Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association Preserves Station
by Karen Fetter
In this day and age when it seems everything is about technology and new inventions, there are still people who prefer to preserve the past so that it can continue to be enjoyed by people of all generations.
One group in particular is the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association. After forming a mere four years ago, the LVRRA has taken great strides in preserving what is left of the 10.6 mile extension of the Pennsylvania Rail Road known as the Ligonier Rail Road.
Support of our group has been terrific, said William Potthoff, vice president of the LVRRA. Our next goal is to get children interested in railroading, too. That is why our restorations projects are so important.
The Ligonier Rail Road was built in 1877 by Judge Thomas Mellon. According to Potthoff, Mellons goal was to extend track from the Pennsylvania Railroad station in Latrobe to Ligonier and back as a new business venture. To sell tickets, Mellon created a getaway picnic area in a shaded wooded section of Ligonier that would draw people from the city and other areas for relaxation. We now know that shaded getaway as Idlewild Park.
Not only did Idlewild Park play a vital role in the success of the Ligonier Rail Road in the late 1800s, but it is also playing a vital role in the success of the LVRRA today through the donation of Darlington Station to the LVRRA in 2006. Through a series of grants from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and the Allegheny Foundation, the LVRRA took over the station from Idlewild Park and began a four-phase renovation process. The first phase, which cost $475,000, saved the station from demolition and restored the exterior. Phase two is to restore the interior. This will cost an additional $125,000. The LVRRA only needs $13,000 more to reach that goal. The goal of phase three is to furnish a museum inside of the station. Phase four is to restore a donated caboose that is near the station: a 1905 Bobber Caboose that was donated in September of 2007 by Mr. And Mrs. John Costello of Summerhill, PA.
In its heyday, the track for the LVRRA ran 10.6 miles with several stops between Latrobe and Ligonier. There was a Millcreek branch that added 5.4 miles. The train had eight roundtrips a day and a ticket was just $.35. The path followed Lincoln Road in Latrobe and continued on what is now the westbound lane of Route 30. The track is still visible in some parts, especially in the Latrobe area. The train later became affectionately known as the Doodlebug or the Dinky. Its last run was on August 31, 1952.
The Ligonier Rail Road had impressive statistics to go along with its history. For example, the train carried 32 million tons of freight and 9 million passengers in its existence. After its last run in 1952, there was no mention of it until 2004 nearly a half century later – when Bob Stutzman and Bill McCullough decided to form the LVRRA. Their mission is: to preserve the legacy, conserve the vestiges and collect relics and memorabilia of the Ligonier Valley Rail Road and to educate the community about railroading in the Ligonier Valley.
There are several ways for those interested in railroading to support the LVRRA. One way is to become a Friend of the LVRRA. This program involves a yearly donation between $20 – 200. Members of all levels will receive a membership card, an invitation to their annual dinner, and a Quarterly newsletter. Also, all members receive a 10 percent discount on all items that are for sale (with the exception of the Doodlebug).
While the renovation process is ongoing, the LVRRA has a temporary location at 106 North St. Clair Street in Ligonier. There are some items on display as part of the museum collection and items for sale. Hours are Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to Noon. LVRRA also accepts personal donations and memorabilia donations. Take a look through your belongings and photo albums to see what you have to offer. For more information about the LVRRA call William at 724-532-5564 or visit www.lvrra.org and download a membership form to become a member of the LVRRA today!
Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association
106 North St. Clair Street
Ligonier, PA 15658