The Strasburg Rail Road is said to be the oldest continuously operating railroad in North America, in existence since 1832. It’s a short line that connects to what became the Pennsylvania Railroad in Paradise, Pennsylvania. The line ran for well over a century, but by the 1950s it was showing its age. Declining revenues and deteriorating trackage and rolling stock were rendering operations ever more marginal, and it seemed destined to spiral down into bankruptcy and abandonment like so many U.S. railroads.
A group bought the railroad in the late 1950s, however, and largely repurposed it as a tourist attraction and heritage line. It began running steam locomotives for excursions in the early 1960s. The Strasburg Rail Road now runs fully restored steam locomotives, as well as restored vintage wooden passenger cars. It’s currently said to be the busiest excursion railroad in the U.S. To this day, however, the Strasburg Rail Road makes a point of still having active freight operations.
Unsurprisingly, the maintenance and repair of steam engines is a nearly lost art in North America, which makes it a challenge for legacy railroads to use them to maintain their operations. The Strasburg Rail Road maintains an extensive set of steam locomotive shops, not just for their operations but as a restoration and repair service for steam locomotives in general.
Know Before You Go
The Strasburg Rail Road is on Gap (Strasburg) Road (State Route 741) on the north side just east of Strasburg. If coming from the east, you will first pass the parking lot for the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania on the south (left).
Do NOT park there but continue another 0.2 mile to a driveway on the north (right). Turn in there. You will immediately cross the railroad tracks and enter a large set of parking lots alongside the tracks on the north, where there is ample free parking.
If coming from the west, the driveway entrance is just past Bishop Road, which comes in on the right.
Check the website for excursion times and prices.
Several other railroad-related attractions in the immediate vicinity are also worth attention. The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania has been mentioned, right across the street on the south. The Choo Choo Barn and the National Toy Train Museum are both not far away as well.
The area lies at the edge of the Amish country and horse-drawn vehicles will be encountered on the public roads. Take care accordingly.