In 1960, Clarence Marshall built a railroad of 7½ in. track gauge on which to run two scale-model steam locomotives and several small passenger cars that he had built in his shop. Considerably modified in 1971, the Auburn Valley Railroad operates approximately 14 days each year and has carried an estimated 150,000 happy passengers of all ages.
Want to get a behind the scenes look at where our engines are stored and taken care of? Check out this video from the official Marshall Steam Museum YouTube channel!
Want to see how the #402 is fired up? Check out this video from the official Marshall Steam Museum YouTube channel!
History of the Auburn Valley Railroad
Towards the end of the 1940s, Martin S. Lewis, founder of “Little Engines” in Wilmington, California, having supplied castings and drawings for smaller locomotives for many years, designed a larger scale engine, a 1½-inch scale with a track gauge of 7½-inch, and in 1956, T. Clarence Marshall began building his own 1½-inch 4-8-4 locomotive with plans and castings from Martin Lewis. By 1959, the locomotive was almost complete, and Tom and his father began planning the railroad that would circle the property, devoting hours to grading the roadbed and laying the track. On August 5, 1960, Clarence’s 75th birthday, the railroad carried its first passengers.
Several hundred people rode Engine 401of the Auburn Valley Railroad (as it was named) during the fall of 1960. Two of the original passenger cars came from the old Tolchester Amusement Park on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (cut down from 12½-inch track gauge). Four other cars were built of similar design, and all were brightly painted in “circus train” colors.
In 1960, Historic Red Clay Valley, Inc., was incorporated, with Tom Marshall as president, and a first priority was the re-activation of steam passenger service on the Landenberg Branch of the B & O Railroad. To raise funds, Clarence Marshall agreed to “lease” the Auburn Valley Railroad to the new organization if its members would man it, and all proceeds would be turned over to HRCV. Realizing that a second train would be needed. Clarence purchased the mate to the # 401 from Irene Lewis, Martin’s widow, and it entered service as Engine #402 in April 1961.
The two trains ran on a regular basis from 1961 to 1965, after which the AVRR closed down, reopening again in 1971 as an attraction at the Magic Age of Steam, which included rides in a Stanley Mountain Wagon, a mini-Ferris wheel, a “Toonerville trolley,” and a live paddle wheel steamboat in the pond. After 7 years, the Magic Age of Steam closed down in 1977, but steam rose once again at Auburn Heights about 1994, and the AVRR has delighted passengers of all ages ever since.