Home ~ Events ~ Store ~ Services ~ About Us" ~ Join Us ~ M'burg History ~ CVRR

~ FREIGHT STATION RESEARCH ~

1858 map detail
1858 map detail

In his History of the Cumberland Valley Railroad, Paul Westhaeffer cites CVRR sources saying that Mechanicsburg had a fuel wood and water facility in Mechanicsburg from the start of operations in 1837. The 1858 County Atlas shows the current Freight Station property occupied by the CVRR. It shows a long structure on the current Freight Station property, spaced back from the single track main line. This would be consistent with an open shed for wood cutting and storage, where the wood had to be carried by hand or cart to the locomotive tenders. It makes sense to have the wood and water where the passenger trains stopped, the Railroad Hotel, which the 1858 map shows as a fairly small building on an extension of Railroad Avenue between Strawberry Alley and the tracks. There may have been some freight handled at the CVRR facility here as well, but the CVRR only owned a small number of freight cars in the early days, due to lack of money. Most freight on the CVRR was hauled in cars owned by the freight forwarders, who loaded them at their warehouses. Westhaeffer describes this situation, and the American Railroad Journal in 1849 reported that the CVRR had "no burthen cars" other than for maintenance.

1872 map

The 1872 Cumberland County Atlas shows a slightly different footprint for the structure, beside a two track main line. It is hard to tell, but it may have been torn down and rebuilt when the second line was added in 1871.The CVRR was still using wood burning engines, so a wood shed was still needed.

I have heard that there is a deed showing that the CVRR bought the property in 1873. I have checked the records at the county courthouse, but I cannot find any CVRR purchases near that time or earlier of the property on the corner of Market and Allen. The PRR Centennial History states that the Mechanicsburg Freight Station was built in 1874.

1885 map
1885 map detail

I recently found some very detailed Sanborn Mechanicsburg insurance maps on the internet, from 1885, 1890, 1896, 1902, and 1911. There is a wealth of historical information on these maps, especially about businesses and industries.There is a copy of these on a disk in the research area.The 1885 map shows a rectangular, one story, walled frame "Freight House" against Market Street, with an attached open walled frame "Freight Shed" attached to the west side.There is a frame "R.R. Water Tank House" at the west end of the Freight Shed. The Freight House has a single platform, trackside.The Freight Shed and Water Tank House are beside the railroad tracks, with no platforms. The Freight House has a tin or slate roof, and the Freight Shed and Water Tank House have shingles.There is a water pipe from the water main under Main Street to the Water Tank House. As the last wood burning locomotive on the CVRR was retired in 1882, there was no longer a need for a wood shed. North of the Freight Shed, along Allen Street, there is a small wooden stable, with a wooden building against it with three closed sides, and the south side open. There is fence extending from these structures forming an enclosure to the Freight Shed and railroad. To me, this suggests one or two horses, a wagon shed, and a pasture for the horse(s).

1890 map detail
1890 map detail

The 1890 map shows a new railroad siding running through where the previous structures were located. There is a new Freight House and Freight Shed beside the new siding, and well west of Market Street. The Freight House is a 1 1/2 story enclosed frame structure, with a two story tower on the west end. This appears to match the shape and location of our current Freight Station. There are platforms on the north and south sides. The Freight Shed is an enclosed frame structure with platforms on the north and south. The south platform appears to be at a different height from the Freight House platform. The Freight Shed extends well west of the Freight House. A copy of a December 1885 deed in our files shows that the CVRR purchased property to the west of the "freight depot" of the time. The sum of all of this leads me to believe that the current Freight Station was probably built in 1886. The Freight House has a slate or tin roof, while the tower and the Freight Shed have shingles. The structures on Allen Street, and the fences, are gone.The water main on Railroad Avenue is no longer shown crossing the tracks or attaching to any CVRR facility. With coal fired, longer range motive power on the CVRR, there was probably no more need for locomotive fuel and water in downtown Mechanicsburg.

These structures appear the same on the 1896 and 1902 maps.

1911 map detail
1911 map detail

The 1911 map shows the side of the Freight Shed toward the railroad now open, with a composite roof, and the northern platform is gone. The trackside platform now appears to match the height of the Freight House platform. Together, this indicates a significant change in structure and use, with no more access from Allen Street, and one side open to the weather. This map also shows a platform added to the Market Street end of the Freight House.For the first time, the map shows 2 partitions running north and south inside the Freight House, with one on the east end consistent with one wall of the gift shop, and the other between the main floor and the two story tower. Structurally, it makes sense that the wall at the tower end was always there, so this may be more about adding detail to the map than adding the partitions.

The 1923 Sanborn map we have in the MMA files was corrected in 1962 and again in 1964 by pasting in changed sections.It is difficult to see through the patches, but it appears that the whole Freight Station was the same in 1923 as in 1911. The corrected portion shows the Freight Shed gone, and a much smaller frame structure, open on the north and south sides, replacing it. I don't have an electronic image of this map, only the book in our archives. Due to its large size, it would have to be sent out to be scanned, which I have chosen to not do at this time.

5 June 1966 the Pennsylvania Railroad deeded the property to Robert W. Smith and Elizabeth J. Smith

26 June 1969 the Smiths deeded the property to R.W. White Inc.

30 June 1972 R.W. White deeded the property to Kuhns-Harnish Inc.

8 June 1977 Kuhns-Harnish deeded the property to J&R Ford Tractor Sales Inc.

6 March 1987 Drivecor Inc. deeded the property to Mechanicsburg Museum Assoc.

John Klinger
July 20, 2014

2005-2014 Mechanicsburg Museum Association. All rights reserved.