The Stewartstown Railroad announced today that they are making an all-out effort to gather enough funds to pay off the lien carried by the estate of George Hart. This would ensure the survival of the railroad and preserve it for future generations. Months of discussions with the estate indicate that the lien can be paid off and the adverse abandonment p…etition before the Surface Transportation Board in Washington DC can be withdrawn, provided that the railroad pays off the lien, which totals $352,415. Thus far, the railroad has raised over a quarter of a million dollars for this purpose, approximately 3/4 of the amount needed. The funds come from a combination of people willing to loan money to the company, sales of common stock, and donations to the Friends of the Stewartstown Railroad, a section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the historic line.
The Stewartstown Railroad was chartered in 1884 to operate 7.4 miles between Stewartstown and New Freedom Pennsylvania. It is unique in having never been involved in a merger or sale of the company and is therefore the oldest railroad in the country in its original corporate form. The line has been in operation since 1885. After hurricane Agnes in 1972 operations were interrupted until 1985. Freight operations ceased in 1992, and passenger operations continued until 2004. The railroad is experiencing a renaissance, as volunteers repair the locomotives and coaches, as well as the station and tracks. The company operates motor car rides on many weekends in the spring summer and fall, and anticipates restarting full-size train operations later this year. A growing cadre of volunteers who recognize the unique history of the line as well as the unspoiled beauty of the Deer Creek Valley in an area that has gone through substantial development in recent years has made substantial strides in rejuvenating the old line. Some people have been hesitant to commit time towards the restoration, for fear that the line will be abandoned and foreclosed upon, but the company’s management is optimistic that the additional funds can be raised within the next month or two, the deadline for withdrawing the abandonment.
Company spokesman Kenneth Bitten said “we have been very encouraged by the number of people who are willing to commit funds to saving this amazing piece of York County history. Many of them have agreed to provide loans for a minimum of 5 years secured against the assets of the railroad. Others have decided to purchase stock and some have decided to make tax-deductible contributions to the Friends. We believe that a final push will get us over the top.”
The Stewartstown Railroad is almost like a time machine, with locomotives and cars from the 1930s and 1940s and the Stewartstown station, built in 1914, which looks almost exactly the way it did 70 years ago. Anyone interested in supporting this effort should contact Kenneth Bitten at 410-336-1605 or email Ken@Stewartstownrailroadcompan
The Stewartstown Railroad is a common-carrier railroad company (STRT) that has provided freight and passenger service to Southern-York County since 1885. Known as a short line, the Stewartstown Railroad owns 7.4 miles of track which runs from Stewartstown, PA to an interchange in New Freedom, Pennsylvania with the former Northern-Central Railway (NCRy). The former NCRy is 18 miles in length and runs from New Freedom to York City, Pennsylvania, serving as the Stewartstown’s only connection to the National Rail Network.
The Stewartstown Railroad served mostly farmers and a handful of small manufacturing firms in its early years. Unlike many railroads of the past, the Stewartstown Railroad was able to survive the Great Depression and the shift of shipping from rail to truck that occurred in the late 1950’s as a result of improved roads and highways. This was made possible by switching from Steam Engines to Gas-powered locomotives. Despite a decline in business through the 1960’s, a small group of loyal supporters (many of whom held stock in the company) utilized the Stewartstown Railroad until 1972 when Hurricane Agnes struck.
While the Stewartstown Railroad remained largely unscathed, the connecting Northern Central Railway sustained major damage. The soon-to-be bankrupt Penn Central owned the NCRy at the time and refused to repair the line. The USRA planners for the newly-formed CONRAIL (which assumed Penn Central’s rail lines) also refused to include the NCRy as a branch line. This left the Stewartstown Railroad without a connection to the outside world.
While it appeared that the Stewartstown Railroad was no longer going to be able to provide freight service, the company continued to maintain its Right-of-Way (ROW) and locomotives in preparation for future service. The Company’s efforts were rewarded when the PA Department of Transportation reopened the NCRy once again giving the Stewartstown an outside connection. The Stewartstown Railroad assumed trackage rights in 1985 and ran trains on the NCRy until 1992. Passenger excursion trains continued on the Stewartstown’s trackage until 2004.
In 2008 company officials reorganized and have since decided to resume passenger and freight operations. It is anticipated that passenger and freight services will resume in 2013. If you would like more information on the Stewartstown Railroad, please contact us or request further information. The Stewartstown Railroad is once again looking forward to providing passenger and rail freight services to Southern-York County.
The Stewartstown Railroad Company is a privately-held, for-profit corporation and is NOT associated with The Friends of the Stewartstown Railroad.