About the Museum

What’s in a name?  Actually, quite a bit.  We are the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, not the “Pennsylvania Railroad Museum” or some other variation of the name.   We are, in no way, a museum exclusively devoted to the Pennsylvania Railroad.   We are a museum devoted to telling the rich stories of railroading in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including all its railroads, its support industries and its workers and travelers – past and present.

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania was created by an act of the state legislature (1963), with a site selected in Strasburg, Lancaster County (1965).  Very gradually, the Museum began acquiring its first locomotives and railroad cars, with the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Historic Collection arriving in Strasburg from Northumberland, PA (1969).  The first phase of Museum construction yielded the installation of a 100-foot ex-Reading Company turntable and yard tracks (1970-1971), while the second phase saw the completion of the Museum building (1972-1974).  In April 1975, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania opened to the public, the first structure in North America built specifically as a railroad museum.

The non-profit Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania was chartered to provide support for education, restoration and fundraising projects (1983).  A successful capital fund drive yielded a 45,000-square-foot addition, reminiscent of an arched urban train shed of the late 19th century, to the main exhibit hall (1995).  Gradually, the 1915-era “Golden Age of Railroading” Street Scene was completed, with the addition of Steinman Station, a re-created early 20th century passenger depot (1988); Stewart Junction, an interactive railway education center for all ages (2000); and a furnished streetscape of five period building vignettes (2004-2010).  To better preserve a growing collection, a state-of-the-art restoration shop was added (1999).  The Museum’s font entrance was remodeled, with a new lobby atrium and museum store (2007), and geothermal heating and air-conditioning was installed (2011).  Currently, a $4.5 million comprehensive exhibit project is in progress (2018), and a $6 million roundhouse is planned (2018).

Today, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania features a world-class collection of more than 100 historically significant locomotives and railroad cars – made and/or operated in Pennsylvania – as well as a collection of more than a half a million photographic images and documents, and over 17,000 smaller artifacts, including tools, uniforms, tickets, station signage, telegraph and signal equipment, works of art, and many other items used to build and operate railroads serving the Commonwealth.  The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania’s mission is to document, preserve and educate the public about the Commonwealth’s rich railroad history, discovering the relevance of railroads in building the nation and the role of today’s railroads in our lives.

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Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC), the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Created in 1945, the PHMC is responsible for the collection, conservation and interpretation of Pennsylvania’s historic heritage. The PHMC works in partnership with others to preserve the Commonwealth’s natural and cultural heritage as a steward, teacher and advocate for the people of Pennsylvania and the nation. Learn more

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Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

The Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (FRM) nonprofit membership organization has supported the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in many ways since 1983, including fundraising, advocacy, programming, marketing and volunteer and paid staff work, ranging from technology services to restoration of rolling stock, education and visitor services. Literally millions of dollars have been facilitated by the FRM for the growth and development of the world-class Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Become a Member

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Smithsonian Affiliations Program Member

Established in 1996, Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums, educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. The goal of Smithsonian Affiliations is to facilitate a relationship among the affiliate organization and the Smithsonian Institution to create lasting experiences that educate, inspire and broaden perspectives on science, history, world culture and the arts. Learn more