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Railroad History in Turbotville

On February 23, 1866 the Turbotville and McEwensville Railroad was chartered. Unfortunately, the railroad never materialized. It wouldn't be until June 22, 1886, some 20 years later, when the Wilkes-Barre and Western Railroad was formed that the idea of a railroad coming through Turbotville seemed like a reality. By Monday, December 13, 1886 the railroad opened for business with two round trips each day, except Sunday, from Watsontown to Jerseytown, and a third round trip in the late afternoon to Lethergo.

The rail line extended from Watsontown on the west and had stops in McEwensville, Warrior Run, Turbotville, Schuyler, California (aka Ottawa), Lethergo (aka Dieffenbach), Derry (aka Strawberry Ridge/Washingtonville), Jerseytown, Eyer's Grove, and Millville. Later stops were added at Rohrsburg, Orangeville, Lightstreet, Bloomsburg, and ended at the ACF Rail Car Factory in Berwick on the east. The line was originally intended to extend from the anthracite coal fields in Shickshinny in the east and merge with the rail lines carrying soft coal from Clearfield County in the west. With the Pennsylvania Railroad running through Watsontown, the rail line ended there on the west, and the line to Shickshinny never fully materialized to the east.

Special Sunday excursions took passengers to places like the picnic grounds at Eyer's Grove and the Bloomsburg Fair. You could also "charter" a Sunday excursion of your own for a family reunion or birthday party if you had enough people to fill the train so that the railroad company would make a profit. It wasn't until the great fire in Turbotville in August 1900 that nearly destroyed the town, that railroad owners decided to cash in on the idea of a Sunday excursion. Struggling financially and looking to make some quick cash, the railroad decided to add a run from Watsontown to Turbotville every hour on Sunday to carry spectators to see almost 1/3 of Turbotville in ruins from the day long fire.

Rich lime deposits in the Turbotville area were shipped from the lime kilns by rail car to farmers at points all along the rail line. Passenger service continued to run from the Turbotville Train Station until it was discontinued completely on the entire rail line around 1937. However outgoing freight consisting of mostly cream from the Dewart Creamery building still standing near the tracks in Turbotville, was happening until the 1940s. At its peak, the Dewart Creamery building in Turbotville shipped one entire freight car of cream each day.

The rail line was later sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad and didn't see much activity until the Pennsylvania Power & Light Company decided to build a power plant near Strawberry Ridge which began producing electricity in 1972. The power plant required a minimum of 10,000 tons of coal per day to keep in operation. The line, later sold to Conrail, is primarily used to supply coal to the power plant, but is still used today to haul grain and fertilizer from points all along the tracks. The rail line is currently owned by the Norfolk Southern Railroad.

Train Station History

When the railroad finally came through Turbotville in 1886, the Turbotville Train Station was the western-most station on the rail line. Although the line eventually ended at Watsontown, the rail lines and station in Watsontown were then controlled by the Pennsylvania Railroad, as was the station at Orangeville.

Virtually all the train stations on the Wilkes-Barre and Western Railroad were identical. With the exception of window and door placements, the floor plans and dimensions, for the most part, were alike. Although there were stops at places like McEwensville, Warrior Run, and Schuyler, to name a few, only stations with agents were placed at Turbotville, California (aka Ottawa), Derry (aka Strawberry Ridge/Washingtonville), Jerseytown, Millville, Rohrsburg, and Berwick. Typically, stops that did not have a station already had some other type of building, such as a general store, in that vicinity, that did the job just as well. Not building stations at stops that already had a building that would suffice saved money for the newly formed railroad in 1886.

As of 2011, all stations on the Wilkes-Barre and Western line were torn down with the exception of two. The Ottawa station was moved a short distance from the tracks and altered and the Turbotville Train Station was moved to Bloomsburg in 1964, where it remained until 2011.

