Located in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Steamtown National Historic Site preserves the Scranton railroad yard of the former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, showcasing original historic DL&W railroad buildings and equipment and offering seasonal train excursions. The origins of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad date back to 1832, with the incorporation of the Liggett's Gap Railroad, which was renamed the Lackawanna and Western Railroad in 1851.
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The L&W Railroad initially ran from Scranton to Great Bend, Pennsylvania, located near the border of Pennsylvania and New York. In 1853, the planned Delaware and Cobb's Gap Railroad was incorporated into the L&W Railroad, creating the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, which expanded the original line into Delaware and New Jersey. Subsequent expansions throughout the late 19th century brought the line prominence throughout the mid-Atlantic region, and in 1907, Beaux-Arts-style terminals for the line were constructed in Hoboken and Scranton. Though the line was a major transporter of anthracite coal, dairy products, lumber, and other goods throughout the early 20th century, a decline in economic activity in the region following World War II is credited as the beginning of the railroad’s decline. A series of natural disasters in the 1950s, including Hurricane Diane and the Knox Mine Disaster, eventually led to the line’s merger into its principal competitor, the Erie Railroad, creating the Erie Lackawanna Railroad.
Efforts to preserve the former DL&W Railroad as a historic site date back to the early 1960s, spearheaded by seafood processor and railroad enthusiast F. Nelson Blount. Throughout his early life, Blount amassed a large collection of vintage steam locomotives, including 25 preserved engines from railroads across North America. In 1964, Blount created the Steamtown Foundation for the Preservation of Steam and Railroad Americana for the purposes of operating a historic site called Steamtown USA, which ran steam railroad excursions throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. Following Blount’s death in 1967, the Steamtown attraction was operated by the Steamtown Foundation nonprofit organization and relocated to Scranton. After the attraction folded in 1983 after filing for bankruptcy and selling most of its locomotives, a campaign by Pennsylvania Representative Joseph M. McDade brought the site to the attention of the National Park Service. Though acquisition of the site by the NPS was controversial due to questions about the attraction’s historic value, the Steamtown site was renovated and reopened to the public as a National Historic Site in 1986.
Today, the Steamtown National Historic Site encompasses 62 acres of the former DL&W Scranton yards, The museum showcases renovated, reconstructed, and replicated artifacts from the original DL&W facilities, organized around the facility’s recreated turntable and roundhouse and offering a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits and activities. The site and all of its buildings and components are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Steamtown’s Visitor Center serves as an entrance point for its indoor museum exhibits, offering daily showings of an 18-minute orientation film, “Steel and Steam,” within its surround-sound theater. A variety of indoor museum exhibits are also offered, including the Life on the Railroad exhibit, which showcases the history of American railroad porters and workers throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and exhibits on the evolution of railroad technologies. A Changing Exhibits Gallery on the museum’s second floor features rotating special exhibits related to American railroad history, and a bookstore, operated by Eastern National, offers railroad-themed books and souvenirs.
A large collection of locomotives, freight cars, and passenger cars are showcased as part of the museum’s outdoor exhibits, with many serving as walk-on exhibits for visitor exploration. Notable locomotives and cars on display include the Grand Trunk Western #6039, the Rahway Valley #15, the Baldwin Locomotive Works 26, and the Boston and Maine 3713. A locomotive cutaway exhibit showcases the internal technology of steam power, and a recreated station ticket window recreates the DL&W passenger experience of the late 19th century.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Seasonal train rides are offered at Steamtown, including 30-minute Scranton Limited tour excursions led by park rangers showcasing the site and its history and collections. Longer Nay Aug Gorge Limited rides are also offered on select Sundays throughout the park’s main season, and a special Holiday Express train ride is also offered during the winter holiday months. 45-minute walking tours depart regularly from the park’s Visitor Center, and a variety of living history demonstrations are showcased throughout the park, including historic reenactments by park employees in period-appropriate costumes. Educational programming is offered for elementary and secondary school field trip groups, incorporating Pennsylvania curriculum standards on a variety of topics related to science, history, and social studies. Scouting workshops, a Junior Ranger program, and a summer RailCamp are also offered.
Lackawanna Ave at Cliff St, Scranton, PA 18503, Phone: 570-340-5200