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6.30.2019

Exploring Scranton: Steamtown, Electric City Trolley Museum, & More



For starters, Scranton is a nice place, with so many historical places. Above is one of the most famous views of the city, the famous "Scranton, the Electric City" sign. The nickname comes from the city's claim to introducing electric lights in 1880, and then having the first fully electric trolley/streetcar system, created way back in 1886. The city's history with trolleys is well documented at the Electric City Trolley Museum

I also cannot help but dork out when it comes to seeing the things that they talk about in one of our favorite shows, The Office. This article will largely focus upon the fantastic old Lackawanna Station (Now the Scranton Radisson), Steamtown National Historic Site, and the Electric City Trolley Museum.
The former Lackawanna Train Station is a reminder of the old industrial might of Scranton. This neo-classical train station dates back to 1908 and was once the city's main link for passengers east to New York City, and west to points across New York State, including Buffalo, Ithaca, and Syracuse. It was a key link to New York City for industrial needs, including agricultural goods, which, along with the other major railroads, significantly increased the health and well being of the citizens in an NYC that was overcrowded city that was bursting at the seams. 

The railroad also provided a key link in carrying immigrants from Ellis Island, directly to heavy and dangerous industrial jobs. My family of Eastern European immigrants ended up settling in Northeastern PA and sent directly down into the coal mines. 

The Scranton station saw its last passenger train in 1970, and it was left abandoned. Through the 70s and early 80s, Scranton grasped for a new footing in the midst of heavy deindustrialization. Local leaders saw a chance with this elegant building to spur economic growth in the city and region and a restoration process that culminated in 1983 with a new events center, hotel, and community gathering point that was envisioned as the start of a restoration for Downtown Scranton. Steamtown National Historic Site was then opened on the former flagship rail yard for the Lackawanna Railroad.
In short, Steamtown National Historic Site is a stunning place to check out historic railroad equipment. Many classic locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, and more are spread out across the old main railyard and locomotive shops for the Lackawanna Railroad. 
Upon entrance to the site, you are immediately greeted with a view of two beautiful Reading Railroad locomotives. Here is Reading 2124, which is a classic Baldwin steam locomotive. Baldwin was once the industry leader in locomotives and it was located in Philadelphia and Eddystone, PA. Reading 903 is located immediately behind 2124 and was part of a diesel modernization initiative by the Reading Railroad in 1950. When the railroad went under, it was used by Philadelphia's SEPTA regional rail system, but would go out of service in 1981.
Union Pacific's 4012 is one of the largest steam locomotives that has ever been built. 


Our tickets are now in hand for our upcoming scenic rail journey!

The old Lackawanna Railroad Roundhouse serves as a working museum space for the historic site. It is home a number of priceless locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, and more. 
The turntable is operative and is quite impressive to see while they are moving the rolling stock around.
It is so neat being able to check out these old steam locomotives and to really get an idea of how operations work on them.
They have dozens of classic locomotives from a diverse array of railroads from around the country.

Inside the roundhouse, many locomotives are kept indoors for preservation and restoration. A large amount of restoration also occurs in the adjacent locomotive shops.
Some of the locomotives are largely restored, while others have varying levels of restoration.
They have a good assortment of the regional railroads, including this passenger car from the Lehigh Valley Railroad, and other treasures from the Reading, Lackawanna and Central Railroad of New Jersey.
Now we head out into the yard for a rail excursion. The yard is home to lots of old rolling stock that is awaiting restoration. 

Here comes the train! This train consisted of an old Baldwin Locomotive Works Locomotive that was actually used as a switcher engine in the rail yards of its manufacturer. It even has a paint scheme that reflects its use for Baldwin. The passenger cars were old interurban cars that served the New York City/North Jersey market on the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The Central Railroad of New Jersey had lines that went into Scranton, and its stunning rail station sits in abandonment across the street from Steamtown. Another one of their stunning rail stations survives as a centerpiece structure in Jim Thorpe. Steamtown has lots of units with CNJ heritage.
There is nothing quite like seeing a steam train pull in to pick up riders. The sights, sounds, and smells are such a unique experience.
Getting ready to back into the wye to pick up riders.
Note the steam heat unit from the locomotive that is heating the passenger cars. There is not much of a need for that in the summer, but as the weather cools down, that is a wonderful aspect of the ride.
Brit in the midst of boarding.
An antique suitcase on the luggage rack.

Heading out of the yard.
A look at some of the relics in the rail yard.
It is clear that this area was a major operational point for the old Lackawanna Railroad. Additionally, a number of old industrial buildings remain in this area, showing the prosperity that the railroad once brought to the region.
Heading into Nay Aug Gorge. This is one of the finest natural resources that Scranton has been blessed with. The gorge is largely covered by Nay Aug Park, a local park that keeps this treasure open to the public to enjoy. The gorge is also home to several waterfalls. The shorter excursion trains run through the rail yard only, or through the railyard and up to the University of Scranton, or up through Nay Aug Gorge to the old tunnel, and then back to the Steamtown Complex. The cost of these rides is reasonable at only $5.00 a rider. Further excursions, such as out to Moscow, PA, Nicholson Viaduct, and the Delaware Water Gap. These longer excursions are lots of fun. Steamtown is one of the few places that you can get regular steam train rides along an old main railroad line. The rides are scenic and lots of fun.
Nay Aug Gorge
Nay Aug Tunnel.
The Baldwin Locomotive Works Locomotive 26 serving riders at the beautiful Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton PA. It originally served as a switcher locomotive at the former plant of its manufacturer in Eddystone, PA, near Philadelphia. It then served the Jackson Iron and Steel Company in Jackson, Ohio. It was saved within minutes of being scrapped and it is now a short-run locomotive at Steamtown.

A view of the train moving around the yard.
More views of this beautiful locomotive

Here is a similar unit to Baldwin 26 that is cut apart at different points to illustrate how steam locomotives work. This is a neat interpretive display that gives you a unique insight.

Note how the locomotive has been deconstructed for demonstration purposes.

A glimpse into the railroad life in the days of the Lackawanna Railroad.
A scaled down replica of the stunning Tunkhannock Viaduct/Nicholson Bridge. For more information on visiting this nearby stunning bridge and for more history about it, check out this article.
A view of a portion of the rail yard. Note the modern freight train heading through on the adjacent active rail line.

Another view of the roundhouse
And a view of the Union Pacific Big Boy locomotive.
One last view from Steamtown. Note the modern freight train in the background.
Now we head over to the Electric City Trolley Museum. This is located on the other side of the parking lot from Steamtown, though it is not a part of the National Historic Site and requires separate admission. The museum has a fine collection of old trolleys, including this old SEPTA unit.
A view of the buildings. They really did a great job setting up this museum.

The train pulling back in to the yard after another excursion.
A view of the vacant Central Railroad of New Jersey Train Station, across the way from the Steamtown Complex

Overall, we highly recommend exploring Scranton. It has a lot to offer to visitors in regards to history, scenery, quirkiness, and more.

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