The Strasburg Rail Road is said to be the oldest continuously operating railroad in North America, in existence since 1832. It’s a short line that connects to what became the Pennsylvania Railroad in Paradise, Pennsylvania. The line ran for well over a century, but by the 1950s it was showing its age. Declining revenues and deteriorating trackage and rolling stock were rendering operations ever more marginal, and it seemed destined to spiral down into bankruptcy and abandonment like so many U.S. railroads.
A group bought the railroad in the late 1950s, however, and largely repurposed it as a tourist attraction and heritage line. It began running steam locomotives for excursions in the early 1960s. The Strasburg Rail Road now runs fully restored steam locomotives, as well as restored vintage wooden passenger cars. It’s currently said to be the busiest excursion railroad in the U.S. To this day, however, the Strasburg Rail Road makes a point of still having active freight operations.
Unsurprisingly, the maintenance and repair of steam engines is a nearly lost art in North America, which makes it a challenge for legacy railroads to use them to maintain their operations. The Strasburg Rail Road maintains an extensive set of steam locomotive shops, not just for their operations but as a restoration and repair service for steam locomotives in general.