STRASBURG, Pa. - A leisurely ride sounds pretty appealing right about now, to take us anywhere we want go, anywhere out of the house.
"Almost anyone in Pennsylvania can identify somebody in their family that worked for the railroad or a railroad-related industry," said Troy Grubb, museum educator at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. "Just to see how important that was and the sacrifices that these folks made. It was a dangerous job. Think about how difficult it was to travel back then, and the railroad made it possible."
The museum in Strasburg, Lancaster County, is devoted to telling those stories. It's home to 100 pieces of rolling stock, including locomotives and freight and passenger cars. You'll also find equipment, uniforms, lanterns, and a radio.
The museum opened in 1975, after acquiring the Pennsylvania historic collection in a deal with the Penn Central Railroad. When Penn Central went bankrupt, the state offered to forgive the railroad's taxes in exchange for its car collection.
It's set up like a train station with platforms. There's a train yard outside. That's what you'd see if you go, and since we can't go now, the museum is offering an online look inside.
You can search the archives. There are more than 100,000 maps, blueprints and photographs. You can also check out the roster to see what equipment is on hand, and you can go on the virtual tours. There's even a tour guide to tell you more about what you are seeing.
By maneuvering the buttons, you get a 360-degree view. Some of the cars are off limits to the public, so the virtual view is really the only way to see inside. You can peek in the kitchen, restrooms, the lounge.
Something with a connection to the Lehigh Valley is a box car from the 1930s. It was the workhorse of the railroad, as it was used to deliver all kinds of goods.
And there's Reading Railroad car number 800. The railroad introduced electrified commuter rail service to Philadelphia's suburbs during the Great Depression.
"Unfortunately, the museum can't be open, but by going to the website, they can at least see what we have to offer at the museum, so when we do open, they can see it in person," Grubb said.
Until then, we'll be busy day-dreaming about a ride on the rails and building tracks at home.