About Us – Northern Central Railway of York

Ride along the same route that carried President Lincoln from Washington, DC to Gettysburg, PA, where he delivered one of the greatest speeches in American History!

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About Us

Our Mission and Vision

Our Co-Founders, Bill Simpson, and Reed Anderson had a great love of York County and trains. It’s told that after a meeting at the historic Yorktowne Hotel, Bill and Reed discussed the need for an attraction in York County that would bring visitors from near and far. With a love for the county and for trains – Bill and Reed went out to the community and raised over $2 million dollars to build steam engine No. 17, the hallmark of Steam Into History, a new excursion railroad.

In 2019 Steam Into History re-branded as Northern Central Railway of York to denote the inclusion of multiple forms of locomotion and emphasize the history of the rail line we use. Since 2013, NCR has grown and strengthened. Train cars were donated/purchased to enhance our rolling stock, tracks were refurbished, and programming was expanded.

NCR, a 501 (c)(3), offers historical, educational, and entertaining railroad excursions. NCR’s array of programming appeals to people of all ages with wide ranges of interests. We host adults/children, men/women, train/railway enthusiasts, history buffs, photography devotees, families seeking wholesome entertainment, nature enthusiasts, and sight-seers. To date, 156,355 visitors have ridden NCR trains, learned national/regional history and details of the rail system, enjoyed family-centered activities, and relished unique programs while appreciating the beauty of York County.

The mission of the Northern Central Railway of York is to enhance the economic engine of York County by delivering entertaining, historical, and educational experiences on an excursion railroad. Our organizational goals are to provide rail-based, multi-generational entertainment experiences, educate riders regarding the United States and local history, inspire interest in rail history, and promote York County’s economic development through increased tourism.


Our Founders

William (Bill) H. Simpson

Bill Simpson grew up in Ithaca, New York.  His father was a train enthusiast and passed on his love of trains to Bill and his four siblings.  Their train travel included various trips in the US, Canada and Europe in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  This love of trains would remain for Bill’s lifetime.

Bill graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1963 and served as an officer in the Air Force from 1963-1971.  As the first Air Force Academy cadet granted a leave of absence to attend law school, Bill earned his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1966 before returning to service in Bitburg, Germany, where he served in the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) for three years.

Bill began his career in York, Pennsylvania in 1971 as counsel with Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff Company, eventually serving as President of Manufacturing and later as Chief Executive Officer until 2006.

Bill was a local community leader serving on numerous non-profit boards over four decades, as well as Board member of several York-based companies.  His service also extended to the Air Force Academy community where he was an active member of the USAFA Association of Graduates and a Founding Board Member of the USAFA Endowment, and devoted Falcons football fan.

Although Bill never had the opportunity to see his beloved steam engine in operation before his passing in 2012, there is no doubt he would be extremely proud of the work carried on by his family, the Anderson family, and the many employees and volunteers who have been dedicated to this project in its first 10 years of operation.

D. Reed Anderson

A native of Southern York County, Reed graduated from Kennard-Dale High School, Penn State University and the Dickinson School of Law.  Reed married his best friend since high school, Connie Quesenberry, and they raised their family in his hometown of New Park, Pa, less than a mile from his family’s farm.  Upon graduation from law school, he entered the U.S. Army, serving two years, one of which was in Vietnam. Upon his return from Vietnam, he joined the law firm of Stock and Leader in York, Pa. For the next 51 years, he practiced law and helped countless people, particularly in southeastern York County. He never met a stranger and cared deeply for others and his community. His was a life of service to others, serving on many non-profit boards and committees.

Steam into History is a marriage of two of Reed’s passions: trains and history.

As a young child, on Sunday afternoons,  Reed’s grandparents and parents would take him and his siblings to watch the trains hauling war supplies on the Northern Central rails to the harbor in Baltimore.  Thus began his love of trains.  Reed’s father, John Hope Anderson, Sr was President of the Stewartstown Railroad for many years, and before that, his great-grandfather and grandfather were Presidents of the New Park Fawn Grove Railroad.  After Hurricane Agnes destroyed the rails of the Northern Central in 1972, John Hope Anderson, Sr., who was a Pennsylvania House Representative at the time, was instrumental in ensuring that the rails were completely restored to allow train traffic again.  It is ironic that Reed founded a train on the rails restored by his father.  The vision and courage to achieve what others would call impossible was not just something that Reed had, it was in his DNA.

