Historic Stewartstown Railroad heading to the auction block?
Some of the Stewartstown (Pa.) Railroad’s rolling stock sits in the yard, background, as Don Matthews, a railroad director, is seen inside the station. Two historic preservation groups are among the groups with a stake in the now-closed, short-line railroad’s future. The Stewartstown Railroad, which opened in 1885, hauled mainly agricultural goods on a line that parallelled the Mason-Dixon Line in southern York County. For much of its tenure, it ran from New Park westward where it met up with the old Northern Central Railway, later Pennsylvania Railroad, at New Freedom. Update: The Stewartstown Railroad has since regained a measure of financial footing, avoid auction. Background posts: Stewartstown Railroad: ‘Truly a unique entity in the state, and possibly, the nation’ and ‘Yesteryears’ southern York County sites.
The headlines on the York Sunday News story about the Stewartstown Railroad’s future summarized its plight in less than 30 words: “Stewartstown Railroad’s future derailed? / Supporters are trying to get it back up and running, but it could be put up for auction if it can’t repay a debt soon.”
It’s one of those disputes that you just know could be worked out if you could just get all the interested parties in one room.
That’s particularly so because two historical groups are involved, and one of those groups, the Bucks County Historical Society, is the beneficiary.
One wishes one could just say, “Huddle up.”
I’ll try: “Huddle up.”
In that Sunday News story, writer Jeff Frantz provides about as clear of an explanation as is possible considering the complexity of the topic involving this farmers railroad:
The railroad owes the estate of George M. Hart, who died in April 2008. Hart’s money paid the railroad’s bills for more than 20 years, and there is clause in his will reminding the executor to collect that money.
That money, and most of Hart’s estate, will eventually pass onto the Bucks County Historical Society, of which Hart was a lifetime trustee.
Some company shareholders and supporters have started a campaign to ask the historical society to allow it to repay the lien over time with proceeds from the re-opened railroad.
But the historical society says that as the residual beneficiary in Hart’s will — the heir that receives everything not otherwise allocated — it can only accept whatever the estate does, not make choices about how his will is administered.
The estate’s executor, John Willever, said he can only carry out the will, but could approve changes if an agreement is reached by the historical society and the railroad.
Meanwhile, the estate’s attorney, Jim Gillotti, said collecting the debt is up to the estate.
And, with major players living in several states, that’s only the beginning of the confusion.
But one thing is clear:
The railroad company, some say the oldest of its kind in the country, has little more than a month to find a resolution or face the auction block.