Virtually abandoned after passenger service ended in the 1930s, the Pennsylvania Railroad, who later owned the rail line, donated the Turbotville Train Station to a wealthy entrepreneur, Harry L. Magee, of Bloomsburg. Mr. Magee's holdings at one time included the Bloomsburg Airport, WHLM radio, and Magee Carpet Mills to name a few. Later, Mr. Magee decided to open the "Magee Transportation Museum" on a farm situated between the town of Bloomsburg and the current location of the Columbia Mall.

In 1964, the Turbotville Train Station was dismantled and moved to Bloomsburg. It was used as the ticket booth where visitors could purchase tickets for the trolley ride. The trolley tracks ran the entire outermost areas of the farm. The barn was then converted to a transportation museum with antique cars and all kinds of transportation memorabilia.

The museum fared quite well until Hurricane Agnes struck our area in June 1972. After the storm and severe flooding, the museum lay in ruins. Unfortunately, a short time later in October 1972, Harry Magee died and his family decided to not rebuild. The museum contents were sold, but fortunately the Turbotville Train Station survived intact on the property to this day. The station was flooded most notably again in 1975 by Hurricane Eloise and several more times, including 1979, 1984, 1993, 1996, 2005, and 2011.

The train station was purchased from the owners of the former museum in 2010. However, as fate would have it, the train station would once again be flooded by another tropical storm named "Lee" in September 2011. The station was to be dismantled and moved back to Turbotville by October 1, 2011, but efforts were put on hold until floodwaters receded and the ground had dried enough for equipment and trucks to cross the property without getting stuck. So, by mid December 16, 2011 the train station was dismantled and trucked back to Turbotville.

Reassembly of the station started on February 13, 2012. All was going well until on August 4, 2012, a fierce storm that blackened the skies over the entire area came through Turbotville. Accompanying the storm were driving rains and winds that reportedly topped 82 miles per hours. It was these winds that toppled the train station even before reassembly could be finished. However, volunteers gathered to clean up the remains of the old station and a new shell was erected in just 5 short weeks. Volunteers managed to salvage some of the original structure to reincorporate into the new building.

If you would like to learn more about the train station project, become a member of this society free of charge, volunteer your time, or make a donation to help us make this project become a reality, please attend one of our monthly meetings held the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 7:00 pm in the Turbotville Community Hall or contact the President of the Turbotville Borough Heritage Society, Michael Sechler, at 135 Broadway Street, Turbotville, PA 17772 or call (570) 649-5289.

The train station as it appeared in September, 1970
The train station as it appeared, freshly painted in July, 2009

 

Turbotville Train Station Scale Model

 
Scale Model Front

This 1/12 scale model of the Turbotville Train Station was completed by Bob Brouse of rural Turbotville. Mr. Brouse worked for approximately 4 months between December 2010 and March 2011 creating this model of the train station, as it would have appeared when it was built in 1886 by the Wilkes-Barre & Western Railway Company. The model was crafted from actual measurements taken of the station. Pre-1900 photos of the station as it appeared in Turbotville were also used for details of its original construction. Mr. Brouse crafted all the wooden parts of the station by hand with the exception of the shingles on the roof. The front and rear entry doors open and close, the front and rear freight doors roll open and closed on wooden wheels and tracks, and all the lower window sashes raise and lower just as the real station does. Also, Mr. Brouse has constructed the model so that the rear portion of the roof opens which then lifts the interior ceiling so you can get a birds-eye view of the inside of the station. When the original station was built, it was divided into three rooms. Looking at the photo below, the left side of the station was for passenger service and seating to wait for the train. The right side of the station included rolling freight doors where freight was unloaded from the train and stored until local merchants could pick it up. The center part of the station held the office and ticket window where passengers could purchase their one-way or round trip tickets.

 
Scale Model Interior

This model was created to recognize the 125th Anniversary of the Turbotville Train Station in 2011. Once the original Turbotville Train Station makes its way from Bloomsburg back to Turbotville and is placed on a new foundation, the model will then be moved into the train station and placed on permanent display.

The Turbotville Borough Heritage Society would like to thank Bob Brouse for the time and effort he put into this project and for presenting this model to the society for permanent display. We would also like to thank Frank Cotner who assisted Mr. Brouse with some of the details on the model.

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