Passenger Service (Current)

Day Excursions Enjoyed by All

student worker: Deanna Grove 

The Student Commute

The Cumberland Valley State Normal School (present day Shippensburg University) was founded in 1871 along the set of tracks that once ran along Earl Street. Student commuters generated the most traffic on the days school started, ended, or dismissed for breaks.

In order to reach the Cumberland Valley Railroad station, student commuters walked on the railroad tracks. Of course, this created a danger for students should a train pass by. In May 1884, to prevent injuries, the Cumberland Valley Railroad laid a gravel path along the tracks for students to walk on instead of the tracks.

By 1899, the Cumberland Valley Railroad was scheduled to stop on campus grounds rather than at the station in downtown Shippensburg on the first and last days of the semester. The Western Maryland, Philadelphia, and Reading Railroads had stations located near the school and transferredstudent baggage to campus for free.

Throughout the school year, as well as during the summer, railroads offered day trips at a low price. These excursions weren’t limited to students, but they were often enjoyed by them.

7th Annual Beach Train Atlantic City

Beach Train Advertisement. Picture credits Cumberland Valley Railroad Museum 

Atlantic City via Pennsylvania Railroad

Beginning in 1955, the Pennsylvania Railroad ran annual train excursions to the Atlantic City, NJ. Posters advertised the trip in an air-conditioned train at a bargain price. The train left early in the morning from towns in Cumberland, Franklin, Dauphin, and Washington counties and arrived in Atlantic City by 11:00 A.M.

Once in Atlantic City, visitors could choose to spend their day enjoying sandy beaches, boardwalk shops, and seafood restaurants. The return train left late in the evening, around 8:00 or 9:00 P.M., and arrived at the departure towns late in the night or early the next morning.

Accommodations for Passengers Traveling by Rail

Parlor Car

Interior of a parlor car. Picture credits Edwin P. Alexander, The Pennsylvania

Passenger Cars

Passenger service made up 40% of the Cumberland Valley Railroad’s total revenue. Because of this, the CVRR made a point to accommodate their passengers. The CVRR scheduled trains to continue the traveler’s journey soon after the arrival of their first train. Passenger trains ran at an average of 13 miles per hour. When passenger travel became more accessible in the mid-1830s, the cars usually resembled stagecoaches. They were first lit by candles, then oil lamps as designs were updated. The Pennsylvania Railroad attached smoking cars in 1858, then began using dining cars between 1863 and 1865. It’s safe to say the PRR valued luxury for its passengers. Interiors, repeatedly described as “handsome” by newspapers, were filled with mahogany woodworks and plush upholstery.


Sketch of CVRR’s sleeping car. Picture credits Paul J. Westhaeffer, History of the Cumberland Valley Railroad.

Sleeping Cars

CVRR debuted their first sleeping car, the Chambersburg, in 1838 – 20 years before George Pullman began his design. The CVRR started providing sleeping facilities after the supervising manager, Philip Berlin, met a weary traveler in the middle of his journey from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.

The original design contained cushioned berths, three on each side. The lowest was stationary, the middle and upper berths on hinges. The middle berth swung down to form a seat back for the lowest berth, and the upper swung upward out of the way.

Pullman began his sleeping car design in 1858 and gained national recognition when his design was used for the last leg of President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train. Throughout his career, Pullman sued competitors over the use and design of sleeping cars. Pullman, who had multiple patents, claimed competitors copied his designs. The defendants provided evidence disproving Pullman’s claims, such as the sketch of the CVRR’s first sleeper car as provided in the 1881 case, Pullman’s Palace Car Co. vs New York Central Sleeping Car Company.

The History of Passenger Rail Travel in Cumberland and Neighboring Counties


Reading train in Shippensburg. Picture credits Shippensburg Historical Society

With the advent of locomotives, transcontinental travel became faster and more efficient than travel by horse-drawn carriages. States east of the Mississippi River had over 2800 miles of track by 1840.
In 1836, construction on a Cumberland Valley Railroad line began in Shippensburg. It was open and extended to Chambersburg by November of that year. The 1864 CVRR annual report called for passenger stations to be built. The following year, a building in Shippensburg was bought and converted into a station for $1250 (the equivalent of $19,662 in 2020). A second station was built in Shippensburg in 1876 for $3431, or $82,213 in 2020


CVRR station at the corner of Orange and Earl Streets. Picture credits Shippensburg Historical Society

On October 8, 1881, the first Western Maryland Railroad passenger train left Shippensburg carrying a Sunday School group. By 1897, the Reading Railroad extended its line through to Chambersburg and had three daily commuter trains.

In the early 1900s, as automobile ownership increased, passenger travel on the CVRR began to decline. In 1928, Reading began substituting rail passenger services with bus services. The Great Depression resulted in the CVRR reducing their number of passenger trains, and the Western Maryland Railroad ceased passenger travel completely.

Earl Street

Railroad tracks in Shippensburg. Picture credits Shippensburg Historical Society.

Beginning 1938, the Shippensburg Chamber of Commerce made multiple attempts to remove the CVRR track from Earl Street due to the increasing number of train-related injuries and deaths. In the 1950s, the Pennsylvania Railroad (which owned a
controlling interest in the CVRR) began abolishing passenger trains. PRR merged to form Penn Central Railroad in 1968, which was then brought into Conrail in 1976. Within ten years, Conrail removed the tracks in Shippensburg.

Passenger Service (Current)