Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine

Pioneer Tunnel is a horizontal drift mine that goes 1800 feet into the side of the Mahanoy mountain. For a small fee, you can get an educated tour of the mine yourself. You’ll ride in an open mine car that runs on a battery-operated motor. Your guide will even be a miner himself, or a retired one. During the 35-minute tour, you’ll learn how coal is mined from underground. You’ll see large coal seams where the mining was done and even portions of a petrified tree, most of which is displayed in the Smithsonian.
At one point during the tour, you’ll even see nothing as they turn all the lights out to show you how dark it really is in there. You literally can’t see your hand in front of your face. Not to be alarmed, they turn the lights back on. They’ll show you some replicas of mining tools past used, such as dynamite and canary birds.

The Pioneer Tunnel was an active coal mine in the early 1900’s. It ceased operations in 1931. In May of 1963, the mine was opened to the public. The mine is inspected daily by a mining foreman and 100% safe, although chilly with its year-round temperature of 52 degrees.

While there, you can also ride on the Henry Clay. This is an old time locomotive, built in 1927. It’s one of the oldest running steam locomotives. It was used to haul coal from the strip mines. While on the tour, you’ll learn more about strip mining as well as see an abnormally thick seam of anthracite known as the “Mammoth Vein.” Steam shovels pulled millions of tons of coal from the area leaving a wall of solid rock 150 feet high and as far westward as you can see. You’ll also notice a relic of a bootleg coal hole. Those who were willing to defy trespassing laws and risk cave-ins would brave the mines so they could heat their homes.
The train ride is ¾ of a mile long and goes around the Mahanoy mountain, giving you some scenic glimpses of the town of Ashland below you. Outta the Way recommends the visit even though there is a fee. You too, will find why it is consistently voted as one of the top 10 spots to visit in PA.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Historic Stewartstown Railroad

If the “Little Engine that Could” needed a track to run on, the Stewartstown Railroad would be a perfect fit for it, appropriately called the “Railroad that Refused to Die.” This tiny little railroad, located in Southern York County, has quite a lot of history.
The railroad began operation in 1885 carrying agricultural produce, and passengers 7.5 miles to the town of New Freedom, where the tracks connected with the North Central Railway, which connected to Baltimore, Maryland. Local farmers helped the railroad to thrive, so much so it received the nickname the “farmer’s railroad.” During the Great Depression, this loyal group of shippers helped the railroad to survive. It didn’t hurt that most of those shipping owned some stake in the railroad also.
In 1939 the railroad made a large financial decision that helped them to succeed once again. They had changed the locomotives from stream-powered to gas-powered. This proved to be a wise decision as the railroad continued running up until 1972, while most others in the country went to the wayside. In 1972 shortly after the Pennsylvania Railroad merged with the Penn Central Railroad, Hurricane Agnes tore through the countryside. The Stewartstown Railroad and Station House survived destruction, though the rail tracks owned by Penn Central Railroad didn’t fair as well. Penn Central was already in a financial decline and they refused to fix the tracks, bringing the Stewartstown Railroad to a halt. The Railroad remained abandoned until 1988 when Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation restored the rail line. The railroad’s return would be short lived, however, shortly afterward their largest customer folded and the railroad closed again. In 1992 the County of York fought for the rail line previously owned by Penn Central Railroad. Eventually the County got its way; the Railroad terminated its lease on the lines thus starting the Rail Trail, connecting York with Baltimore on a hiking and biking trail.
In 1997 the railroad and station were put on the National Register of Historic Places. Shortly thereafter the railroad started carrying tourists on round trips to New Freedom. That ended in April 2004 after the train derailed. The railroad has been practically forgotten and abandoned since then. The station house is still standing, though it is beginning to deteriorate. The interior of the station looks the same as it did on its opening on December 28, 1914. A short walk from the station is the engine house. What distinguishes this one from most is that it was used for its intended purpose up until the railroad stopped operations. The Stewartstown Railroad has the distinction of quite possibly being the only railroad in the state that has maintained its right of way through its entire existence.
Though the railroad sits abandoned today, there are a few historical groups hoping to revive this piece of history. I think they can, I think they can, I think they can.
Learn more about saving the railroad here!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Yuengling Brewery History

When David Yuengling began brewing beer in his home in Germany, I’m sure he had no idea what his legacy would be. After Mr. Yuengling and his family immigrated to the United States, he would change America forever. In 1829, he started the Eagle Brewery on Centre Street in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. But things weren’t easy. In a short 2 years the brewery was destroyed by a fire. Refusing to give up, Mr. Yuengling relocated to Mahantongo Street in Pottsville, and strive to bring his dream to fruition.In 1873, his son Frederick joined forces with David and the brewery changed their name to D.G. Yuengling and Son, still keeping the recognized eagle that emblazoned their products. From here Yuengling would grow rather quickly. By 1895 they had started a bottling operation. Throughout the years and family passings, the brewery continued to thrive, while still maintaining their family roots.
But things were soon going to get tough. In 1919 when Prohibition was passed, the family legacy of Yuengling almost came to an end. But thanks to some quick thinking, the brewery found a few ways to survive. They started brewing near beers, essentially a nonalcoholic brew, but what may have saved the brewery was an idea to make ice cream. They purchased a separate building across the street from the brewery, where the tasty treat was made.
On the brewery’s 100th anniversary in 1929, the closest thing to beer they were brewing was their near beer. But when Prohibition ended in 1933, it didn’t take long for Yuengling to get rolling again. They sent a special batch of beer to President Roosevelt. Finally, Yuengling was able to get back to doing what it does best, brew beer. From this moment on there was no more looking back. As the brewery kept with its great, long, traditional recipes, its fan base continued to grow. In 1976, the brewery was recognized as being the nation’s oldest brewery. And in 1985, they were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
But Yuengling had another drastic change shortly thereafter. In 1987 due to a larger demand for darker beers, the brewery reintroduced their lager. This would forever change the brewery. The continued growth and success only kept the family ties stronger.Today the lager brand is so popular, folks in the Mid-Atlantic states need only ask the barkeep for a lager and, without a second thought, will be poured a nice cold Yuengling.

Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania

Miles outside one of the nation’s first capital, York, Pennsylvania, lies the remains of a small railroading town that almost was. In 1838 the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad started a rail line connecting Baltimore to York. In 1851 the Hanover Railroad ran rail line westward connecting the Hanover Rail line to the Baltimore Susquehanna Railroad. In 1852 Hanover Junction was born, being the intersection of the railroads. The rail line was originally run by the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad, though the Hanover Railroad owned the trains.
A station was set up including living quarters for the station master and his family. Several small businesses and homes, and even a hotel were built. The hotel also had telegraph service, which would prove to be very important. During the Civil War the hotel’s telegraph dispatching service, proved to be vital to Union Soldiers. The wounded would pass through here on their way from Gettysburg to larger cities such as York and Harrisburg. On June 27, 1863, Confederate soldiers attacked the small town destroying homes and businesses. Somehow the station and hotel survived the ambush. On November 18, 1863 President Lincoln switched trains at the historic station en route to delivering his famous Gettysburg Address. Unfortunately Lincoln would pass through the small town again on April 21, 1865, this time in his funeral procession.
After the war the small town began to flourish again with a small industrial market, so much so there was a large coal yard nearby used for the fueling of the trains. After the demise of railroad traffic during the middle of the 20th century, industry came to a halt and the town was abandoned. In 2003 the County of York reopened the station house as a museum, giving it a similar appearance it had a century ago. Also on the property are 4 Civil War era cannons and a Lincoln bust.
Outta the Way recommends visiting this little Railroad town that almost was, yet still thrives to be.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bowman's Hill Tower

Not too far from Washington’s Crossing is a commemorative monument honoring the great leader. The Bowman’s Hill Tower stands 125 feet and on a clear day offers a 14 mile wide radial view.
The tower was built in June of 1931 out of native stone gathered from nearby, and entirely by the employees of the Washington Crossing Park Commission. During the mid-1930’s, seven major improvements took place including creating two vistas for outstanding views of the valley below. In the 1980’s an elevator was added, though it only takes you ¾ of the way up the tower.
Bowman’s hill is thought to have been a lookout point for General Washington and his men. The tower is also located in the Bowman’s Hill Wildlife Preserve, so if the history doesn’t inspire you, the natural beauty certainly will.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Muddy Creek Forks, Pennsylvania

In Southern York County, a tiny village still stands that was once an agricultural hub of the county. The small town of Muddy Creek Fork was founded in the 1730’s, several decades before we were even a country. Two mills were incorporated in the town in 1759 and by the mid-1800’s the town was booming. So much so that the Peach Bottom Railroad ran tracks through the town in 1874. The village had become the center of the community. The Ma & Pa (Maryland and Pennsylvania) Railroad handled masses of freight into the small thriving village. 6 daily trains would carry people, the mail and even milk to other locales throughout the country.
In 1888 a gentleman named A.M. Grove bought some land in the area and had a small store and a large country mill used to grind buckwheat flour. Due to the proximity of the railroad, the business took off.
In 1906 Grove had a new 4-story store built. The new business included a modernized roller mill, a 9000 bushel grain elevator, a cannery and even telephone service, a rarity in those days.

But over time the small community vanished into rural abandonment. That was until 1992 when the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad Preservation Society acquired the village. Since then, the town has been transformed back to how it looked at the turn of the century. The natural and rural beauty of the town made it its own character in the flop “For Richer or Poorer” starring Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley.
Today the small town stays thriving offering visitors a 5-mile round trip train ride through the nearby scenic Muddy Creek Valley. And offering costumed guides to help you learn your way around this small village that continues to blossom in many ways.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Flight 93 Memorial

September 11, 2001 is a day that will live in the hearts and minds of Americans forever. Anyone who experienced that tragic day can quickly attest to exactly what they were doing, or where they were, when they discovered the devastating news. But as the years slowly slip past we quietly remember the heroes and victims of that horrific day less and less.

Slowly memorials have been sprouting up throughout the country to forever memorialize the victims. One of the first makeshift memorials appeared near the small rural town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Since the attack visitors have been placing mementos and memorabilia to honor those who bravely gave their lives to protect others. Over a remote field, in the middle of farmland, the actions of a few helped to save the lives of thousands.

The brave members of that fateful flight are now forever commemorated in a flight 93 memorial. After years of designing, controversy, and building, the commemorative memorial was opened on the eve of the 10 year anniversary. The monument pays tribute to the 40 individuals who fought back when their freedoms were restricted, forever commemorating their heroic actions and allowing us to never forget!