Conductor Dave Diano of York waits for visitors to load onto the train in Heritage Village at Muddy Creek Forks.
Conductor Dave Diano of York waits for visitors to load onto the train in Heritage Village at Muddy Creek Forks. (Bill Kalina photo)

Deep in York County is a quiet town that seems to be quieter than all the rest.

There's no gas station or grocery store, and the gravel in the road is enough to make city feet wobble.

The Ma & Pa Railroad Heritage Village, a preserved railroad town in Lower Chanceford Township, likes it that way.

With a classic general store, motor cars, a mill and thriving, untouched scenery, it's like visitors are thrown back into the 1900s, said Pete Tinsley, a docent at the attraction.

"The village hasn't really changed in the past 100 years," he said.

The village depended on the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad -- "Ma and Pa" for short -- to transport passengers and freight from York to Baltimore until the 1950s. Today, the village welcomes visitors for tours and a 40-minute ride on a motor car through the Muddy Creek Valley.

On the railroad: When train operator Terry Smith, in blue overalls and a striped conductor's cap, yelled "All aboard!" the motor car began to chug down the railroad.

Motor cars like this were used to inspect tracks for fallen trees and broken rails, he said.

At a slow, shaky pace, the car and its dozen passengers scooted along Muddy Creek Forks and miles of forest. The Ma and Pa was known for its meandering tracks, Smith said, as it had 476 curves on the way from York to Baltimore. It took trains about 41/2 hours to travel the 77-mile track.

The car passed through a huge rock wall, which gave passengers a break from the spring heat as its cool, mossy slabs briefly blocked the sun. The railroad will continue tours in the fall to see the changing of the leaves, Smith said.

"Aw, it's pretty," he said. "You get to see deer and there's turkeys down here."

He said there are also blackberry bushes in the woods passengers can pick for blackberry pie and other treats.

Smith's brief narration told passengers that York County was famous at one time for its potatoes, up until the 1950s. And Red Lion was once the richest city in the country, with some 200 factories. Dallastown was the same way, he said.

As the car continued back toward the village, the wheels squealed and bumps in the track made clanging sounds that shook the car.

"You drive a new coach like Amtrak today, you won't hear that," he said. "I like the clickity clack."

Back in time: Back at the village, a peek inside the general store shows a motley display of the years it was in business.

It looks and even smells like an antique store, with old Coke bottles, shaving cream, soaps and jars lining the walls. On the second floor, the store's original freight elevator -- a device that lifts heavy appliances with weights and pulleys -- is still in working condition.

"(The store) was like a modern-day Macy's or Walmart because they stocked everything," said Charlie High, a docent at the store.

An old post office, which closed in 1967, sits idle downstairs. There's still unsent mail inside the boxes.

Hand in the hopper: The Muddy Creek Forks Roller Mill sits across the street from the store. The commercial mill turned about 60 to 65 percent of grain into flour, and the rest was used as animal feed, Tinsley said.

The mill was powered by a waterwheel in the basement. Muddy Creek Forks used to have a dam that would direct water toward the mill and run the whole process almost automatically, he said.

Tinsley, a member of the Ma and Pa Railroad Preservation Society, said the town is virtually untouched by modernity.

"Everything's about the same as it was," he said.

If you go: The village is open Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. until Labor Day. Motor car train rides are $5 for adults and $3 for children and run hourly at a quarter after each hour.

For virtual tours, a complete operating schedule or to volunteer, visit maandparailroad.com.

To get to the village from York, take Route 74 south, off Interstate 83, and continue until you reach Brogue. At Brogue, turn right on to Muddy Creek Forks Road and continue for about five miles until you reach the town.