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Take a trip back in time by taking a drive down to Titusville, PA. Ride the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad, less than an hour away, a truly unique opportunity to experience q scenic and important part of history in western PA.
According to Jim Watson, a native of the Oil Creek Valley region and now general manager of the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad, their story begins in 1985. A group of local citizens with “a lot of passion for the job and a lot of vision” pledged to preserve the old railroad freight station in town. They formed a non-profit organization to keep that treasured piece of Titusville’s history. Their vision to save the old depot, originally built in 1892, and to run a tourist train on the former Conrail tracks, quickly created the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad.
“They were a group of far-sighted individuals who envisioned a tourist train to help offset the faltering local freight business,” said Bob Archer, originally from Titusville himself. He returned to the area after retiring from a U.S. military service career and now serves as the educator and supervisor for the railroad.
“Obviously it worked,” Watson added. “Next year is our 30th anniversary.”
“We never could have done it,” Archer added, “without a great board of directors committed to doing something special along with the 20 or more dedicated volunteers who make every trip an adventure for our passengers”
While the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad is not the only tourist train in the region, it draws more than 18,000 visitors every year. The railroad is also unique in other ways.
“We have the only operating mail car in the country,” Watson said. “We even have our own postmark with which reads ‘OC&T RPO’ on it. ‘RPO’ means ‘Railway Post Office.’ Passengers can purchase a postcard in the mail car and send it out in the mailbox in the car.”
A 3-hour round trip on the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad takes passengers through many miles of scenic and historic countryside. “I’m a retired restaurant owner,” Archer said, “so I made sure we have good food on board,” though he doesn’t serve it himself. The railroad offers snacks and hot dogs, sandwiches and soft drinks on the train and at the station.
The open air car is one of the rail road’s most popular features. Passengers can stroll through the car and enjoy the scenery in a way they have never experienced it before, Watson promised. Some of the wildlife that passengers see from the open air car includes eagles, deer and even bear.
“One time there were three cubs in an oak tree with the mama bear at the tree’s base,” Watson said. “The vibrations of the train cars scared those cubs right up the tree.”
“The Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad runs alongside a bike trail for about nine miles,” Watson said. He noted that many people will take the train up the line and ride their bike back to one of the four stations along the route; others bike up the line and rest up going back on the train. Watson said that this fall will be a prime season to ride the rails.
“Fall is the peak season for leaves,” Watson said. “People come from all around the world to ride the train and enjoy the spectacular views.”
The Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad also offers special theme rides. Shortly before Easter, the railroad presents a Peter Cottontail Express. Before Christmas, it’s a fun ride with Santa. They stop to pick up St. Nick along the way at the Drake Well station.
Archer said that the Murder Mystery Excursions are especially popular in the fall.
“People arrive at the station and have an excellent dinner inside Perry Street Station,” Archer said. “Then they board the train along with the theater troupe. Pretty soon someone gets murdered, and all aboard have to figure out ‘whodunit.’ When we get back to the station, we have coffee and dessert, and the crime is solved.”
“Welcome aboard,” Bob Archer said. “I’m on every train that leaves the station and I’m here to greet every passenger. Come on down!”
For more information, follow the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad on Facebook and Twitter, call (814) 676-1733 or visit www.octrr.org.