Plans for the development of Shippensburg Station moved forward last week when a railroad boxcar was placed near the Fort Street Trailhead of the Cumberland Valley Rail-Trail.
Left on a railroad siding at the former Domestic Castings plant on North Queen Street in Shippensburg, the 1958 boxcar was at one time used by the Penn Central Railroad to transport freight on the Cumberland Valley line, which ran through Shippensburg.
The boxcar will be restored and used as a museum showcasing local railroad history. It will be part of the Shippensburg Station, which will connect to the rail-trail at Fort and Earl streets near Shippensburg University and provide a stage area for outdoor performances.
“Our goal is to make Shippensburg Station a town square that Shippensburg hasn’t had before and, because of its location, to pull the university and the downtown community closer together,” said Allen Dieterich-Ward, university professor and Cumberland Valley Rails-to-Trails Council board member.
“It will be a multi-use space focused on heritage as well as performing arts.”
University professor Steven Burg, who is assisting with the project, and his students are working with the Shippensburg Historical Society and the Shippensburg University Archives to research the history of the railroad and rail-trail.
“We would like to install some signage, similar to the Civil War signs in Shippensburg, about the history of the railroad and rail-trail,” Burg said. “We’re imagining a walking trail along Prince and Earl streets, continuing down what used to be called Railroad Street (Earl Street) … into downtown Shippensburg.”
Last week, Dave’s Truck Repair in Chambersburg, a local towing service, moved the boxcar from Domestic Castings to the trailhead. Plans include restoration of the boxcar and construction of a deck and section of track to create the look of a railroad station and connect to the rail-trail.
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“The inside of the boxcar is actually in good shape, but the outside needs refurbished,” Burg said.
When completed, the boxcar museum will house railroad memorabilia and serve as a backdrop for stage entertainment.
Burg said the Historical Society, university archives and other university departments are also working together to create a documentary about the history of the railroad and creation of the rail-trail.
Dieterich-Ward said a comfort station was built at the trailhead this summer by Shippensburg Township and the Shippensburg Rotary Club. It will formally open Nov. 5, and a benefit concert is tentatively scheduled Nov. 11 with all proceeds being used for boxcar renovations and improvements at Shippensburg Station, he said.
According to the Cumberland Valley Rail-Trail website, the rail-trail is an 11-mile stretch of railroad tracks, donated to the council by Conrail in 1995, that extends from Shippensburg to Newville. Today, it is a multi-use trail for “walking, jogging, bicycling, horseback riding and other nonmotorized recreational uses,” the website states.
Dieterich-Ward said plans to develop the Fort Street Trailhead came together quickly.
“The comfort station was in the design stage for a year or two, and then they started working on it early this summer,” he said. “Our vision for Shippensburg Station started in the spring.”
The project was also supported by the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp.