No Fast Track To Expanding Passenger Rail In Western Pennsylvania

Nov 22, 2016


Joanne Landis (with black hat) gets ready to board an Amtrak train enroute to New York City at the Lewistown Station in Pennsylvania. There is only one round-trip passenger train that runs from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, which makes it difficult for passengers to commute by train.
Credit Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Lewistown, Pennsylvania, sits halfway between State College and Harrisburg, nestled in the Seven Mountains. To get to Lewistown, you can drive in on Route 322, a twisty, turny, two-lane highway, where the speed limit for trucks is 20 miles per hour. 

Or, you can take Amtrak and enjoy old-timey Lewistown Station, the first building built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, back in 1849. Today, it's a one-room waiting area staffed by volunteers who sell sodas out of a mini-fridge and Pennsylvania Railroad memorabilia off the walls. 

Bob Billett is one of those volunteers. If his Amtrak t-shirt and Amtrak baseball hat don't send a clear enough message, Billett proudly calls himself a "railfan," someone who watches and studies trains for fun. One of his unofficial duties as a volunteer is sharing that history with waiting passengers. 

"I tell people back in the day of the Pennsylvania Railroad, at one point, they had 40 passenger trains a day through here," said Billett over the crackle of the scanner. "People don't believe that, but it's true."


Keystone Crossroads is a statewide public media initiative reporting on the challenges facing Pennsylvania's cities. WPSU is a participating station.