Steam into History Inc., a group made up of York County, Pa., investors and railroad enthusiasts, is seeking to operate an excursion line on the old Northern Central Railway, now part of the York County Heritage Rail Trail. They are looking to contract with Ilinois-based David Kloke to build an 1863-era 4-4-0 model steam engine similar to this one. Also of interest: Abe Lincoln stopped at Hanover station:”We want to preserve history … so it doesn’t disappear’ and York newspaper about Gettysburg Address: ‘Mr. Lincoln made a joke or two …’ and Abandoned Codorus railroad not just any abandoned railroad.
Rail enthusiasts in Muddy Creek Forks are operating excursion rides. Railroad backers at the defunct Stewartstown Railroad want to reopen such service.
Now comes a group, Steam into History Inc., that has asked York County’s government for clearance to operate an excursion train between New Freedom and Hanover Junction on the old Northern Central Railway.
It will not just offer a train ride, but an oil-burning, steam-powered train ride.
And the excursion would be themed around a topic not common in the central part of York County – the Civil War… .
The group wants to recreate part of Abraham Lincoln’s route to and from Gettysburg to deliver his famous speech in 1863. Lincoln traveled that north/south route, paused in Hanover Junction and then steamed west/east on the Hanover Branch Railroad.
Lincoln’s funeral train also followed that route in 1865, and a train purportedly carrying the president moved along the line in 1861. Actually, his family traveled the route, while Abe rolled to Washington, D.C., via a different route at an unscheduled time because of a suspected threat in Baltimore.
Steam into History is rolling against an uphill grade.
Public tourism initiatives in York County are not accounting for the Civil War. Many in the York area have long been ambivalent about observing local Civil War ties because York’s fathers surrendered to a Confederate division moving to the Susquehanna River in late-June 1863. And rail excursions sometimes have trouble sustaining themselves. The East Broad Top Railroad in Huntingdon County is one example of that, and it has original steam-powered locomotives as assets.
But the investors see the Abe Lincoln link as marketable. They recognize York County’s many contributions to the Civil War – a military hospital, the Battle of Hanover, the Battle of Wrightsville and the Northern Central’s role in transporting tens of thousands of soldiers to battlefields in the south, including many of York County’s native sons.
As far as excursions go, perhaps Steam into History will have to couple with Muddy Creek Forks and support the Stewartstown Railroad efforts to create a critical mass of rail experiences. Not many locales would offer three excursion services within such proximity. In this case, three is not a crowd.
As for Steam into History’s particular proposal, the approving bodies should heed the trainman’s call: “All aboard!”
For numerous links to Abraham Lincoln’s posts about visits to York County, click here.