WC Railroad offers historic picnic train runs

The West Chester Railroad near the historic Glen Mills station.

WEST CHESTER — Sunday picnic outings on the West Chester Railroad fits those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer made famous by the Nat King Cole song.

“Having a picnic while riding the rails of the old Pennsylvania Railroad West Chester branch is a perfect family outing,” said Dave Walter, Treasurer and historian of the West Chester Railroad Heritage Association. “The relaxing 90-minute rides allow passengers to see the scenic countryside and spend some quality time with family members before starting the work week.”

The Summer Picnic Specials run every Sunday from June 4 until September 17 at noon from the West Chester station at 230 East Market Street. Picnic lunches are available for purchase. Riders can also bring along their own meals. Tickets cost $15.00 for adults, $13.00 for children ages 2 to 12 and those under 2 ride free. For more information and to purchase advance tickets, see www.westchesterrr.net.

Boxed lunches can be ordered when tickets are purchased online. Sandwich choices are ham, turkey and peanut butter and jelly. All lunches come with chips, fruit, drink, dessert and are made fresh. The cost is $12.00 for the ham or turkey and $10 for the peanut butter and jelly.

“Nat King Cole sings of those lazy, hazy, crazy days of soda, pretzels and singing a song of cheer,” Walter said. “That’s the atmosphere created on the train. Our stop at the Glen Mills train station has a picnic grove. This is a fine family outing.”

Historic stations visible during the ride include Westtown station, now an art gallery; the 19th century village and station at Cheyney; Locksley Station, which is near one of the oldest iron slitting mill sites in the country; the Frazier farmstead of Revolutionary War fame; and the picturesque village of Glen Mills with its restored Victorian station.

The West Chester Railroad Heritage Association, an all-volunteer group, operates the railroad. The purpose of the association is to collect, preserve, and exhibit railroad equipment and artifacts relating to railroading with emphasis on the southeastern Pennsylvania region; to operate a demonstration railroad for the education and enjoyment of the public.

More than 160 years ago businessmen and community leaders of West Chester chartered the West Chester Railroad Company. It became one of the nation’s earliest railroads through an act in the Pennsylvania legislature in 1831. A quarter century later, West Chester got its second railroad, the West Chester & Philadelphia Railroad, which opened on November 11, 1858. Both became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad system by 1881, when they were known as the Frazer branch and West Chester branch. At one time the Pennsylvania Railroad operated 24 passenger trains to West Chester each day, plus three scheduled freights and additional special trains as required.

Although the Market Street station was demolished in 1968, Penn Central and SEPTA continued to carry passengers until 1986. For a nearly decade, the line remained unused until a group of railroad enthusiasts approached the Borough of West Chester about restoring service. Today, the new West Chester Railroad Company is owned and operated by 4 States Railway Service Inc., a Railroad management, maintenance and operations company which is dedicated to preserving a portion of West Chester branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

For more information on the West Chester Railroad and all of its special rides, see www.westchesterrr.net.

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