The steam locomotive was an essential piece of industrial transportation that paved the way for America’s vibrant economic growth and technological progress in the 19th and 20th centuries, and although it is quite rare to come across a functional steam locomotive today, the Steamtown National Historic Site presents everything the public would need to know about this crucial piece of American history.
Run by the National Park Service (NHS), the Steamtown National Historic Site is a railroad museum and heritage center packed full of valuable artifacts, railroad-based exhibits, and a large collection of full-sized steam locomotives. Additionally, as the site is located on more than 40-acres of the former Scranton yards of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W), visitors are able to tour an authentic roundhouse, visit a variety of trains up-and-close, and even take a ride on some truly powerful and fascinating trains.
Train Collection and Structure
The most intriguing aspect of Steamtown is undoubtedly its collection of full-sized trains from several different companies, all of which cover nearly every decade of U.S. Railroad history. In terms of size, the locomotives at Steamtown range from the 1937 H.K. Porter Company industrial switcher engine to a huge Union Pacific Big Boy built in 1941 by the American Locomotive Company (Alco), and the oldest train is a 1903 American Locomotive Compan freight engine.1
Furthermore, because the site is located on a working railroad that incorporates much of the original 1902 DL&W Scranton Roundhouse, the visitor center, museum theater, and other facilities transport visitors into a lifelike example of the original historic structure.
The collection at Steamtown includes a variety of trains, such as the Canadian National 47, the Rahway Valley 15, and the Meadow River Lumber Company 1. Some of the collection’s locomotives are on display with cabs and other compartments that visitors can fully explore.
History and Technology of Steam Railroading Museum
In addition to the locomotive collection, the History and Technology of Steam Railroading Museum at Steamtown tells the entire story of steam railroading. Self-guided and guided tours through the museum start in the theater, where an 18-minute film titled “Steel and Steam” showcases the careers associated with the railroad as well as the major changes to railroad life and technology that occurred in the 20th century.
While walking through the museum, visitors can explore the timeline of the railroad in the United States, learn about the men and women who were part of the railroad and its associated industries, and learn about the other nuances of railroad life, such as through architecture, maintenance, disasters, and more.2
Short Train Rides and Excursions
Short rides on a few of Steamtown’s locomotives are only available seasonally, often in the summer months. The “Scranton Limited” ride includes a three-mile round trip that runs for about 30 minutes through the rail yards, across the Lackawanna River, past the historic Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, and along other sites in Scranton.
On some Sundays, the “Scranton Limited” ride becomes into the acclaimed “Nay Aug Limited,” which is a longer, educational excursion that travels further east. Travelers on this ride pass along the Pocono Mainline and up towards the 755-foot Nay Aug Tunnel, and during the trip, park rangers or other volunteers offer an interpretive program. Most of these excurions also include a short stop above Nay Aug Park Gorge and Waterfall NNL.3