Incorporated in 1962 as Steam Trains, Inc. by a group of Philadelphia area railroad enthusiasts and businessmen, this private venture searched for local trackage and acquired vintage railroad equipment in order to start their own tourist railroad, a trend which swept the country at that time. After investigating a number of area railroad rights-of-way, in 1966 the group obtained the northern 16.7 miles of the Reading Company's New Hope Branch in central Bucks County for a price of about $200,000. Using a former Canadian National steam locomotive and seven steel suburban passenger coaches, the new for-profit company was christened as the "New Hope and Ivyland Railroad" (NHIR) in honor of the villages situated at either end of the line.
Steam passenger service between New Hope and Buckingham Valley began on August 6, 1966. Freight service was provided by diesels leased from the Reading. The NHIR ran one of the last regularly scheduled steam-powered mixed freights east of Mississippi and the all-steamed tradition was broken in 1971 when the company finally purchased their own diesel, an Alco RS-1 from the Washington Terminal.
Within five years, extravagant spending and burgeoning debt had plunged the NHIR into insolvency. After selling real estate to Philadelphia Electric, the destitute NHIR filed for Section 77 bankruptcy in 1971, and by 1972 the struggling railroad operated with unpaid volunteers. When the Bucks County Industrial Development Corporation (BCIDC) acquired the railroad in 1974 to "preserve rail service through the center of Bucks County," it selected McHugh Brothers Heavy Hauling, Inc. as the railroad's freight operator, a relationship which endured until McHugh's departure in 1989. Passenger and freight service flourished during the 1970s, and on June 30, 1979 the NHIR was finally released from a decade of bankruptcy.
Beginning July 3, 1980, volunteers of the New Hope Steam Railway (NHSR) resumed weekend excursion service after the previous operators decided to end it. Thus NHSR ran trains under a lease agreement with the BCIDC until 1990, when considerable decay of the railroad's equipment and properties convinced the BCIDC to sell the entire railroad to the present owners.
Since then, the for-profit Bucks County Railroad Preservation & Restoration Corporation has embarked on a $2 million effort to completely restore the New Hope and Ivyland Rail Road (NHRR) to its turn of the century ambience. The Victorian New Hope station, freight house and boarding platform were refurbished, the tracks were rebuilt, and steam passenger service resumed in 1991 using 2-8-0 No. 40 and five vintage passenger coaches. Already hundreds of thousands of people have ridden the NHRR's hourly train to Lahaska and return and other specialty trains. Freight service is also an integral part of the company. Now on a solid foundation the 102 year-old NHRR faces life anew!
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