Ligonier author promotes local railroad legacy
Robert Stutzman and his brother-in-law Bill McCullough spent the past decade fulfilling a dream to preserve the history of the Ligonier Valley Rail Road.
During that time, their passion for everything railroad-related helped form the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association. They played major roles in restoring the Darlington Station into the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Museum.
As a result, the museum includes a collection of more than 3,000 railroad artifacts including lanterns, locks and keys, maps and a 1905 Bobber Caboose.
“Once we organized the association, I realized how much interest there was in the Ligonier Valley Rail Road,” said Stutzman. “As a native to the Ligonier Valley, I love the railroad and have enjoyed promoting its history to the community.”
The association's goal is to educate the public about the legacy of railroading in the Ligonier Valley Rail Road and its role in the economic development of eastern Westmoreland County.
“Everybody knows the origins of the Ligonier Valley with the fort and Forbes Trail. Everybody knows Ligonier is a tourist destination,” said Stutzman. “But, people do not realize there was a 75-year period when it went through an industrial age.”
It was a time that benefited the community.
“Those 75 years, out of more than 250-plus years, represented years of heavy industry — coal, coke, lumber and a stone quarry — in the Valley,” he said. “It was all spurned by the Ligonier Valley Rail Road.”
Stutzman served eight years as an officer of the organization and seven years as the editor of The Liggie, the group's newsletter. After stepping down as an officer of the association last year, Stutzman still had one more project to complete — a pictorial book of images and memories of the historic 10.6-mile-long line connecting Ligonier to the Pennsylvania Railroad in Latrobe.
“I retired from the association's board of directors in December 2012, and spent the last year working on the book,” said Stutzman.
He will officially release his book, “Images of Rail The Ligonier Valley Rail Road” at a book signing 7 p.m. March 26 at the Ligonier Valley Library.
“Just as it is important to buy locally produced goods and support local stores, it is important to support local authors, especially authors of local history. There is a real connection with the community and depth of feeling for the local geographical area in the pages of their books,” said Janet Hudson library director.
The book contains more than 200 black and white images from private collections and photographs donated to the museum.
“Bob is one of those local sources that we rely on for “accurate” information about an important part of Ligonier history — the Ligonier Valley Rail Road,” said Hudson.
Stutzman said he is anxious to see if people will come forward with additional photographs as a result of reading his book. Anyone with items to loan or donate should call the museum office at 724-238-7819 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stutzman credits two friends, Jim Aldridge and Carolyn Dillon for helping to make his dream to publish the book come true.
“It took the work of three people to do it,” he said.
Aldridge, a railroad historian and longtime friend, helped him organize the book.
“He helped me choose the photographs to use. We started with photographs from Latrobe and continued east to Ligonier, just like the railroad was built,” said Stutzman.
Dillon, a high school classmate and retired English teacher, helped with the story content of the book.
“Carolyn helped me put my thoughts into words,” he said.
Although Stutzman said he will resume his retirement plans, he already has his next project in mind.
“Next, I hope to help get a local historical marker erected at the site of the 1912 train wreck near Wilpen,” he said.
The pictorial history is published by Arcadia Publishing and costs $21.99. Profits from the sale of the book benefit the association and museum. The book will be available to purchase March 3 at area book stores or online at www.arcadiapublishing.com.
Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or email@example.com.