tours is chosen by either a park ranger or volunteer and could include any topic from steam locomotives to the difficulties of operating a steam locomotive in the winter time.

The museum also provides theater presentations which includes daily showings of the film “Steel and Steam”, which is shown in high-definition and with surround sound which allows you to be immersed in the experience.

The “Changing Exhibits Gallery” provides exhibits that demonstrate the importance steam locomotives have on the history and growth of the United States, and how its many innovations still benefit us today.

Motive Power Collection

At Steamtown, there are over twenty-five historic locomotives on display. These are pieces of living history and encompass all the aspects of what life was about during their tenure on the rails. The equipment ranges to some of the earliest steam locomotives and the diesel locomotives that ushered in a new era in railroading.

Brooks-Scanlon Corporation # 1

Built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1914, this locomotive is currently on static display at Steamtown. These types of locomotives, known as “Prairie” types were constructed to work on the flat lands such as Kansas and other portions of the Midwestern United States. This locomotive saw active service in Florida hauling lumber and other materials for Carpenter-O’Brien Lumber Company.

Meadow River Lumber Company # 1

Built by Lima Locomotive Works in 1910, this locomotive is currently on static display, as it was damaged when the roundhouse collapsed at Steamtown in 1983, when the site was located in Vermont. This is a shay type locomotive and served on the Sewell Valley Railroad in West Virginia, which transported lumber to and from the Meadow River Lumber Company, which at one time was the largest manufacturer of hardwood worldwide.

Bullard Company # 2

Built by H.K. Porter in 1937, this 0-4-0T locomotive is currently on static display and is the smallest locomotive in the collection, it has been cosmetically restored to its former glory, however is inoperable. This locomotive served as a switcher in Connecticut, and is one of the smallest locomotives of its kind, with a tractive effort of just 6,180 lbf.

E.J. Lavino and Company # 3

Built by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) in 1927, this locomotive is currently on static display. This locomotive served most of its operational life for E.J. Levino steel company, which was located in Sheridan, Pennsylvania. The unit joined the Steamtown fleet in 1966, when it was purchased for their previosu site in Vermont.

Shannon Vaughn photo

Berlin Mills Railway # 7

Built by Vulcan Iron Works in 1911, this locomotive in currently on static display. This locomotive served on a number of different railroads including the Berlin Mills Railway, which operated the unit until 1944. It was then sold to Groveton Paper Company in New Hampshire. The unit then begin a new life on the Woodsville, Blackmount and Haverhill Steam Railroad, who leased the unit from Groveton Paper Company.

Public Domain

Spang, Chalfont & Co. # 8

Built in 1923 by Baldwin Locomotive Works, this unit is currently on display inside the museum. This is a unique piece of stock, as the internals of the locomotive are on display to teach visitors how a steam locomotive operates, and how it is maintained.

Rahway Valley Railroad # 15

Built in 1916 by Baldwin Locomotive Works, this locomotive is currently on display at the site. Originally order for the Oneida and Western Railroad, this unit was later sold to the Rahway Valley Railroad before being replaced in 1953, by one of the new GE 70-ton switcher locomotives, which was seen as more versatile and easier to maintain.

Public Domain

Baldwin Locomotive Works #26

Built in 1929, this 0-6-0 locomotive is currently operational at Steamtown and can be seen occasionally hauling excursion trains. This locomotive began its life working at the Baldwin facility in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, and was later sold to the Jackson Iron and Steel Company, located in Ohio, where it was in service until the 1970s. This locomotive narrowly escaped the scrappers torch and was brought to Steamtown in 1986.

Frank Dutton photo

New Haven Trap Rock Company #43

Built in 1919 by Vulcan Iron Works, this 0-4-0T locomotive is currently on static display. This locomotive is similar to the E.J. Lavino and Co. # 3, and is classified as a tank engine.

Nickel Plate Road # 44

Built by Brooks Locomotive Works ( a subsidiary of ALCO) in 1905, this 4-6-0 locomotive is currently on static display. This unit is known to be the oldest surviving locomotive that served on the Nickel Plate Road. These units had a relatively short life, being withdrawn during the twenties and thirties.

Hugh IIewelyn photo

Canadian National # 47

Built by Montreal Locomotive Works in 1914 (MLW), this locomotive is currently on static display at the site. Originally delivered to the Grand Trunk Railway, and later incorporated into Canadian National in 1923. This unit spent most of its operational life in commuter train service until its retirement in 1959.

James Heinrich photo

Wabash SW8 # 132

Built by Electro-Motive Division (EMD) in 1953, this unit is currently painted as Lackawanna No. 500. The SW8 was mainly used in switching services around yards and terminals, and was a versatile and reliable locomotive. The U.S. Army owned several of these units, later being replaced by Geeps. The units were equipped with EMD 567B prime movers that produced 800 horsepower.

Norwood & St. Lawrence Railroad # 210

Built in 1923 by ALCO, this 2-6-0 Mogul type locomotive currently resides at Steamtown on static display. The “Mogul” type locomotive was widely used in North America and Europe, however, there are also examples utilized in Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Asia. Narrow gauge version of the Mogul were built to be utilized on South Africa’s “Cape Gauge” which is 3 ft 6 in in width.

