NEW FREEDOM, Pa. (AP) — A new Civil War-era venue is on track to open June 1 in New Freedom.
A reproduction 19th-century steam locomotive is being built to haul passengers along the same railroad route that Abraham Lincoln twice traveled.
The nonprofit Steam Into History is renovating space at 2 W. Main St., along the York County Heritage Rail Trail, and plans to move in by the end of the year.
Chief operating officer Bob Gotwols said the locomotive, York No. 17, has been constructed in Illinois and will be tested by the end of the year. Organizers also plan to lease vacant land nearby for a new railroad stop.
He said the group wanted to use 1860s vintage rail cars to carry passengers from New Freedom to Hanover Junction on the Northern Central Railroad, a line Abraham Lincoln traveled on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address and posthumously in his funeral car.
But most of the vintage passenger cars were constructed of wood and deteriorated, so the nonprofit is working with a company that constructs replicas for movies.
The company plans to lease two cars from the 1880s to the organization for its first year of operation while two 1860s cars are built for permanent use, Gotwols said.
Other plans: The two cars can carry 200 passengers and will come equipped with a bike carrier for rail trail riders, said Debi Beshore, manager-sales and administration.
She said the administrative space on Main Street will include offices, a gift shop, museum displays, and a model train display arranged by local volunteers.
Gotwols said the organization is in negotiations with the borough and Aero Energy to lease some vacant land adjacent to Marge Goodfellow Park.
Beshore said Steam Into History plans to build an engine house on the lot, where the locomotive and cars would be stored, as well as facilities for visitors and a ticketing and parking area.
Gotwols said the nonprofit has estimated the total cost at $7 million, with funding coming from private donations.
The organization's costs include building switches and replacing thousands of railroad ties over the 10-mile stretch.
Employees, volunteers: The group will have 10 paid employees — three managers plus a crew and maintenance. More than 80 people recently showed up for a volunteer orientation, and their roles will range from taking tickets to historic interpretation.
Beshore said the workers are hoping to start refurbishing the track this year, with all work finished in time for the attraction to open June 1.
Steam Into History is expected to have 40,000 visitors in its first year, running the train three times per day six days per week between June 1 and Labor Day. Runs will be abbreviated the rest of the year, but closed for the months of January and February.
Beshore estimated the organization will generate about $9 million per year in economic impact, both in sales at the attraction, but mostly at nearby businesses such as restaurants and hotels.
"Part of the reason for doing this is to make York a destination, and we're hoping this will make people want to visit the area," she said.
She said she's working with tourism officials in York, Lancaster and Gettysburg to promote the attraction.
In 2010, York County officials granted a 15-year lease for the nonprofit to use the rail lines, which are a county asset.