• An engineer inspects the running gear of a steam locomotive at Steamtown NHS


    National Historic Site Pennsylvania

Railroad Yards, Then and Now

A black and white photo from 1951 showing the sand drying tower with railroad tank cars and period automobiles.

The historic sand drying tower (Sand Tower) was used by the railroad to store and dry sand.  The sand helped give locomotives more traction.  This is one of the buildings you will be able to see (and compare with the historic photo) on the Railroad Yards, Then and Now walking tour.


Join a Park Ranger or a Volunteer for a before-and-after look at the former maintenance and repair yards for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (this is NOT a "Shop Tour").

Departs from the Visitor Center. Included in the Park Entrance Fee.

Did You Know?

USS Olympia

Many railroads, particularly Eastern roads, used anthracite coal for locomotive fuel during the early steam era. During World War I, the US Navy and the Allied Forces used anthracite coal to power the steam boilers of warships such as Admiral Dewey's USS Olympia, which is berthed at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. Burning anthracite resulted in low-smoke emissions from steamship boilers and gave the Allies a strategic opportunity to close-in on the enemy in a battle. With anthracite coal diverted to the war effort, locomotive builders adapted to using bituminous coal in their future designs.