LIGONIER, Pa. – Idlewild Park and the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association are working together to preserve the historic Darlington Station.
“We plan to restore the building to its 1930s grandeur and re-open it as a museum and resource center focused on the Ligonier Valley Rail Road and related industry,” said Bill McCullough, President and co-founder of the LVRRA.
Idlewild Park and Soak Zone, and Kennywood Entertainment, have agreed to sub-divide and grant the property to the LVRRA and the lead grant awarded by the Richard King Mellon Foundation will allow the Association to restore the exterior of the building and to improve the property. A grant from the Allegheny Foundation will provide project support including engineering and architectural expenses.
Additional building grants will be sought to establish a museum, library, office space and re-create the station’s original waiting room.
The Darlington station, built circa 1900, dates from an era when the railroads maintained a personal presence in the communities they served. The Darlington station served as both a workplace for the agent, who served as passenger agent, freight agent and block operator, and as the residence for the agent and his family.
The front room served as the ticket office, waiting room and a convenience store where the passengers could buy a loaf of bread and quart of milk. The resident family had a living room behind the waiting room, two upstairs bedrooms and a kitchen in the basement. After Idlewild Park took ownership in the early 1950s, the building served as quarters for park employees.
One of the better known short-line railroads, the Ligonier Valley Rail Road connected Ligonier Valley with the rest of the world via the Pennsylvania RR at Latrobe, Pa., and connected the rest of the world with Pennsylvania’s Mountain Playground, Ligonier Valley in general and Idlewild Park in particular.
Originally, only 10 miles long, the line was extended six miles at the turn of the 20th century to service the coalfields north of Ligonier. The Railroad began operation in 1877 and over the course of its 75 years, carried nine million passengers and hauled 32 million tons of freight through Aug. 31, 1952.