~ FREIGHT STATION RESEARCH ~
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.
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
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 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
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
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
6 March 1987 Drivecor Inc. deeded the property to Mechanicsburg Museum
July 20, 2014
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