A Scranton author will release a new book about Steamtown National Historic Site next month.
Margo Azzarelli’s “Images of Rail: Steamtown National Historic Site,” focuses on the attraction’s history and its metamorphosis from Steamtown USA in Vermont to the downtown Scranton site we know today. Published through Arcadia Publishers, which produces the “Images of America” and “Images of Rail” series, the book comes out Monday, Oct. 26.
“I love Steamtown, and it has such a rich history with (the) Delaware, Lackawanna (and Western) Railroad,” Azzarelli said.
This is Azzarelli’s eighth book on the history of Northeast Pennsylvania, following ones about Scranton’s Green Ridge section, Forest Hill Cemetery, Taylor, Old Forge and Moosic; a general history book about Lackawanna County; and a history on labor unrest, which features research on the Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902.
“This is a labor of love,” Azzarelli said. “You don’t make any money with it, but my mission in life is just to preserve the local history for our future generations so it doesn’t get lost.”
Now part of the National Park Service, Steamtown sits on roughly 40 acres of a railyard that belonged to the former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. It moved to the site in 1984 from New England, where a man named Nelson Blount had collected the various pieces of railroading history in the 1950s and ’60s.
Azzarelli conducted the majority of the research for her book at Steamtown’s archives but ran into some trouble while researching its earlier history because the museum Blount founded no longer exists. Determined to fill in the missing pieces of Steamtown’s history, Azzarelli turned to eBay to find remnants of the original museum. She succeeded not only in that search but also in finding owners who knew the items’ provenance.
Another challenge Azzarelli faced during the writing process was learning the technical aspects of railroading.
“I had to familiarize myself with the workings of the railroads and the trains themselves,” Azzarelli said. “I didn’t know a lot before this. You know, I was more into the history, but in order to tell the story (I) needed to learn.”
Along with deepening Azzarelli’s knowledge of the site, the project gave her the unique opportunity of seeing the past and the present meld in the Steamtown railyard.
“I got to go out in the yard and look at all of the equipment and the older trains they have out there,” Azzarelli said. “Being that I had all of the pictures from the 1800s and 1900s and what it looked like when it was the DL&W, I liked to go out and, in my mind, kind of put myself in the past.
“It was freezing, but I spent three or four hours in the yard looking at some of the remaining buildings that were there from the DL&W railyard and just imagining myself in that century and the hustling and bustling in the yard. That was my favorite part of the project.”
As in past years, a book launch will take place, but because of coronavirus concerns, a date has not been set.