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Pennsylvania Railroad Celebrates 175th Anniversary

  • Retno Pinasti
  • Rafael Setyo

A visit to Strasburg, Pennsylvania is a trip to the past, a time when steam powered the railroads and horse-drawn implements were used to farm the land. Strasburg is located in the heart of Lancaster County's picturesque Amish country and its railroad has been connecting the community to the national rail system for more than a century and a half. For producers Retno Pinasti and Rafael Setyo, VOA's Jim Bertel takes us for a nostalgic ride on the Strasburg Rail Road.

This is America's oldest short-line railroad.

The Strasburg Rail Road takes tourists on a 45-minute journey through countryside that has barely changed for more than 100 years.

Wayne is a "red cap," who meets and greets passengers. "This goes back to 1832," he says. "It is one of the oldest train right-of-ways [strip of land for transportation] in the world, in fact. And these cars are vintage railcars."

Railcars that tell a tale of America's history.

President Abraham Lincoln inaugurated the railroad's passenger service in 1861, when he rode the train to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was months before the start of the U.S. Civil War.

At the turn of the last century, competition from other American rail services forced the Strasburg to stop running regular passenger trains. And after World War Two, improved highways took even more business away from the railroad.

But the Strasburg reopened as a tourist railroad in 1959. Today, it has been restored to its former glory as a coal-burning steam railroad.

"It takes a lot of man hours to keep those engines running," says Wayne.

Those engines have been running for 175 years now, taking passengers on a journey back to the golden age of the American railroad.

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