Golden Age of Railroading Street Scene
A small Pennsylvania town, circa 1915, arose from a concrete platform at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Now, the early 20th century town will come to life, thanks to a $59, 980 grant recently awarded to the Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania by the Norfolk Southern Foundation.
The Norfolk Southern Corporation is one of the nation's premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 21,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the east and is a major transporter of coal and industrial products.
The Norfolk Southern Foundation has previously assisted the Museum in other projects such as a digital virtual tour system.
Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania director Charles Fox says that the enhancement of exhibits in the 1915 Golden Age of Railroading Street Scene will provide an educational and entertaining experience for Museum visitors. “We will now fill the entire street scene with life and activity, and are truly grateful that the Norfolk Southern Foundation is helping the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania accomplish this.”
The 1915 Golden Age of Railroading Street Scene consists of three building façades along Platform 1 West in the Museum between Steinman Station passenger depot and Stewart Junction freight depot/railway education center. The street scene buildings were previously constructed, in large part, by students from the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, with assistance from Lancaster County Career & Technology Center students, and the invaluable support of other partners in the community.
The Railroad Museum’s Pennsylvania Special passenger train, on Track 1 in front of the street scene, creates the authentic look and feel of a train arriving in a small town, with the daily hustle and bustle of the arrival and departure of family, friends, mail and news during railroading’s golden age. Fox reports that the new exhibit enhancements in the street scene will include the creation of a railroader’s home, a photographer’s studio, a railroad union office, a railroad hotel and a general store.
“The railroader’s home will be furnished in a manner typical of the early 20th century,” Fox explains. “The photography studio will show how not only the townspeople were depicted for posterity but also how railroad operations were chronicled. The union office will illustrate how the unions engaged in collective bargaining and established important benefits for railroad employees and their families.”
“The railroad hotel was a place where local residents, railroaders and travelers could enjoy a meal, engage in conversation and find a night’s lodging. As we know, some railroads owned and operated their own hotels. The street scene general store will represent the one-stop retail establishment where an array of goods and services could always be found,” Fox adds.
In addition to the building façades, a brick sidewalk and period lighting are already in place in the street scene. Landscaping, vehicles and other materials will be added to the exterior to help set the stage for the Railroad Museum’s interpretive programs, tours, static exhibits and living history activities. Each street scene building will be climate controlled for the exhibition of historic items on the first floor and collections storage on the second floor. Fox notes that the street scene offers a unique venue for the important interpretation and teaching of history, particularly in the early 20th century, and promises to be a popular area in the Museum for education programs, special events, school and group tours and facility rentals.
The street scene project, which will begin sometime later this spring, will be managed and installed by Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania staff from various departments. It is anticipated that it will be completed by early summer of 2011.