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.