In preparation for its highly anticipated maiden voyage, the York No. 17 steam locomotive was fired up Thursday for test runs on the track between New Freedom and Glen Rock.

The Steam Into History engine, a reproduction of a 19th-century model, is ready to roll for the historical attraction's inaugural run on Saturday, an invite-only event for the friends and family of the late Bill Simpson.

The historical train ride was a long-standing dream for Simpson, a philanthropist and one of the organization's founders.

The train will be open to the public after Saturday's dedication, with a sold-out crowd of 100 people riding the full 20-mile round-trip excursion between New Freedom and Hanover Junction, along the York County Heritage Rail Trail, said Debi Beshore, manager of sales and administration for Steam Into History.

Steam Into History’s York #17 locomotive makes some smoke after a trial run outside the non-profit’s offices and shop in New Freedom Thursday.
Steam Into History's York #17 locomotive makes some smoke after a trial run outside the non-profit's offices and shop in New Freedom Thursday. (Bill Kalina)

Sunday's noon kickoff includes 19th-century re-enactors and living historians on the train ride, expected to take about 2½ hours.

The day also serves as grand opening for Steam Into History's store, 2 W. Main St., which offers reproduction period attire such as bonnets and Civil War kepis, replicas of Abe Lincoln's trademark stovepipe hat, and an unusual assortment of Civil War-era spy gadgets including a wooden cypher wheel.

Cautious trip: Beshore said the engine will stop at all crossings, exercising extreme caution as motorists and rail trail visitors become accustomed to keeping an eye out for the 35-ton Civil War-era machine.

The loud, brightly colored smoke-belching engine took pedestrians and motorists by surprise Thursday near Glen Rock. Some motorists pulled off the road to watch. Others honked their horns and gave the "thumbs-up" sign.

Engineer Steve Meola said York No.17 will be chugging along at a period-appropriate 15 miles per hour.

He and engineer Alex Horneman will be among those - dressed in trousers, suspenders, and vests - running the oil burner, controlling the throttle, and watching water levels in the steam-powered locomotive.

The engine used between 700 and 800 gallons of water for Thursday's trip; the full excursion to Hanover Junction could use about twice as much, Meola said.

Track repairs: It's been several years since this portion of the Northern Central Railroad has been used, so the project required replacement of more than 7,000 ties over the 10-mile stretch.

The train cost about $7 million, which was funded through private donations.

Pulling two 19th-century replica railroad coaches, the locomotive will take passengers on tours, featuring narration on the historical significance of the stretch between New Freedom and Hanover Junction; Abraham Lincoln twice traveled the tracks, on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address and posthumously in his funeral car.

After this weekend, the train's next excursion is June 9. On June 22, the group will use the new train in a free 2 p.m. re-enactment expected to attract about 2,000 spectators.

The attraction costs $19 for adults and $9 for children 3-13.

Dates and times for excursions will vary over the next few weeks. For a schedule or to purchase tickets, visit www.steamintohistory.com.

- Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.