By Eric Berger
WEST CHESTER, Pa. — For those who want to escape today’s inflated prices and have fun doing it, Pennsylvania’s West Chester Railroad has got a deal for you: on September 25 prices will be set as they were on that date in 1997 to mark the 25th anniversary of the railroad’s opening. The event celebrates the efforts of the all-volunteer workforce that has operated the railroad from the start and will spotlight its historic diesels and cars.
The first locomotive to ply their nearly 8 miles of former Pennsylvania track between West Chester and Glen Mills back then was an Alco S-2 built in 1949 for Chesapeake & Ohio, later becoming Baltimore & Ohio 9115 and Rohm & Haas 3, before surviving Naporano Iron & Metal to become West Chester 3. After many years in simple primer, a new paint job paying homage to its heritage may being applied with hopes it will be ready for event, said volunteer Beth Keates, who is among the charter members that spent the past quarter century keeping WCRL on track. A book chronicling the entire saga has been published in conjunction with the anniversary.
The GP9 that followed WCLR 3 into service is still there too, former B&O 6499, which regained that number on WCRL after a stint as Ohio Central 99. A pair of MLW C-424 and an RS-18 built as Canadian Pacific 4213, 4230 and 1803, respectively, have long been the backbone of the fleet, along with EMD GP38 WCRL 7706, a Penn Central/Conrail veteran.
On September 25, passengers will ride in West Chester’s fleet of former Reading Blueliners, built in 1931-32, with tickets at $8 for adults and $4 for kids. A display by locomotive rebuilder and mover J.C. McHugh is also planned.
Tours of the yard and locomotive cabs will be available, along with technical demonstrations for adults and Stubby the Helicopter for the little ones. Events will be taking place at both the station and the yard in West Chester, with shuttles between.