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Middletown-Hummelstown Railroad, Pennsylvania, USA

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The Middletown and Hummelstown Railroad is an independent railroad running between the two south-central Pennsylvania communities of Middletown and Hummelstown. The M&H or 'Milk and Honey Line'1 has been in operation more or less continuously since 1890.

The original M&H Railroad was incorporated in 1888 by local businessmen and construction began the next year along the towpath of the Union Canal. The line was opened in 1890 and operated independently and as a part of the Reading Railroad until the 1970s. In 1976, it regained its independence and began offering excursion trips a few years later.

Today, the M&H Railroad operates as an excursion train, taking passengers from Middletown to Hummelstown and back again2. And taking the train is a fun way to spend a few hours with the kids and learn a little local history.

A conductor/narrator tells the history of the Union Canal and the railroad during the short 11-mile journey. The train tracks are actually built atop the towpath of the canal where the mules pulled boats along the waterway.

For the trainspotters on the trip, the narrator talks about the 1920s vintage Pullman passenger cars and the General Electric diesel locomotive. As the train pulls away from the Reading Railroad freight station that now serves as the M&H Railroad passenger station and gift shop3, the conductor also points out various cars and trolleys in the railyard. The railroad is also working to restore a steam locomotive to eventually haul some of the excursion trains.

Some of the other sights he points out along the way include:

  • The remains of one of the locks on the Union Canal;

  • The remains of a covered bridge destroyed by high water during Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972;

  • A century-old limekiln where the local limestone bedrock was heated to remove lime for agricultural uses;

  • Horse Thief Cave where horse thieves were reputed to hide out after stealing horses;

  • Stoverdale Campground which was a famous religious campground and one of the more important stations on the railroad in the early 1900s;

  • Swatara Creek Bridge which is a high bridge that crosses the Swatara Creek just before reaching the platform at Indian Echo Caverns, a commercial limestone cavern in Hummelstown which is the terminus of the excursion trip.

On the return trip from Hummelstown, an accordionist plays folk songs and encourages the passengers to sing along. You can always expect to hear at least one polka and a few other merry tunes that the your kids will know.

A round-trip on the M&H Railroad costs $9 for adults and $4.50 for kids 3-11. All the profits go to the nonprofit M&H Railroad Preservation Association which operates and maintains the railroad.

In addition to its usual outings, the M&H Railroad offers a few special trains throughout the year, including:

  • Easter Bunny Express - The Easter Bunny rides the train, poses for photos with youngsters and passes out candy.

  • Mother's Day Special - Dinner is served along with live music in honour of mom's special day.

  • Father's Day Special - Dinner is served along with live music in honour of dad's special day.

  • Moonlight Express - A nighttime train ride takes place during the summer on the night of the full moon.

  • Train Robbery - A benefit for local children's charities features robbers who try to rob the train to be thwarted by water pistol packing passengers.

  • Civil War Train - American Civil War re-enactors fire cannons and recreate battle scenes along the tracks and sometimes on the train itself.

  • Fall Harvest Dinner Train - A dinner and live music highlight this trip as the train passes through the autumn colours.

  • Haunted Train - This train ride is a bit too intense for kids under six, but it is a spooky good time for those a bit older.

  • Santa Claus Express - Santa Claus makes an appearance on this train, passing out goodies to the youngsters.

  • New Year's Express - This train ride departs at 11pm and features snacks, live music and a lot of racket when midnight rings in the New Year.

1Milk and Honey is a play on the letters M and H and the fact that the railroad did deliver a lot of agricultural products.2It also does limited business as a freight hauler.3The gift shop sells an amazing array of Thomas the Tank Engine paraphernalia.

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