Volunteers from the Friends of the Stewartstown Railroad take on various restoration projects around the railroad, from coach restoration, to open-air car building, and tie replacement just to name a few.
Project #1: Open-Air Observation Car Conversion
Crew Chiefs: John von Briesen and Larry Morgan
How this project Began
The Friends’ received a tip from Friends’ Member, Mr. Dave Williamson, back in early 2017. He had been following what appeared to be a long-since forgotten flatcar in Columbia, Pennsylvania. After submitting an inquiry to Norfolk Southern Corporation, we were informed a short-time later that the Friends’ had received the flatcar as a donation! We had just 60 days to remove the piece of Pennsylvania Railroad history: former PRR flatcar #473822. We thank Norfolk Southern Corporation for this generous gift. The flatcar, formerly located in Columbia, Pennsylvania, not far from Stewartstown, was moved to Stewartstown by highway on February 14, 2017. Gordon’s Towing, Inc. of Stewartstown, PA., was very QUICK, CAREFUL, and PROFESSIONAL in moving the car for us.
Work began in Summer 2017 on the Open-air Excursion Car Project
Friends’ Members hit the ground running starting in summer 2017 on the Friends’ former PRR flatcar. One of the first major obstacles was the steel decking welded to the frame by Conrail. The welding was rather thick and well-done, leaving conventional tools such as cut-off discs anything but a feasible option for removal. Thankfully, one of our neighbors, a towing and salvage company, was kind enough to donate their time and expertise to remove it with rather large torches. With the steel deck out of the way, the first official workday was scheduled in July 2017. Cleaning, grinding, and priming began and continued thru late August. Painting of the car followed and was completed by mid-October. We chose a gloss-black oil-based paint as the “foundation” of the car.
The Carpentry Phase Came Next
As December 2017 ended, a volunteer crew lead by John von Briesen framed the passenger compartment of the Friends’ open-air excursion car. Miles Weaver fabricated steel supports to reinforce the frame. Larry, Russ, John B. and Dave Baur cut several pieces of lumber. Together, this crew assembled nearly 40% of the car. Work continued into January 2018 weekly as the weather and temperature allowed.
Getting the Car Ready for Service
With the carpentry phase completed, the Friends’ open-air excursion car crew painted the wood. The chosen color scheme was selected to be like that of the Stewartstown station: sky-blue ceiling with brown sides and a creme trim. A silver, corrugated roof was installed by a contractor to reflect sunlight as well as keep water out. Miles Weaver fabricated a set of stairs, and the seats were also installed. The seating was positioned down the center of the car, allowing for passengers to have a generous viewing angle as the car travels down the track. A single-car air brake test was completed in early summer. The Friends’ open-air car was finally ready for service in July 2018. The car proved to be very popular for the remainder of the summer and into the early fall for leaf excursion season.
Project #2: Coach 1158 Restoration
Status: In progress
Crew Chiefs: Matt Mundis and Richard Raubenstine
With the success of the open-air car excursion car behind us, the Friends have purchased former Reading Company commuter car #1158 for restoration. Coach 1158 was built in January 1925 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company. It was used up until July 1965 for daily commuter passenger service. George Hart’s Rail Tours, Inc. was the next owner of the car and used it for tourist excursion service before being sold in the late 2000’s to the Stewartstown Railroad. It has since been sold to the Friends of the Stewartstown Railroad, Inc in January 2018.
Efforts are currently underway to rehabilitate the coach and get it back into service. The Friends received a very generous $10,000 grant from John H. Emery Rail Heritage Trust in April 2018. These funds are being used to purchase materials needed to carry out the restoration of coach 1158. We sincerely thank the John H. Emery Rail Heritage Trust for their support. Volunteers are currently working to fabricate new windows over winter 2018-19. Walls and seat pedestals inside the car are being stripped and scuffed over winter 2018-19 in preparation for paint. Once completed, the car will be added as a second coach to the excursion train to serve as a demonstration car from the 1920s showcasing urban commuter passenger service.
Workdays are held most Saturdays. Please contact us to be added to our workday email list.
Project #3: Coach 1341 Metal Roof Restoration
Crew Chief: Richard Raubenstine
Update coming soon.
For Stewartstown Railroad Company workdays, please visit this page for their most current work schedule.