What could be more fun on a gorgeous fall day than taking a ride through the idyllic countryside on an antique steam engine?
The Strasburg Railroad provides exactly that.
In the heart of Amish country
It was one of those amazingly clear, early autumn days. The sun was brilliant in a cloudless sky, the air crisp and fresh with just enough chill to require a light sweater. The Strasburg station is located just outside the village of Ronks, Pennsylvania. From there, the antique steam engine pulls the train for 4.5 miles, from Strasburg to Paradise, PA, where the line intersects with the Amtrak northeast corridor line. At that point, the engine detaches, passes to the other end of the train and begins the return journey to Strasburg. The entire trip takes about 45 minutes.
The route meanders through the fields of 27 farms many of which are Amish. Seemingly endless rows of tobacco, corn and pumpkins offer stunning views. Cows and horses idly glance in your direction as the iconic steam whistle announces the engine’s arrival at railroad crossings. All along the way, there is commentary about the history of the railroad and the local area. If you like, on the return journey, the train makes stops where passengers can hop off to visit a playground, picnic area or walking trail.
Detailed renovation and restoration
Inside, the cars gleam. Most of them have been purchased from iconic railroads of the past. The detailed wood trim shines with a high polish and the windows, which all open, are sparkling. Each of the plush seats flips back and forth so passengers can face and chat with each other. Or, if you don’t like to ride backwards, just turn the seat around!
Every car has it’s own pot-bellied stove. In the winter, they are used to keep the cars warm!
If you arrive early, there is time to wander through the cars, all of which are open: there are dining cars, open-air cars, game cars with tables that feature checkerboards and even a pinball car with pinball machines anchored to the floor!
Visiting Strasburg is a terrific family day out! Besides the train ride, in the station there is a gift shop with a wonderful upright player piano. For just a nickel, you can add a little ragtime the shopping experience!
The Railroad Café offers a variety of food and an assortment of drinks although none of it is allowed on the trains.
Perfect for kids and families
The station has lots to keep kids entertained. The engineer, fireman and conductors dress in period costumes and are more than happy to pose for pictures. There are the Cranky Cars, where kids pedal-power themselves around the track, the Pint-Sized Pufferbelly, a miniature steam engine that pulls miniature cars around an equally small track, and the pump cars, where old-fashioned hand pumping makes them go.
Nearly every weekend features a special event: Santa and the Easter Bunny make annual appearances and Tomas the Tank Engine is a regular visitor. There are wine tastings and music festivals. You can even cut a Christmas tree and have it delivered back to the station by train!
Whether it is a day trip or part of a vacation, the Strasburg Railroad is a fun and memorable day for the entire family. Be sure to include it as part of your next visit to Lancaster County, PA!
When you go:
Location: 301 Gap Rd., Ronks, PA 17572
Hours of Operation: Daily April – December
Check website for Complete Schedule and for Special Events