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WITF, Inc.

During America's Industrial Revolution in the 19th and 20th centuries, the country's railroads–and Pennsylvania's in particular–led the way to economic growth and prosperity.

Steam engines first came to Pennsylvania–and America–in 1829, and within a few short years, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were joined by a patchwork system of canals, railroads, and inclined planes. By the mid-1840s, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad became the first rail company in the country to haul over a million tons of freight in a year. And in 1880, the Pennsylvania Railroad became the nation's single largest corporation.

Meanwhile, smaller rail lines began to sprout up to connect smaller towns with the growing larger railroads. One of these short lines was the four-and-a-half-mile long Strasburg Railroad, chartered in 1832 to serve rural Lancaster County by carrying passengers and freight. Around the turn of the century, a streetcar line was completed between Lancaster and Strasburg, diverting most passenger traffic to trolleys. The railroad continued to haul freight, but it was later transformed into a tourist railroad complete with steam engines and wooden coaches.

Today, the Strasburg Railroad is still one of Lancaster County's most popular tourist attractions, a living reminder of how Pennsylvania rail lines and steam trains played an important role in defining America.
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