Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton celebrates National Park Service's 107th birthday

Aug. 27—SCRANTON — Steamtown National Historic Site celebrated the 107th birthday of its parent, the National Park Service, on Saturday.

The event drew 800 to 1,000 visitors, Steamtown NHS management assistant Megan Stevens said.

"We really enjoy hosting these types of events. It's a great way to bring families out and showcase what we have to offer here right in downtown Scranton," Stevens said.

Enacted Aug. 25, 1916, the Organic Act established the National Park Service "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Steamtown National Historic Site was established in 1986 to preserve, interpret and protect the history of steam railroading in America, including the historic railroad yard, collections, technical knowledge and skills that further the public understanding of the impact of steam railroading on U.S. industry, commerce and society, according to the site.

Steamtown NHS encompasses 62 acres on the site of the original Delaware, Lackawanna & Western rail yard. People from throughout the nation come to Steamtown, particularly train and rail enthusiasts.

Brothers Pat and Chris Hite of West Point, Virginia, who were camping in the Lehigh Valley with their wives, drove to Steamtown for the event.

Pat Hite's pickup truck has a special-interest Virginia Railway Heritage license plate that says "STMFAN." He also wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a steam engine and the words, "I Don't Always Stop And Look At Trains; Oh Wait, Yes I Do." In Virginia, Pat sees a Norfolk Southern train rolling into a paper mill daily. He's visited other train museums and he and his wife enjoy train-ride excursions.

"I've just always been a fan of steam trains, from a kid on," Pat Hite, 60, said. "I always tell my wife, I think I was born like 50 years too late."

Pat Hite previously visited Steamtown a decade ago, and it was the first visit for Chris, 63. Upon parking, they made a beeline to the gleaming black "Big Boy" locomotive on display along the entrance road.

"As soon as I saw it, I said, 'You've got to get a picture of me by those wheels,'" Chris said. "I just can't believe how big the engine is."

"It's a big'un," Pat added.

Event activities included an opening prayer and performance by the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, live music, crafts, short train rides, tours of the Mattes Street Tower, "Ring of Fire" demonstrations, a handcar program, locomotive cab tours, demonstrations in the locomotive shop and a scavenger hunt.

"I like to think that we're one of the most unique National Park Service sites, having the opportunity and privilege to be able to operate steam and diesel locomotives and give folks that live railroading experience," Stevens said. "It's not something you usually think of when you think of a National Park Service site."

The railroading experience draws regular visitor Tom Slowikowski of Factoryville.

"I love coming here. You get to see the technologies being used at the time. It's more hands-on, you get to see the (maintenance) shops," Slowikowski said from the cab of Canadian Pacific Railway Locomotive No. 2317.

The Banull family of the Minooka section of Scranton, who also are regular visitors, came out again Saturday. Cheryl Banull brought her five children: Britt, 17, Joseph, 14, Veronica, 12, Ben, 10, and Kevin, 8.

"We come here often to see the trains. The kids like touring the museum and seeing all of the different things going on." Cheryl Banull said. "This was the first time we were ever able to climb up in there (into the Big Boy cab), so this is pretty cool."

emailto:Contact the writer:; 570-348-9100 x5185; @jlockwoodTT on Twitter.