Question: Where can you see 75 trains a day from your bed, work on your website, and watch the stock market, all at the same time?
Answer: At the The Station Inn in Cresson, PA!
I had seen the ads for years but finally got around to the 6-hr drive from CT recently to stay here to celebrate a newspaper article being done about my website [www.tylercitystation.info]. My only regret now is that I have waited so long to get here.
Innkeeper Tom Davis has put together something that may be truly unique in the country, possibly even the world. An 1866 former hotel converted into a mecca for railfans. This is 150 feet from the old Pennsy, now Norfolk Southern, mainline that moves freight both ways between the East and West Coasts. The trains are frequent and seemingly endless, even in this down economy. Tom says he will give you a discount on your stay if you don’t see at least a train an hour. Fat chance he ever has to deliver on that promise! Figure on two or three or more per hour, with pushers on the rear to help conquer the crossing of the eastern Continental Divide, the grades at the Allegheny Tunnel, nearby Horseshoe Curve, Altoona and Juniata, all storied names in the railroading history of this nation. A side-trip to the east took us to the abandoned MG tower, the Curve, and the Railroaders Memorial Museum, with lots of trains all along the way.
The fact that the helper engines are housed at Cresson and that the Clearfield and Irvona subdivisions meet up with the NS here means that you will also see bright red R.J. Corman engines interchanging traffic, all clearly visible from the town’s official railroad-viewing platform at the junction or right from Tom’s huge front porch. Lap blankets are provided for the cool nights. The roar, the throbbing, and the taking up of slack are heard constantly as NS, Conrail, and sometimes Union Pacific or Burlington Northern Sante Fe engines pass by with coal drags, unit tanker consists, trash trains, and long hauls of double-stack containers. This is a place like no other to witness the grace, efficiency, beauty, and sheer brute strength of the railroad in action, moving the nation's goods. The only thing missing is the sound of the whistle because there are no nearby grade crossings. Perhaps not a bad thing at 3AM. Even then, an occasional toot is needed as a warning or a friendly gesture to the front porch. The train guys know what Tom is up to here.
About the inn. The simplicity of Tom’s house is well reflected in his neatly designed website where he goes out of his way, almost comically, to destroy any illusions about luxury here. No jacuzzi, no TVs in rooms, no telephones, etc., etc., he says. The fact of the matter is that the house is very well kept, done in kind of a homespun, Arts and Crafts style. The rooms and suites, named for railroads (B&O, O&W, Erie) are clean and comfortable, with monogrammed linens, coffeemakers, writing desks, Wi-Fi access, cute little railroad lamps (the PRR room had a teddy bear with an engineer’s cap!), soap baskets (I loved the lime glycerine), Pullman chairs rescued from old passenger cars, and comfortable twin beds that can be pulled together to make a king. While Tom can’t conjure steam engines (except in the wall photos that are everywhere), steam heat is generously thrown off from the sculpted antique radiators he has kept. Hooks, shelves, and nightstands are placed just where they ought to be.
Hungry railfans start the day with a hearty breakfast that long-time staffer Sandy makes right out of Grandma’s kitchen: sausage gravy over eggs, pancakes, French toast, fruit, lots of fresh coffee and Tom joins his guests at the table for conversation in a common room that overflows with books, videos, brochures, and maps to railfan vantage points. Complimentary soft drinks are offered as well as a 24-hr goodie jar that says “Life’s hard. Cookies help” as soothing classical music plays in the background. Tom’s attitude toward payment also reflects a simpler time. Cash and personal checks only, and when we ran short of both, his ‘Send me a check’ response was indicative of a man who cares more about whether his guests are comfortable and have enough to eat than someone who is worried about getting paid. Try to find that anywhere else!
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Come enjoy the mountains, the attractions, the hospitality of the house. One word of caution: If you are a light sleeper, ask for a room in the back. The 24-hr street-side action probably means you will only doze between trains all night long. There is something very haunting about the sounds and the eerie lights gliding past you in the dark that makes you have to look. But people who suffer from 'hyperphilia ferroequinologica' - ask your shrink what it means - really don’t come here to sleep anyhow. They come for the trains and there is no better place east of the Mississippi to see them than at The Station Inn!
- Bob B., Prospect and Tyler City, CT