Updated: November 6, 2009
How It Started

In 1984, as members of the Youngstown Model Railroad Club, Rich Melvin and George Seil were assigned the task of looking into sponsoring a steam passenger excursion as a fund raiser.

After several months of planning and contacting the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, it was determined that not enough of the club members were interested in working on the trip. The club canceled their interest.

Since planning had advanced far enough, Rich and George agreed to proceed with the plans. At that time the Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association was created. The P&LE Railroad had approved the operation of the trip.

Through several meetings between Rich and George, we assigned various tasks that each would handle. Rich would schedule the train, arrange for coal, water, train storage, and trip logistics. His wife Linda would handle ticket sales through their company office of Hopewell Productions. George, and his wife Judy, were assigned to arrange for car hosts and hotel rooms for them, and get food and gift shop arrangements. They also were responsible to find block and cubed ice. Two of the passenger cars required block ice for cooling.

A contact was made with the railroad historical society in Orrville, Ohio to see if some of their members would be car host for the trips. Enough agreed to help with the 20 car train. Hotel arrangements were made at the Holiday Inn in Liberty for their stay.

Since George and Judy were members of the Liberty High School band boosters, their group was asked to provide the food service. Standard football night fare was suggested. Power would be available in the concession car. Band parents agreeing to work the train were allowed to bring their band members to help with various tasks. The band would not be charged for providing the food items and were allowed to keep all profits.

Information about the trip was sent to the Youngstown Vindicator and the Farm and Dairy newspapers. Each did a write up about the trip plans which helped with ticket sales. The two trips sold out in no time.

The train was to consist of the ex-Nickel Plate Berkshire #765, which is owned by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society and 20 passenger cars owned by various private owners, museums and historical societies. The capacity of the train was 1,000 passengers for each of the two trips. The Ft. Wayne group would bill for the entire train and pay the car owners.

The dates of June 1st and 2nd 1985 were scheduled and the train would arrive the week before. When the train did arrive, many of the P&LE employees took time to see a steam locomotive actually under steam. Nearly all had never seen one before. The road foreman was given a chance at the throttle. Employees of the P&LE were no longer qualified to operate a steam locomotive. The P&LE had retired their last steam engine in the late 40's or early 50's. Rich is a qualified steam engineer and was allowed anywhere other than in the yards. Servicing facilities, including the turntable, were in operation.

On Friday before the trips, many activities were taking place all day. The engine was washed, the tender filled with coal and water, and the passenger cars were washed and cleaned. The concession car was stocked and those staffing the car were given a chance to see the train.

Friday evening, a pre-trip meeting was held with the car attendants. After leaving the rail yard, we realized that a tornado had gone through the area. We had no idea how serious this had been and found out Saturday morning that we came close to having to cancel the trips. Fallen trees had blocked several miles of track we were scheduled to use.

The trips ran on time and were a great success. Because of the success, an interest grew in what we had done, and Jim Marter and a few others joined in and a formal organization was formed. Now that we had an organization, we decidd to schedule another set of trips in 1986. The same trip would be run except we would depart from Lowellville.

The trips again were a success and the MVRHA was on it's way.

George Seil

History continued...