Hugh IIewelyn photo

Nickel Plate Road #514

Built by the Electro-Motive Division (EMD) in 1958, this GP9 locomotive saw years of versatile and reliable service on the Nickel Plate Road (NKP). The EMD GP9 is known as one of the most successful diesel-electric locomotives even produced, with a staggering 4,112 rolling out of the La Grange, Illinois and London, Ontario plants. Equipped with an EMD 567C prime mover producing 1,750 horsepower, this versatile locomotive could be used anywhere on the railroad’s system.

O484 photo

Maine Central Railroad # 519

Built in 1913 by ALCO, this 2-8-0 “Consolidation” type locomotive is currently on static display. Designed by the Pennsylvania Railroad, these locomotives were widely popular throughout the world, which were mainly used for freight service. This type of locomotive was used in North American and Europe, as well as Australia, Africa and Asia.

Delaware Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) # 565

Built by ALCO in 1908, this 2-6-0 Mogul type locomotive presently sits on static display. Although Steamtown is situated on the former DL&W Scranton yard, this is the only DL&W steam locomotive in the collection.

Nickel Plate Road # 759

Built by Lima in 1944, this S-2 Class 2-8-4 “Berkshire” type locomotive is currently on static display. After serving on the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (Nickel Plate Road) for fifteen years as a freight locomotive, the 759 was retired in 1959. In 1965, the locomotive was incorporated into Steamtown pulling various excursion services in their previous location in Vermont.

Kether83 photo

Illinois Central Railroad # 790

Built by ALCO in 1903, this 2-8-0 “Consolidation Type locomotive is the oldest in the Steamtown collection, and is currently on static display. Like many Consolidation type locomotives, this locomotive served as a reliable freight hauler. It was rebuilt and modernized in 1918, receiving a super heater and other improvements. This is the only surviving Illinois Central Consolidation type locomotive.

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad # 1901

Built by Electro-Motive Division in 1939, this SW-1 locomotive is currently being overhauled at the Steamtown facilities. Powered by a 567 prime mover, this locomotive produces 600 horsepower, and is ideal for switching and terminal duties. Similar to many EMD switchers during this time, this unit uses Association of American Railroads (AAR) Type A switcher trucks.

Lowville and Beaver River Railroad # 1923

Built by ALCO in 1920, this 2-8-0 “Consolidation” type locomotive is currently on static display. Interestingly, this locomotive was built for a Cuban railway, however, it was not delivered, and instead found work in the United States. This locomotive spent most of its life hauling freight until eventually being purchased by Steamtown.

Reading Company # 2124

Built in house by Reading in 1947, the Reading “T1” was rebuilt from I-10sa class 2-8-0 # 2044. These 4-8-4 “Northern” type locomotives were used hauling unit trains such as coal and other types of revenue freight service. These locomotives saw a short life, as they were promptly retired in 1956, although came out of retirement to haul the “Iron House Rambler” which was a rail fan trip sponsored by the Reading.

Eddie Maloney photo

Canadian Pacific Railway # 2317

Built in 1923 by Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW), this unit is currently on static display. This 4-6-2 locomotive is a member of the G-3 class of Canadian Pacific, and was utilized for revenue passenger service. Steamtown purchased the locomotive in 1965, which began hauling excursion service, however, the locomotive has been on static display since 2010, awaiting restoration.

Courtesy of National Park Service

Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railroad # 2505

Built in 1930 by Pullman Company, this Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) spent much of its time whisking commuters to and from their destinations. This is unique to Steamtown, as this is the only piece of electric equipment on the premises. This EMU is currently on static display at the site.

Canadian National # 3254

Built in 1917 by the Canadian Locomotive Company, this 2-8-2 “Mikado” type locomotive currently sits on static display. This unit operated excursion services for Steamtown until 2012, when it was pulled from service for maintenance reasons. With its significant pulling power, this locomotive spent most of its life hauling heavy freight trains in the Manitoba region in Canada.

Ken Ganz photo
NPS collection

Canadian National #3377

Built in 1919 by the Canadian Locomotive Company, this unit is on static display on the site grounds. This is the sister unit of 3254, and used as a parts source to keep 3254 running until 2012. Much like its sister, this unit spent most of its operational life hauling freight for Canadian National.

Boston and Maine #3713

Built by Lima Locomotive Works in 1934, this P-4a class “heavy 4-6-2 Pacific Type locomotive received the name “Constitution” and is currently in the process of being overhauled at Steamtown, and will haul excursion services upon completion. This unit was used primarily in passenger service.

Union Pacific # 4012

Built by ALCO in 1941, the Union Pacific “Big Boy” is the largest locomotive in the Steamtown collection. This 4-8-8-4 locomotive is one of the largest steam locomotives in the world. Currently, this locomotive sits on static display as the only articulated locomotive in the collection.

Geoffrey Fandl photo

Grand Trunk Western # 6039

Built by Baldwin in 1925, this locomotive is currently on static display.

Public Service Electric and Gas Co. # 6816

Built in 1923 by H.K. Porter, this locomotive is the sole example of a fireless locomotive in the collection. This unit is currently on static display.

If you are a rail enthusiast or interested in the rich industrialized history of the United States, Steamtown is a location that is sure to excite!

Address

Lackawanna Ave, Scranton, PA 

Phone

570-340-5200

Hours

Sunday- Saturday: 9:00 AM – 5:00PM

Ticket Prices and Fees are no longer charged effective October 1, 2017.

 

 

Josef

Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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