The Steamtown National Historic Site is a museum dedicated to the wonderful steam locomotives of the past and how the railroads enabled the expansion of the United States westwards and made the country what it is today
Our road trip to the North Eastern States of the USA started at Newark airport. We started out from Newark airport toward our first stop in New York’s Finger Lakes region. The plan was to make a few fun detours on the route. The first place we stopped was Bushkill Falls in Pennsylvania, but I had also decided to stop in Scranton to visit a couple of museums there, grab some food before heading out.
The journey from Bushkill to Scranton is only around 70 miles but takes a while as you pass through the largely rural areas of northern Pennsylvania.
Now for a bit of history lesson about Scranton.
Scranton is located in the heart of one of the great deposits of anthracite coal in the world, which provided the underpinnings for much of Scranton’s industrial growth until the middle of the 20th century. The first white settlers came to the Wyoming Valley in the middle of the 18th century and lived amicably with the Munsee Indians, who moved west to the Ohio Valley between 1758 and 1771.
In 1840, the Scranton brothers arrived and found only five houses in the village. The Scrantons built a forge that later became the nucleus of the Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company. A new name was given to the settlement in 1845: Harrison, in honour of the president. Finally, in 1851, the name was changed to Scranton. When the railroad arrived in 1853, it provided an outlet for the iron industry and the coal mines.
The Electric City Sign lights up Scranton’s skyline at night! It was originally built to commemorate Scranton’s status as being one of the first cities in the United States to become electrified. The city’s nickname “Electric City” began when electric lights were introduced in 1880 at the Dickson Manufacturing Company. In 1886, the United States’ first successful streetcars powered only by electricity began operating in Scranton.
Having first done a quick visit to the Electric City Trolley Museum we headed across the parking lot (which is quite large) to the main reason we had stopped here; the Steamtown National Historic Site. This museum, formerly a private collection housed at the site of the former Scranton yards of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W).
STEAMTOWN NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Before heading into the museum we walked over to the massive steam locomotive that we passed on the way in – it is hard to miss. I don’t think I mentioned this but I love trains, especially steam trains and have done since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. So, this is why we ended up here!
Anyway, enough of my strange obsession with trains. But, this locomotive was big, black and shiny – how could you not be impressed by such a magnificant creation!
Drooling over we made our way across to the ticket office to find out about entry. And amazingly it was free to get in – although if the train rides are running they cost extra. We were there a couple of hours before closing and it was very quiet – perfect!
1. OUTSIDE EXHIBITS
The museum is built around a working turntable and a roundhouse that are largely replications of the original DL&W facilities; the roundhouse, for example, was reconstructed from remnants of a 1932 structure. The site also features several original outbuildings dated between 1899 and 1902. All the buildings on the site are listed with the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Yard-Dickson Manufacturing Co. Site.
Around the turntable there are a number of steam locomotives, which we decided to check out before heading inside the museums in the roundhouse.
2. THE MUSEUM
The History Museum, originally called the South Museum, contains exhibits that focus on the history of steam railroading in the region. The timeline begins with early transportation, canals, and gravity railroads. It continues into the 1960s and ends at 1995. The people gallery highlights groups of people whose lives influenced or were influenced by the railroad. There were an incredible number of artefacts that bring the stories of the railroads and the people who worked on them and the role they played in the expansion of the United States.
Adjacent to the History Museum is an exhibit area with a Railroad Post Office car, a freight car, and an archaeology exhibit.
3. THE TECHNOLOGY MUSEUM
The Technology Museum, originally called the North Museum, contains exhibits meant to enlarge the visitor’s experience at Steamtown and provide education and enjoyment. The 7500 square feet of space includes a section of the original 1902 roundhouse. Exhibits feature numerous tools and equipment that exemplify the technology of steam railroading. The Spang Chalfont & Company Locomotive No. 8 provides a three-dimensional look at how steam locomotives operating. A freight car and a passenger car are also on exhibit in this area.
4. TRAIN RIDES
The museum does usually have short train rides for a nominal fee. For our visit, we were too late in the day and also they were not running due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Check the website before you visit to make sure if the rides are operating and what options are on offer.
5. THE YARDS
The area the museum covers is vast, 60 plus acres, so the roundhouse and museums only take up a fraction of this area. Much of the railway tracks and siding still exist and here you’ll find some of the trains and rolling stock that has not been restored. I love this stuff – old rusty vehicles and dilapidated buildings – are my thing!
In summary …
- A wonderful place for adults and children alike. There are plenty of interactive displays to keep the kids entertained.
- If like me you love trains, especially steam locomotives then this is a great place for you to visit.
- Combined with the Electric City Trolley Museum this makes a great full-day out!
About Steamtown National Historic Site
|Address:||350 Cliff St, Scranton, PA 18503|
|Telephone:||T: (570) 340-5200|
SUNDAY – SATURDAY
SUMMER HOURS: 9 AM – 5 PM
Free – train rides costs but the fee is nominal
Best time to visit Scranton, PA
Pennsylvania’s weather is very similar to that of New York or New Jersey. It’s changeable, with moderate precipitation all year long, with some heat waves in the summer and cool weather in the winter and early spring. Snow is concentrated in the winter months.
Late-spring – May, June – or late-summer and early-fall – September, October – are excellent months for visiting Pennsylvania.
WHEN NOT TO GO TO PENNSYLVANIA
Avoid the winter months, when temperatures may reach very low levels.
Humidity and high temperatures may turn some July and August days rather uncomfortable, despite the moderating influence of the Lake Erie in the region.S
Where to stay near Scranton
1. THE COLONNADE
2. RADISSON LACKAWANNA STATION HOTEL
3. STEGMAIER MANSION
With 4 Historic Rooms & Suites to choose from, the stunning Frederick Stegmaier Mansion is among the most elegant, architecturally unique, and historic properties in the Wilkes-Barre area – having played host to a diverse group of visitors & foreign dignitaries… and even an American president!