To continue with my Civil War-themed posts for the next few days, I thought I tell my readers about some excellent little side trips and attractions in Pennsylvania that I really enjoyed going to and that are sort of ‘hidden away’. In August and September, a group of us went to Eckley Miner’s Village and the Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad respectively. Here are some tidbits about them and some pictures for your enjoyment (or not, who knows).
Eckley Miner’s Village: Civil War Living History Weekend
This small little patch of Victorian Era bliss is hidden away near Freeland, PA. It grew as part of the expansion of the coal industry (which utilized canal boat travel and rail travel) prior to the Civil War and was predominantly run by immigrants–many of whom thought they were getting a better life but, as it turned out, found that their lives in the US were not all that different than they were back in the ‘old country’.
The town is a living testament to their conditions–it has remained, essentially, a ghost town (though some houses are occupied on the main street), acquired by the state–it is one of the largest Victorian Era mining towns that I’ve seen. The houses have been restored (and continue to be restored) but it is incredible how small they are and, interestingly enough, one house would house anywhere between 15-30 people on average. There were only two streets in Eckley (one is now gone) and the town–perhaps a little over a mile long–boasted a population of over a thousand at its peek.
We visited Eckley for their annual Civil War Living History event. We went on a Sunday, but the town was still crowded with tourists and living historians in period attire. Several reenacting groups attend every year and camp out in various parts of town and put on demonstrations–and also a skirmish (which is always really cool to see).
Eckley is beautiful, quiet, and completely awesome; they are constantly doing fun little events and if you live in PA or are looking for a little place to stop on your way through–this is a must see.
M&H Railroad: Civil War Remembered
A few weekends ago, we took a day trip to Middletown–it is a hike from where I live, but it was well worth it. The railroad station is quite small but the town (which also hosts a Penn State satellite campus) is nice. Interestingly enough, the station was turned into a junkyard for some time–the trains and rail ways were left untouched. When the effort came to clean it up, the station was refurbished and now they have great events there (like a dinner/mystery theater event–on the train!).
We went down for the Civil War Remembered event. Like Eckley, reenactors camp out near the station at a local park and visitors are permitted to walk through the camp and ask questions, watch firing demonstrations and for the big event, a reenactment that is definitely worth checking into.
I won’t give away too much of the plot, but all the visitors board the train along with a group of prisoners who are being guarded–on their way to a prisoner exchange. The train makes its way there and some really cool stuff happens along the way. At one point the train stops at a field where passengers can watch a battle unfold. It is a really neat event.
The slideshow shows both events (the first half or so are Eckley, and the second half are M&H RR).