Right between Summers Ice Cream and Snoballs shop and the railroad tracks in Stewartstown is a small building that might look like just another vacant brick building to someone in a hurry.
But those who slow down will see the Stewartstown Railroad station -- a 127-year-old building rich in history that is now open to the public.
The station museum on Route 851 in Stewartstown will have several free open houses on Sundays throughout the rest of the summer.
Visitors may ride an operating motorcar from 1:30 until 4 p.m. for $5 per seat. The rides are in authentic rustic work cars -- not passenger coaches. Schools and groups are also welcome to visit the railroad on request.
The 7.4 miles of railroad track stretch
The Friends of the Stewartstown Railroad, a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization with about 30 volunteers, are working to save the railroad from disappearing.
George M. Hart, a major supporter of the railroad who provided its main source of financing, died in 2008, and now funds are needed to preserve the railroad and repair its track and roadbed.
Debt issue: Hart loaned the railroad about $352,000 and willed the debt to the Bucks County Historical Society, which is now trying to collect the money.
According to John Willever, the executor of Hart's estate, the Surface Transportation Board has not yet ruled on the Bucks County Historical Society's request to approve an "adverse abandonment" of the railroad.
Approval of adverse abandonment would allow the estate to ask a state court to foreclose on the railroad. It oculd then be sold to repay the debt.
"I have to assume that they are still mulling the decision," Willever said Friday of the Surface Transportation Board.
In Stewartstown: For now, though, the railroad continues and volunteers are needed to work on routine infrastructure maintenance, said David Williamson, president of the Friends of the Stewartstown Railroad.
Experience is not necessary -- volunteers will be trained to do track and
mechanical work or to help with cutting down trees and completing other tasks to maintain the railway. Experienced welders, pipe fitters and diesel mechanics are also needed, Williamson said.
The work cars that visitors can ride once carried anywhere from 8 to 16 track workers at a time -- with half the men sitting on the steps at the bottom of the small open-air cart, Williamson said.
They can travel up to 15 miles per hour, he said, "But if you hit something, they'll fly like an airplane."
So Williamson, who has been volunteering at the railroad since 1984, keeps the speed to a minimum for visitors.
About a mile from the station sits an abandoned water cistern, where steam locomotives would stop for water so their boilers would not explode, Williamson said.
Ken May, who volunteers at the railroad, said, "It is a very unique property because it was built in 1884 and still has all of the original buildings. It's quite a bit of history that hopefully won't go away."
-- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or email@example.com