There are many excursion trains in Pennsylvania, but none offer the amazing combination of history and beauty that you can experience while riding the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad through Oil Creek State Park.
Trains have been running through the Oil Creek Valley since 1862, just three years after Edwin Drake drilled the world’s first commercial oil well near Titusville. This discovery led to a massive oil boom in the park, which peaked in the 1880s. It’s very hard to believe while visiting the park, but there were tens of thousands who lived, worked, and drilled in the forests here just over 100 years ago.
Today, Oil Creek State Park has become one of the most beautiful and historically important parks in Pennsylvania, complete with beautiful scenery, fascinating history, great hiking trails, and beautiful waterfalls.
To learn more about this history and to explore the park in a unique way, my family and I hopped aboard the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad for a trip through the park.
The train departs from Titusville at 1pm each operating day for its three hour journey through Oil Creek State Park. The train makes two stops along its route, at the Drake Well Museum and at the Petroleum City Station near the park office. At these stops, riders can get on and off the train. This is great as it allows visitors to either take a shorter ride or bike south through the park and ride the train back to their cars to the north.
As the train moves along its 13.5 mile route, conductors in each car tell a bit about the history of the park and how the Oil Creek Valley changed the world. They also point out many of the remnants of oil drilling that are still in the park and regale riders with stories about people that once lived there.
Of course, for those who are less interested in the history and just want to enjoy the beautiful scenery, the ride doesn’t disappoint either. For nearly the entire journey, the train travels within a few yards of Oil Creek. While this creek was once one of the dirtiest and most industrial waterways in the country, it has come back to life in a major way and is now a beautiful place to see.
Views can be had from either the seats of the regular train cars or from the open-air car at the back of the train. The open-air car on the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad was unique in that it was completely open. This made it easier to feel the breeze through your hair and was quite a pleasant area to visit during the journey.
Another unique aspect of the train was that it contains the last working railway post office in the United States. This gives riders the ability to mail a postcard to anywhere in the world and have it accepted for mailing right on the train. The mail car also has snacks and drinks available for purchase, or you can do what I did, and bring your lunch on board with you.
At the end of the line, the train makes a roughly 20-minute stop to turn around. During this stop, riders can exit the train, get snacks or souvenirs at a small shop, use the restroom, or just stretch their legs.
Once back on board, the train makes the return trip to Titusville, stopping twice to disembark riders, and, at the Petroleum Center Station, allow bikers to board for their return trip.
Truthfully, the three-hour ride through Oil Creek State Park is a bit on the long side. However, that doesn’t mean that the train isn’t worth taking. I really enjoyed my trip on the train, and the unique touches like the open-air car, interesting history, and the railway post office, made this a ride that I won’t soon forget.
So, if you want to explore “the valley that changed the world” in a unique way, or simply want to ride a train in northwestern Pennsylvania, hop aboard the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad.
Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad
Hours: Most Saturdays and Sundays: 11am
**The 2020 season has been cancelled. They plan to reopen in 2021.
Cost: Adults: $20, Children: $14 (for coach seats)
Address: 407 South Perry St