LOCK HAVEN -The oldest railroad station in Clinton County - The Castanea Railroad Station - is now owned by the Clinton County Historical Society. And, it's becoming a tourist attraction piece by piece.
On Friday, another piece of that tourist attraction was put in place.
With the assistance of John Gummo of Beech Creek, the historical society acquired an Erie AAR single-door 87255, built by the General American Car Company in January of 1953. It was one of only 499 built, and is the only one still intact.
BILL CROWELL/THE EXPRESS
John Gummo, left, who facilitated the purchase of a 1953 boxcar for the Castanea Railroad Station, explains the workings of the wheels to members of the Clinton County Historical Society, from left, Lou Bernard, Anne McCloskey and Alan Black.
The railroad car made its way from Monroeton to its new home in Castanea on Friday. Members of the historical society, train enthusiasts and local residents watched with excitement as the car was lifted over the railroad tracks with a crane and set down at its new home.
Earlier this year, the historical society placed a kiosk on the property on Bridge Street in Castanea. The kiosk, built by vo-tech students of Central Mountain High School, was designed from 1936 plans for a railroad water tank. It contains signage detailing the history of the area, and will act as a welcome center for bikers arriving from a proposed rail-trail.
The historical society has been seeking donations to help defray the cost of the car and its installation. Jersey Shore Steel and Koppers Inc. have both donated materials or labor to the cause, along with John and Joyce Gummo of Eastern Resources. Local businesses and the public are also helping to fund the project, which is expected to bring tourism and employment to the area.
Castanea was founded by Jacob Brown and Peter Keller. In 1871, the two men purchased the area and began selling lots. The name came about because two things were prevalent in the area: Chestnut trees and Italians. The name "Castanea" initially came from the Italian word for chestnut.
In addition to the homes, industry began to grow there. All of these industries needed supplies. The obvious answer was to build a railroad station nearby, and in 1884, the Castanea Railroad Station was begun - the first station built in the area.
It was placed along the Beech Creek, Clearfield and Southwestern Railroad line, and the primary financial backers were the Vanderbilt family of New York. Through this station, trains shipped coal and bricks, lumber, food and farm products. In addition to this, the line also carried passengers, bringing in over six hundred people a day at it's busiest.
The railroad station was also ground zero for the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. Much like the Swine Flu today, the Spanish Flu spread throughout society in 1918, killing a number of people. Because the spread of illness necessarily needs to physically come from other areas, places where people travel are often hot spots for epidemics.
A search of the obituaries during the early days of the flu shows the first people to die from it fell into two categories.
First were railroad employees: Clerks, conductors, and telegraph operators fell to the flu. Second were travelers: People who had recently returned from a trip by train were dying, as well.
Trylon Chemicals purchased the station in 1956, and converted it to offices for the company. Trylon was a company that specialized in chemicals that were difficult to both produce and pronounce. Trylon was the first company in the world to receive a shipment of ethylene oxide, which had to be shipped in a specially-developed tank that kept it at a certain temperature. In August 1960, Trylon received the first shipment of the chemical ever.
Trylon went through some changes, eventually ending up as Quantum Chemical. On June 3, 1988, they deeded the station to the Clinton County Historical Society for one dollar, which made the station a community attraction. The historical society now owns the oldest railroad station in the county and plans to preserve it.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to continue the project may do so by sending a check to the Clinton County Historical Society, 362 E. Water St., Lock Haven, Pa. 17745.
Lou Bernard is curator of the Clinton County Historical Society.