Located in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania commemorates the history of railroading in Pennsylvania, showcasing more than 100 classic locomotives, railroad cars, and other railroad industry memorabilia. Many of the collections showcased at the Railroad Museum of PA date back to collections amassed by the Pennsylvania Railroad for the 1939 World’s Fair, which were stored in a roundhouse facility in Northumberland, Pennsylvania following the event.
In 1963, the Pennsylvania state legislature chartered the creation of a railroad museum to display the collection, selecting a site for the museum two years later in Strasburg, a city in Lancaster County. The PRR collection was moved to the Strasburg site throughout the late 1960s, and additional collections were acquired piecemeal over the following years. Throughout the early 1970s, a Reading Company turntable, yard tracks, and museum building were constructed at the Strasburg site. When the museum opened to the public in 1975, it was the first museum in America specifically dedicated to the history of the railroad industry. In 1983, the Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania nonprofit organization was created to support the museum and its restoration efforts and programming, and throughout the late 20th century, the museum was expanded several times to accommodate its growing collections.
Permanent Exhibits and Collections
Today, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is owned by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, operated in conjunction with the Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. The museum encompasses 18 acres, including 100,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space, and showcases more than 100 historic locomotives, railroad cars, and other pieces of railroad industry equipment. As a Smithsonian Affiliate museum, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania strives to document the history of the railroading industry in Pennsylvania through a variety of exhibits, educational programming, and public events.
In addition to locomotives and cars formerly used by the Pennsylvania Railroad, the museum showcases cars and equipment from a number of historic Pennsylvania-area railroads and rail businesses, including the Lehigh Valley Railroad, the Pittsburgh and Erie Railroad, and Baldwin Locomotive Works. Notable holdings from the original World’s Fair collection include the former Strasburg Railroad cars PRR #1223, famously used in the 1969 feature film Hello, Dolly!, and PRR #7002, the 1905 land speed record holder for its speed of 127.1 miles per hour. Other historic locomotives include the PRR #460, also known as the “Lindbergh Engine,” the PRR #3750, which pulled President Warren Harding’s funeral procession, and two PRR GG1 locomotives. Rare locomotive holdings include the Bethlehem Steel #111 and Pennsylvania Power and Light #4094-D fireless steam engines and the Chicago Mill and Lumber #4 Heisler locomotive. Modern locomotives include the Amtrak AEM-7 number 915.
In addition to locomotive holdings, the museum showcases a collection of more than 500,000 historic images and documents related to the railroad industry, as well as 17,000 artifacts, such as railroad tickets, uniforms, train station signs, and railroad equipment. More than 100,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space is offered, including a second-floor gallery for temporary rotating exhibits and an observation bridge which allows visitors to view the museum’s rolling stock from above. Interactive exhibits allow visitors to climb aboard a railroad caboose, steer a simulated freight locomotive, and examine a vintage locomotive from underneath. Closed-circuit television feeds allow visitors to watch restoration efforts in real time from the museum’s restoration shop. A Reading and Research Room library and archives are also accessible by appointment, and a gift shop, opened in 2007, sells railroad-themed apparel and souvenirs.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Guided and self-guided tours are available for small groups and organizations, including specialized tours customized according to individual group needs. All group tours receive a 20-minute orientation tour and a coupon redeemable at the museum’s gift shop. Self-guided tour groups may use scavenger hunt materials provided by the museum upon request. A variety of tour packages are also offered for elementary and secondary school groups, incorporating Pennsylvania curriculum standards in the areas of history, math, science, language, and the arts. All school tours incorporate elements of interactive role play and critical thinking in tour activities. Traveling educational programming is also offered, bringing museum artifacts directly into the classroom for 90-minute presentations.
A variety of educational workshops are offered through the museum, including merit badge programs for scouting groups. Semiannual scouting Saturday workshops are also offered for individual scouting members to work on badge requirements. Annual summer camps are offered in July for students ages 9-12, offering hands-on activities such as model train building and field trips traveling on historic trains. The museum’s educational center, Stewart Junction, is also open daily for young visitors, offering interactive exhibits and free play with two model train tracks and a LEGO building zone.
300 Gap Rd, Strasburg, PA 17579, Phone: 717-687-8628