National Parks - Pennsylvania

Steamtown National Historic Site

Today was the first day of our NY-PA-MD-WV whirlwind tour of ten-ish National Parks units. We left home and hit the road first thing this morning, and we made sure Buddy the Bison was actually in the car this time (we forgot him on our trip to Seneca Falls a couple of weeks ago).

Yes, you can expect a pre-trip selfie of us on all of our trips. It’s just something we’ve always done. I guess Buddy gets to join the selfies from now on.

We made it to Steamtown National Historic Site in pretty good time. It was a gorgeous day for travel, with beautiful blue skies and fluffy, puffy white clouds. It was also in the mid-90s with about a billion percent humidity, so the “gorgeous day” would be from the perspective of someone sitting in an air conditioned car. Unfortunately for my sweat glands, we had to get out.

Located in the heart of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Steamtown National Historic Site preserves, interprets, and protects the history of steam railroading in America including the historic railroad yard, collections, technical knowledge, and skills that further the public understanding of the impact of steam railroading on U.S. industry, commerce, and society. (from the NPS website)

Also, bonus points for having a really cool NPS sign. We arrived in time to get tickets for the 11:30 short train ride through the railyard and parts of Scranton. Tickets are a very reasonable $6 per person. We had about 20 minutes to wander around the roundhouse before we boarded. Being in the roundhouse made me all nostalgic for the days when Boy #1 was obsessed – and I mean obsessed – with trains. He had just about every train, track, and building for his ever-expanding Thomas the Tank Engine wooden toy collection. But his pride and joy was his roundhouse, purchased for him by his grandmother, because his parents were too cheap to spend the money. 😂 Twenty years later, and Thomas has been passed down to other little boys to enjoy. But Grant will always be my little choo-choo boy. ❤️

But I digress. There were a lot of cool older trains in the roundhouse, and I the lighting was just perfect for photos, so I took a ton of them. Here’s a look at a few…

Soon it was time to board our train. We rode in a restored 100-year-old steam train and did a bit of an out-and-back through the yard and into Scranton proper. The interior was beautifully preserved, with nice touches added like old suitcases in the luggage racks. The souvenir tickets were punched once we got underway, and the rangers on board taught us about the history of the rail industry in the area, as well as what the different types of whistles meant. Did you know that they mean different things? I sure didn’t. 🤷‍♀️

Once we were chugging along, there were lots of cool things to see out the window. Trains of all shapes and sizes and levels of wear, an endless web of tracks, and views of Scranton, which were surprisingly nice. We rode past the University of Scranton, and the beautiful Joseph H. Scranton House. And in case there was any doubt about our ride being on a genuine steam locomotive, check out the black smoke that was belching out around us in one of the pics below.

Once we were back from our journey along the railroad tracks, I noticed that one of the engines in the roundhouse was open to peek into. The big metal monstrosity inside looked like it could easily star in my next nightmare with that big gaping maw and what looks like nine different eyes. But on a lighter note, there was a cord you can pull to ring the bell. So of course I had to. Several times.

The last stop (before the gift shop anyway) was the History Museum. We didn’t spend a lot of time in here, though it was beautifully designed and looked to be very informative. But basically we were hot and tired, and the big industrial fans that were attempting to cool the large space just weren’t cutting it. But I still managed to snap quite a few pics.

Once we had visited the store and I got my cancellations as well as my patch, pin, and postcard (the essential three Ps of my National Parks collection), we thought we might check out the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour, but it was busy and it was too long of a wait, so we decided to skip it and maybe revisit it in the future. It does sound like fun, and their website says it’s a constant 53 degrees inside all year long, which was very appealing on a mid-90s day. But we hopped back into the car and headed for our hotel in Frederick, MD. Pretty much the entire way we saw billboards advertising the “world-famous” fried chicken at Royal Farms. Well, we were definitely hungry, and we both love fried chicken, so we decided to give it a try since there was a location not too far from our hotel. They had me at the chicken statue outside the building. These are definitely my people. Was it the best fried chicken I’ve ever had? No. But for gas station fried chicken it rocked.

Info for other National Park geeks:

Cancellations available:

  • Steamtown NHS
  • Lackawanna Heritage Valley NHA

Junior Ranger: yes
B.A.R.K. Ranger: no

If you’re visiting Steamtown NHS in the near future, please note that the Visitor Center, Theatre, Technology Museum and Locomotive Cutaway Exhibit are currently closed for renovations. The History Museum, Roundhouse, Railyard, and grounds are open, and the park store and cancellation stamps can be found in the Oil House.

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