AVELLA, Pa. — The first passenger train to board at the Wabash station since Oct. 31, 1931, pulled into the station Saturday.
The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co., using passenger cars maintained by Orrville Railroad Heritage Society of Orrville, Ohio, offered two free trips for Avella area residents from the station to the Wellsburg-Mingo Junction Bridge and back. The rides were held in conjunction with the A.D. White Historical Society’s Avella History Fair, which was held at the Avella Community Center.
The railway company, a regional freight railroad, has a long-standing relationship with the historical society. The company has leased the Wabash station and the surrounding land to the society for a nominal annual fee and has participated in the planned renovation of a bay window caboose at the site by installing rails to sit the caboose on.
“Your neighbors are your customers,” said Lorne Dodds, Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co. road foreman of engineers, who left the corporate office to operate the train for the excursion. “We want to make our neighbors happy.”
Jim Northcraft, vice president of transportation, agreed, noting the company wishes to maintain a positive relationship with its Avella neighbors by being a good corporate citizen and praising the work of June Welch and Kathryn Slasor, members of the A.D. White Society.
“You just can’t say no to those two ladies,” said Northcraft as he watched hundreds of area residents, including scores of children, board the train.
Demand for the trip was so great that the railway company offered a second trip so all those who were waiting to board the train could participate.
“We don’t normally do passenger trips,” said Northcraft. “We’re doing this because of the A.D. White Society, in conjunction with their history fair.”
The company primarily transports raw materials, such as coal, sand and ore, and finished steel, and works with other regional railroads to offer wide-flung transportation. With a greater capacity than road transportation, trains are more cost effective, said company officials.
Jim Hill, division superintendent who’s described as a “railroad historian,” said it was enjoyable to see others taking an interest in railways, trains and the history of the profession.
“It’s amazing, the amount of information that is out there,” he said.
Several volunteers from the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society assisted during the trips.
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at email@example.com
DISEMBARKING -- Returning from the first of two trips, Avella area residents disembark from a Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co. train Saturday. Demand for the trip was so great that the railway company scheduled a second one. -- Summer Wallace-Minger