York's Civil War-era train closer to completion

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YORK, Pa. -- A sign hangs on a former feed store along the Northern Central Railway tracks in New Freedom, announcing the home of Steam Into History.

Renovations have been under way in the building at 2 W. Main St., as the nonprofit gears up to start a train excursion in June that will take travelers "back in time" to the Civil War era.

The opening is scheduled to be in time for the 150th anniversary of the Confederate invasion of York in late June and the Battle of Gettysburg in early July.

That was one of the goals of the late William H. Simpson, said Robert Gotwols, chief operating officer for Steam Into History Inc.

Gold leaf and other finishing touches are being placed on a York No. 17 steam locomotive being built at Kloke Locomotive Works in Elgin, Ill.

It is expected to be finished by late March or early April, Dave Kloke said. It will be delivered by truck to New Freedom.

"It should be a beautiful piece," he said.

Steam Into History plans to have a celebration when the locomotive arrives in York County, Mr. Gotwols said.

Two 1850s-style coaches will be built for the train, and Steam Into History intends to rent two others, Mr. Gotwols said.

Original coaches are not available for rebuilding because they were made of wood, he said.

"It's a slow process but very deliberate," Mr. Gotwols said.

Repairs will need to be made to the existing track, part of the Heritage Rail Trail County Park, from New Freedom to Hanover Junction, he said.

Some railroad ties and ballast stone will be replaced. The county has sprayed the weeds and helped to preserve it.

"It's not in bad shape," he said.

Some work will not be done in time for the opening. The turntables, for example, will be built at a later time. One will be in New Freedom and the other at Hanover Junction.

The train is still expected to run, but it will be pushed and pulled by locomotives, Mr. Gotwols said.

The rehabilitation of the 10 miles of track is estimated to cost about $1 million, Mr. Gotwols said. New track work in New Freedom will cost about $125,000, and the turntables will cost about $100,000 each.

Steam Into History has been using private contributions to pay for the work.

The organization has enough funding for the locomotive and the track work, but more money will need to be raised for the train cars, said D. Reed Anderson, who serves on the board of directors. He said he's confident they'll be able to do that.

Steam Into History's first volunteer workshop in October attracted about 80 people.

The volunteers include railroad enthusiasts, model railroad enthusiasts, historians and ambassadors, who will take tickets and work with the customers.

"It's piqued the interest of a lot of people," Mr. Gotwols said.

A group of model railroad enthusiasts plans to build an HO-scale model of the Northern Central Railway from Hanover Junction to New Freedom. One-eighth of an inch equals a foot, said Ed Horvath, who is a model maker.

The model railroad will be housed at Steam Into History's headquarters, which also will include organization's offices and a gift shop.

"It's coming together," Mr. Gotwols said.

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