The New Hope & Ivyland Railroad (reporting marks NHRR) is a very popular shortline/excursion carrier located in extreme eastern Pennsylvania (not far from the busy metropolitan area of Philadelphia) and is one of the oldest tourist railroads in the country, dating back to the mid-1960s. Unfortunately, the railroad's past is quite the roller-coaster once it took over the property that had been originally owned by the Reading Railroad. After falling on hard times, through much work, volunteer help, and state aid the NH&I today is at its strongest with a connection to CSX at Ivyland for its freight operations. While the railroad's freight service helps it to remain solvent and functional it is perhaps best known for its steam locomotives and vintage railroad cars, which carry thousands of visitors annually.
The New Hope and Ivyland began as a dream in the early 1960s by a group of railfans and volunteers from Philadelphia who wished to start their own excursion train. In 1962 they established the organization Steam Trains, Inc. as a means to operate their hope-for tourist railroad but alas there was no property available for sale. However, being the 1960s railroads were seriously struggling to make ends meet and it wasn't long until they had a chance to when the Reading Railroad, attempting to shed unprofitable trackage offered to sell to the group part of its New Hope Branch, which stretched 16.7 miles between Ivyland and New Hope (the line terminated at Glenside, an additional eight miles to the south but the Reading retained that section of the route, today owned by CSX).
Quickly seizing on the opportunity the group purchased the line for $200,000 and began operations right away in 1966. Unfortunately, while the group began its new railroad, a Class III shortline known as the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad (to also serve the remaining freight customers along the route), overspending and a lack of profits quickly saw their hopes fade away. They had been so confident in their new railroad that they leased Reading diesel locomotives to operate their freight and passenger services (along with an ex-Canadian National 4-6-0 steam locomotive) and hired paid staff and employees to oversee it all. For passenger equipment the group purchased seven, standard passenger coaches. While the new operation was fairly successful the income simply could not keep up with expenses.
In 1971 the group made further purchasing by picking up an Alco RS1 although by later that year the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad had filed for Section 77 bankruptcy protection and a year later laid off all paid staff and operated on volunteers only. In 1974 the railroad was purchased by the Bucks County Industrial Development Corporation, which named McHugh Brothers Heavy Hauling as operator of the railroad. Thankfully, they retained the New Hope & Ivyland name and thanks to sound management and increased freight business the NH&I emerged from bankruptcy in 1979.
In the summer of 1980 the volunteers of the NH&I decided to resume passenger service, which had ended under the McHugh Brothers. In 1990 the railroad was again sold, this time to the Bucks County Railroad Preservation & Restoration Corporation. With the McHugh Brothers no longer operating freight service and the Bucks County group having complete control of the railroad they set about raising $2 million to completely rebuild the property, which they were able to accomplish.
Today, the New Hope & Ivyland operates under an excellent state of repair and sees thousands of visitors annually. If you are looking to ride aboard the train during its summer excursion season they have plenty to choose from including season specials, group charters, private charters, and much more. Currently, they have one fully operational steam locomotive for passengers to enjoy, 2-8-0 Consolidation #40 along with a few others in storage. In addition, the railroad has a small of diesels which regularly handle passenger assignments, which are slowly being repainted into the company's handsome maroon and black livery. To learn more about visiting the railroad and taking a trip please click here to visit their website.