a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Repro train station

Take another look at the train station in the photo, above, because it’s not a beautifully restored version of itself.

This is a view of the brand new West Newton Station, rebuilt with modern construction materials as the latest addition to a hiking and biking trail.

The Regional Trails Corp. invested $750,000 to create a life-size model of the old Pennsylvania and Lake Erie Railroad station in West Newton, an historic borough along the Youghiogheny River in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Contractors even used the original blueprints to recreate the building on the same site as the one that was destroyed in a fire in the 1970s.

The building, which opened seven months ago, serves as a visitor center for the group that developed the Yough River Trail, which is part of the Great Allegheny Passage. The network of trails stretches for 150 miles between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Md., and attracts 700,000 visitors a year. It’s a great park, and those of us who live nearby are so lucky to have it in our backyard.

And, West Newton is a great place to start a journey on the abandoned rail line. The borough and its Colonial and Victorian houses more resembles a quaint village in New England than part of America's industrial rust belt.

The original settlement was named Simrall’s Ferry, and later Robb’s Ferry for Isaac Robb, who laid the town out in 1794. It’s first and biggest industry was the Markle Paper Mill that opened in 1859 but eventually closed because it was polluting the river. The rail line arrive there in 1860.

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