All Aboard: Passenger Transportation

The Christmas Train

A train pulls into the Mercersburg station at Christmas time. Painted circa 1900.  Courtesy of the Shippensburg Historical Society.

From the mid-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century, people across the United States relied on railroads as a primary means of transportation. In the Cumberland Valley of south central Pennsylvania, railroads served first to connect people locally then regionally and finally to far-off destinations. During this golden age of passenger rail, service in the Cumberland Valley was provided initially by the Cumberland Valley Railroad followed by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The volume of passengers riding the rails varied over these years, increasing during economically prosperous periods as well as times of war while decreasing during instances of financial hardship when people could no longer afford fares.

As automobiles and airplanes became more available and efficient, people no longer needed the railroads. In order to ensure that railroad service remained a viable option, the industry attempted to reorganize through consolidation as well as with government oversight and subsidies. Despite these efforts, usage continue to decline. Today, passenger rail service is only available in Harrisburg, PA.

All Aboard: Passenger Transportation