Strasburg Rail Road restores historic train car with Abatron’s wood restoration products

A wooden passenger coach in its glory days. – Photo from

In the case of passenger train cars, it’s true that they don’t build them like they used to. Strasburg Rail Road in Ronks, PA, preserves the historic passenger car experience for thousands of train enthusiasts, young and old, every year. Furthermore, it hosts train and vintage themed events throughout the year. From Thomas the Tank Engine to steampunk and vintage baseball, Strasburg Rail Road’s events hold wide appeal.

Its fleet of vintage train cars is intricately detailed to give riders an authentic, old-timey rail experience. However, train cars don’t come to Strasburg Rail Road in pristine condition. Strasburg Rail Road meticulously renovates dilapidated train cars as it needs to expand its fleet. It last rebuilt a car in 2005 and is now working on another to keep up with passenger demand.


The passenger coach before restoration began. – Photo from

American Car and Foundry built this particular passenger car in 1911, and it was used as a Baltimore and Ohio (B&O – of Monopoly fame) railroad coach. It was eventually sold to Wanamaker, Kempton and Southern, but then sat unused for a long time.  A couple decades ago, Strasburg Rail Road purchased the aging car from them and kept it in storage, sealed from the elements to prevent further damage until it was needed.


The damage on this beam is extensive. – Photo provided by Strasburg Rail Road

Repairing an historic train car is a big job that requires the right materials, which is where Abatron’s wood restoration products play a part. The beams that frame the bottom of the car run single span without any joints. According to Stationmaster Steve Barrall, dimensional lumber like this no longer exists, so saving these beams is essential to the restoration. The shop crew uses LiquidWood® to repair rotted sections and restore the structural strength of the beams. They fill in missing sections with WoodEpox® mixed with wood chips, using a form to help maintain the profile of the beams so there’s less sanding needed afterward.


A beam after repair work has started. – Photo provided by Strasburg Rail Road

The crew saves as much original material as possible; usually the frame, floor, and roof are salvageable. The interior is often covered up, damaged, or removed long before Strasburg Rail Road acquires the cars. However, the use, time period, and history of each car are taken into account when reconstructing the interior as authentically as possible.

The restoration will take a year or longer, as maintaining its existing fleet and contract work with other railroads and customers will pull crew members away from working on it. When it’s finished, it will be a standard coach car with upholstered bench seating and a stove for warmth.


The interior of the finished car will eventually look similar to this coach in its fleet. – Photo from

Strasburg Rail Road maintains a variety of different passenger cars, including one with a pinball arcade! Visit its website for more information on its trains, as well as events and attractions at the station.

Stay tuned, and we’ll keep you updated on the progress!