To transport commodities from the mills along Red Clay Creek to the Port of Wilmington, the Wilmington & Western Railroad was founded in 1867. On October 19, 1872, it was formally inaugurated for freight and passenger operations. Six days a week, three passengers and a mixed freight train ran over the almost 20 miles of rail between Landenberg, Pennsylvania, and downtown Wilmington, Delaware. A large portion of the line passed through the Red Clay Valley, busy with farms, little towns, and water-powered mills in the late 19th century. The line went out of business just a few years after it opened because of high construction costs and bad management. The line was given new ownership and reformed as the Delaware Western Railroad. This railroad quickly became very successful, transporting goods, including kaolin clay, vulcanized fibers, snuff, iron, and coal, to and from the many factories lined the route.
The Baltimore & Philadelphia Railroad (B&P), a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad division, bought the line in the 1880s. The Baltimore & Ohio was given an access route to compete with the Pennsylvania Railroad for passengers and freight traveling between Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City after the B&P purchased the line. The B&O named the line the “Landenberg Branch,” and for a while, it was also one of its most lucrative branch lines.
People from the surrounding area began flocking to the park to escape the summer heat when a resort at Brandywine Springs was built along the railroad in the late 1880s. The fun house, pony rides, carousel, and live entertainment were why they came. The park was shut down in 1923, and due to the Great Depression, the passenger industry ceased operations on September 28, 1930. The Pennsylvania Railroad soon stopped providing a connected service to Landenberg.
The Landenberg Branch dramatically declined as trucks and cars became more common. Consequently, in the early 1940s, the line was cut to Southwood, Delaware; in the late 1950s, it was reduced to Hockessin, Delaware.
The B&O leased the rails to Historic Red Clay Valley Inc. (HRCV) in the middle of the 1960s. In 1966, HRCV started running steam-powered tourist trains between Greenbank Station and Mt. Cuba, situated halfway between Greenbank and Hockessin. In the middle of the 1970s, the line’s new owner, The Chessie System, declared it a financial burden and filed for its abandonment; HRCV quickly began raising money in response. HRCV bought the last 10.2 miles of the Landenberg Branch in August 1982.
On September 15, 2003, Tropical Storm Henri’s remnants stalled over southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, just one day before Hurricane Floyd’s fourth anniversary. This caused Red Clay Creek to overflow to record levels of water. Six historic bridges they’re destroyed, and their railroad’s length was reduced from ten miles to two by the raging waters that tore through the Red Clay Valley. While they rebuilt the bridges to make them more resistant to flooding in the future, they kept going (and kept running on the rest of the track). Their revenue trains continued to travel further and further up the line as the bridges they’re all reconstructed. Additionally, they took advantage of the little-used portion of the line between Greenbank and the Centreville Road CSX Interchange.
The Wilmington & Western was reborn when, on June 30, 2007, their Royal Blue coaches, trailed by a gleaming locomotive 98, triumphantly rolled into Hockessin, DE, for the first time in almost four years!
The railroad still runs regular tourist trains between Greenbank and Hockessin on its entire 10 miles of track, powered by steam and diesel. Their operating season begins in the spring and lasts through December 30. Trains depart almost every weekend during this time. Recently, their railroad has become more popular for weddings, birthday celebrations, family gatherings, and other noteworthy occasions. Charter trains are available all year. To make the railroad the prosperous business it is today, its board of directors, employees, and volunteers put in countless work hours every year. They do this to ensure that future generations know the Red Clay Valley’s history, industry, and beauty.
Absolutely! You are more than welcome to take part in several service endeavors. In reality, a large number of their volunteers are capable of doing various tasks. Furthermore, you are free to explore different service areas if you begin in one and realize it is not for you to locate the one that is.
WHAT AGE DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO VOLUNTEER?
16-year-olds may volunteer.
WHERE ARE VOLUNTEERS NEEDED ON THE RAILROAD?
They could need help from volunteers in every department of their organization. They require your assistance in various capacities, from working on the train crew to selling tickets, from narrating inside the train to working on the grounds crew.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER OPTIONS FOR ME SINCE I DO NOT WANT TO WORK ON THE TRAIN?
Yes. People with distinctive talents and skills are always in demand. Operating trains is only one aspect of running a railroad; other non-railroad tasks include marketing, public relations, grant writing, event planning, and many others.
DO I NEED PRIOR RAILROADING EXPERIENCE TO BE A VOLUNTEER?
No. All you need is a drive to work and a willingness to learn. Although having some experience with trains is an advantage, They would be pleased to train you in any volunteer position in which you are interested.
CAN I BECOME A VOLUNTEER WITH PREVIOUS RAILROADING EXPERIENCE?
Yes. They already have several volunteers working for Class I, shortlines, and other tourist railways; we’ll place you in a role that best matches your past expertise.
DO I HAVE TO VOLUNTEER FOR A CERTAIN PERIOD OR A CERTAIN NUMBER OF HOURS?
No, and yes. Some volunteers work on the weekends weekly, while others work one day every two months. The amount of time you devote to the railroad is entirely up to you, but any help you can provide them would be much appreciated. To qualify as an “active volunteer,” you must put in at least 50 hours annually, and there are benefits to doing so. Additionally, if you only work one day a month, some jobs, like being a steam locomotive engineer, require a significant time commitment that will take many years to complete.
CAN I SERVE IN MORE THAN ONE FIELD AS A VOLUNTEER?
Absolutely! You are more than welcome to take part in several service endeavors. In reality, a large number of their volunteers are capable of doing various tasks. Additionally, you are more than allowed to explore different service areas if you start in one and realize it’s not for you to locate the one that is
For more information, visit their website or call them at (302)998-1930 Click here.