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Rouzerville's Red Run Express fueled by nostalgia

June 18, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

ROUZERVILLE, Pa. - Although it is a little engine, the one chugging along weekly at Red Run Park has faithfully carried thousands of people for possibly upward of 100 years.

The Red Run Express offers free rides for young and old every Saturday, Sunday and holiday afternoon. Those associated with the train say that while children enjoy it for the entertainment, adults hop on for the sake of nostalgia.

The train's first home was Red Bridge Park on U.S. 11 outside Chambersburg, Pa., but many people remember it from Cold Springs Park on Marsh Road. The train moved there shortly after World War II.

Officials with Washington Township, Pa., have held onto pictures of the train from the 1920s.

"We rebuilt it to look like it did originally," said Jerry Zeigler, the township's code enforcement officer.

Volunteers serve as ticket takers, conductors and small-job mechanics for the Red Run Express, which has a gas-powered engine, faux coal car, two passenger cars and a caboose.

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"We usually run it four hours, and I'd say we get 200 to 250 people a day," said Allen Stine, a longtime train volunteer.

"It's run completely by volunteers," Zeigler said. "There's no tax money in the operation."

Stine's favorite memory from the Red Run Express involves two ladies who brought Hagerstown adults with special needs about two years ago. One man was helped onto a car and settled in for the ride.

"Once that train started, he started laughing and laughed continuously," Stine said.

Stine, of Zullinger, Pa., remembers signaling to the women to question whether he should continue with the ride.

"I think I went around 40 times," Stine said.

Local businessman Dean Hebb and his wife donated money needed to purchase the train in the mid-1990s, according to Zeigler.

The township hosted a fundraising drive to refurbish the train, and to purchase rails and tunnel.

"The public donated a little over $30,000 for that," Zeigler said.

An additional $20,000 since then paid for the train station, he said.

"The nice thing is the community really owns the train because people gave money for it. It's good family fun," Zeigler said.

Although train rides are free, annual donations collected at the station total about $14,000. Zeigler said that is the equivalent of about 10 cents a ride, an amount that allows the township to break even on running the train.

Special-event rides like those for Halloween and Christmas are hosted throughout the year.

Those close with the Red Run Express said many of the grandparents riding the train now remember it from the 1950s and 1960s in Cold Springs Park.

"As the community ages, some of the thrills have gone away. ... Also, the volunteer pool is shrinking as the people get older," Zeigler said.

Anyone interested in volunteering to operate the Red Run Express or help in its train station can call the township office at 717-762-3128. Weather-permitting, the train runs from 1 to 5 p.m. every Saturday, Sunday and holiday between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

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