In New Freedom, where a train has not operated in more than a decade, some residents and a business owner worry about how Steam Into History Inc. might affect the small town.


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The nonprofit organization plans to operate a replica of a Civil War-era steam train that will help to educate tourists about York County's history.

It is expected to run six days a week from May to Labor Day and on weekends and for special events during most of the rest of the year. The operation will shut down in January and February, said Robert Gotwols, chief operating officer for Steam Into History.

Residents Caroline Swartz and Amy Shue and Amie Lebo, who runs "A Child's Place," talked with Gotwols at a Steam Into History open house recently.

This photo shows the general progress of the York locomotive build, as of November 2012.COURTESY OF KLOKE LOCOMOTIVE WORKS
This photo shows the general progress of the York locomotive build, as of November 2012. COURTESY OF KLOKE LOCOMOTIVE WORKS
The women said they believe a meeting needs to be held to inform the community about the project.

Gotwols said he's willing to facilitate a town hall meeting. He'd like New Freedom residents to be involved.

"It's the beginning of a dialogue that I think will answer all of their questions and make us a better organization," Gotwols said.

The ladies cited a list of concerns, including noise, parking and safety.

Swartz said she wonders how the town, which does not have a traffic light, will handle the influx of thousands of visitors the train is expected to draw. Where will they park?

Amie Lebo, who runs the childcare center, remembers when a dinner train operated in town years ago. She couldn't take the children outside because the diesel engines were so loud. The children would hold their ears shut.

"Is it not going to be similar?" she said. "We don't really know."

Amy Shue, who has small children, said the bottom of her fenced yard is about 12 feet from the railroad tracks. What if someone would throw something from the train?

They also wondered about people who use the Heritage Rail Trail County Park for recreation. Will they want to be running or pushing a stroller along an active rail line?

"Overall, I'm concerned about the impact to the town," Swartz said.

Steam Into History has been talking with borough officials about the plans, Gotwols said. It is working toward a formal agreement with New Freedom.

With parking, for example, a nearby municipal lot offers 98 spots, he said. That combined with on-street parking should be adequate for the first year.

Plans in the future call for adding more parking.

Flaggers will work at the crossings and the noise can be controlled, Gotwols said.

Council president Brady Terrell said he'll be meeting with officials from Steam Into History again. He said issues, such as traffic, have been a concern.

The borough has taken the position that it would be better to work with the nonprofit than to be an adversary, he said.

"I hope they're successful," Terrell said.

Southern Regional Police Chief James Boddington said he doesn't foresee significant traffic problems, and he thinks the train will be a boon to local business.

"I think it will help revitalize the downtown area of New Freedom," he said.

Ed and Kay Hughes, owners of Whistle Stop Bike Shop, said they look forward to the train coming to town. They hope it will help to bring more business.

"They'll be a great neighbor," Kay Hughes said.

Related

See an interactive story about the building of the train, including video, and hear the train's whistle.

York's Civil War-era train closer to completion

Will Steam into History Inc.'s locomotive steam into York County's history?