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Boarding Steam Into History’s replica Civil War-era train is like stepping back in time.

One of its engines, named William H. Simpson No. 17, is glossy black and shiny brass, pulling spotless coaches with wooden benches and wall sconces. Wood-burning stoves warm passengers on chilly journeys.

As the train chugs along the Northern Central Railroad line between its New Freedom station and stops in Glen Rock and Hanover Junction, re-enactors in period garb — Abraham Lincoln, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and guitar-playing soldiers — tell stories about the history those particular tracks have seen.

For instance, Lincoln twice road those rails, first on his way to Adams County to deliver his Gettysburg Address and later, posthumously, when the assassinated leader’s body was transported home to Springfield, Illinois.

Steam Into History’s maiden voyage left the 2 W. Main St. station nearly four years ago, after repairs were made to the then-disused 10-mile stretch of track that follows the York County Heritage Rail Trail.

The project — which includes offices, a gift shop, museum displays and a model train display — cost $7 million, which the nonprofit raised through private donations.

Now, Steam Into History is nearing the end of the line for its $3.8 million capital campaign that will eventually lead to a new stop in York City.

With a recent $5,000 grant from FirstEnergy Corp., the organization has raised $2.4 million. The funds will be used for start-up capital, past construction costs and new turntables for the track route toward downtown York.

“There are some renovations being done in the Northwest Triangle, and that’s where we hope to get the train into,” Steam Into History CEO Sharon Dorn said.

The organization’s steam engine is named in honor of the late Bill Simpson, a local philanthropist and one of Steam Into History’s founders.

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Steam Into History's Tannenbaum Christmas Tree Train

The train was a longtime dream of Simpson’s — a dream that has turned into a historical jewel and an economic boon for York County.

At its launch, Steam Into History anticipated the attraction would generate about $9 million per year in economic impact and attract 40,000 visitors in its first year. Last year, it passed the 60,000-visitor mark.

The organization’s locomotives are now gearing up for the spring season, which begins next month and will include several new events, including a Rails to Ales craft beer ride that will take place near St. Patrick’s Day.

Steam Into History also plans “bunny rides” for Easter and murder mysteries during the season. It is looking to become a wedding venue for rail enthusiasts or people looking for a rustic theme.

We salute FirstEnergy for helping Steam Into History and urge our readers — whether history buffs, train enthusiasts or anyone looking for an exciting family-friendly excursion — to buy a ticket and support this growing local attraction.

Visit Steam Into History's website at http://www.steamintohistory.com/

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