Reed also loved history, particularly American and Civil War history.  His patriotism and respect for those that forged America ran deep. When he wasn’t practicing law, helping a neighbor or serving on a nonprofit board, he would relax by reading books about America’s history.  There would often be a stack of 4-5 books on his bedside table and beside his chair in his living room.  And almost always, the topic was the Civil War or some other American historical topic.

Reed and Bill became friends because they both worked in the York community, but they became even better friends when their wives became best friends while volunteering in the York area.  The couples took vacations together, two of which were transcontinental train trips to the west coast. Reed passed away in 2021 and we will never truly know the words spoken to each other when they hatched the idea of starting an excursion railroad.  But we do know that we are grateful for their friendship, vision, and courage to do what some say couldn’t be done.

What Makes Northern Central Railway Different?

Authenticity – Northern Central Railway offers passengers an authentic experience with a replica Civil War-era steam locomotive as well as a mid-20th century diesel locomotive. Your train will follow along the historic Northern Central Railway, which played critical roles in the Union victory in the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution. President Abraham Lincoln rode the Northern Central Railway twice, once to Gettysburg, PA to deliver the Gettysburg Address, and on his way to rest in Springfield, Illinois.

ScenerySouth-central Pennsylvania’s famed rolling hills frame the unique visual experience of the Northern Central Railway. The Northern Central Railway departs from the historic hamlet of New Freedom and visits places like Hanover Junction and captivating towns like Glen Rock. The world’s oldest rail tunnel with active rails, Howard Tunnel, lies along the NCRR tracks, and the nationally-recognized York County Heritage Rail Trail follows along the tracks for the length of the trip. York County is also known for its diverse architecture, evidenced by the 19th-century houses, commercial buildings, and barns along the railroad.

Themed Programs/ RidesThe past comes to life through Northern Central Railway’s themed excursions, where you can meet prominent historical figures such as President Abraham Lincoln. Passengers can experience a real-life Wild West raid from the James-Younger Gang or learn about the Underground Railroad from William Goodridge.  Furthermore, special seasonal events like the hugely popular Santa Express and Fall Foliage Excursions offer unique family experiences aligned with the seasons. Northern Central Railway offers exciting family-friendly excursions all year round!

Premium Equipment – The William H. Simpson No. 17 is an authentic replica of the steam locomotive that carried President Abraham Lincoln to deliver one of the greatest speeches in history, the Gettysburg Address. Northern Central Railway also offers rides pulled by GP-9, an authentic 1959 diesel engine that was a workhorse for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Lovingly restored rolling stock, including a unique combine car, creates a unique experience each and every ride.

Childhood WonderNorthern Central Railway is for the kid in all of us, whether our first experience with a train was having The Little Engine that Could read to us by our parents, or seeing a locomotive pass by our car or house for the first time. To enhance the experience for children, Northern Central Railway offers fun opportunities throughout the year, from rides with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus to tea parties and superhero excursions.


The Northern Central Railway History

Four months had passed since the Battle of Gettysburg, the reputed high-water mark of the Confederacy. President Abraham Lincoln was invited to speak at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg. His remarks were a work in progress on November 18, 1863, as he boarded his five-car train in Washington, D.C., to start his four-hour journey to Gettysburg. Imagine Lincoln pondering his speech as his train rumbled north on the Northern Central Railway into York County, stopping at Hanover Junction to change trains to the Hanover Branch Railroad and continuing on to Gettysburg.

Some say that Lincoln edited the Gettysburg Address on the train, doffing his black silk top hat and using it as an improvised desk on which to write. Or maybe he wrote on the back of an envelope. There is some sentiment that he simply shared anecdotes and relaxed with his companions, who included Secretary of State William H. Seward.

What is certain is that what would become known as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is today considered one of the greatest speeches in American history. Lincoln’s journey to Gettysburg is one of the many exciting and intriguing York County connections to the Civil War that the Northern Central Railway will bring to life. Today, the rolling countryside along the old Northern Central route is relatively undeveloped – consistent with how the area would have appeared in the 1860s. The area’s unspoiled beauty belies the hub of purposeful activity that was Hanover Junction during the Civil War. Up to 30 trains stopped at Hanover Junction daily, as the Northern Central carried troops and supplies to and from Washington.  After the Battle of Gettysburg, wounded soldiers were transported to hospitals in York and Baltimore.

On April 14th, 1865, seventeen months after the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln was assassinated in Washington DC. The Northern Central carried Lincoln’s funeral train through New Freedom and Hanover Junction while traveling from Washington DC to Springfield, Illinois.

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