Decades before the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct rose to fame, another local landmark was at the heart of Nicholson. The Historic Delaware, Lackawanna & Western (DL&W) Railroad Station was once a hub for freight and passengers. It even served as the town’s post office for many years.
Now, the building has a new life as the Nicholson Tourism Center. Renovated and maintained by the Nicholson Heritage Association, the building houses artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of a small town that shaped Northeastern Pennsylvania’s railroading history.
History of the Station
The train station was originally built in 1849 by the Liggett’s Gap Railroad, a predecessor to the DL&W. It was the first station on the line from Scranton to Great Bend. In the early days, the station provided housing for the railroad workers. However, it soon became a bustling place that connected the little town of Nicholson to the wider world. In the railroad’s heyday, passengers could catch direct trains to Hoboken, Binghamton, Buffalo, and Oswego. In the freight area, local farmers shipped goods like apples, milk, and cheese to market, while trains brought crucial supplies into town. It was so esteemed that the first telephone line in Northeastern Pennsylvania ran between the Nicholson station and the DL&W station in Scranton.
Back then, the original rail line followed what is now Route 11. The railroad was notorious for its steep grades, sharp curves, and dangerous road crossings. “Pusher” locomotives were always ready and waiting in Nicholson to move heavy, loaded trains out of the valley.
To make the route safer and more efficient, the DL&W decided to build an improved rail line called the Clarks Summit-Hallstead Cutoff. Part of the plan was to construct two massive concrete bridges: the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct in Nicholson and its smaller cousin, the Martins Creek Viaduct in Kingsley. In 1915, the famous “Nicholson Bridge” opened, and the passenger service moved to a new station at the top of the hill. Meanwhile, the original station continued to handle freight.
Saving a Piece of the Past
Over time, the railroad industry declined, and the station ultimately closed in 1971. A local business bought the building in the 1980s and primarily used it for storage. However, the Nicholson Heritage Association realized that the station was a priceless piece of the town’s history. In 2012, they purchased the property with a Pepsi Refresh grant and donations from countless individuals and local businesses.
“If the Heritage Association hadn’t had the opportunity to purchase it, I think it would have eventually just deteriorated to nothing,” said Josh Stull, vice chair of the Nicholson Heritage Association. “It’s more than 170 years old. How many train stations—and even buildings themselves—still exist that are that old?”
Renovating a historic building was no easy task. It took eleven years to bring the station back to its former glory. In July 2023, the Nicholson Tourism Center at the Historic DL&W Station officially opened to the public.
Instead of cargo loads, the freight room now contains artifacts from Nicholson’s history. Visitors can browse through exhibits about the railroad and the viaduct, admire the collection of Lenape arrowheads that were found near Tunkhannock Creek, or check out the original working scale.
In the old office area, guests can get a glimpse of the day-to-day life of a station agent. An original desk is still there, donated by the family of former station agent Elmer Sweppenheiser.
The passenger area truly captures the elegance of the era. Visitors can step up to the original ticket window or take a seat on the massive replica bench where people would wait for their trains.
From the landing, you’re treated to a view of the viaduct as it arches over the town. If you’re lucky, you might even see a train chugging along.
Visit the Nicholson Tourism Center
The Nicholson Tourism Center at the Historic DL&W Railroad Station is located at 21 Lackawanna Trail (Route 11) in Nicholson. The station is open seasonally on weekends. Visit the Nicholson Heritage Association’s website or Facebook page for operating hours and special events.
For railroad enthusiasts, the station is a must-see stop, especially since it’s so close to other attractions in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Steamtown National Historic Site, the Electric City Trolley Museum, the Anthracite Heritage Museum, the Lackawanna Coal Mine tour, historic Honesdale and the D&H Gravity Railroad Museum are less than an hour away from Nicholson.
“Everything is connected because of the history of the railroad,” explained Stull. “Go east of here on the Viaduct Valley Scenic Byway, and you can see the Starrucca Viaduct. You can travel nine miles north and see the Martin’s Creek Viaduct.”
To learn more about Nicholson, pick up a walking tour brochure. The 1.7-mile, self-guided route features 28 stops that showcase Nicholson’s historic homes, churches, industry, and more. Brochures are available at the station and at the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau. You can also download a copy online.
The Nicholson Tourism Center was made possible with the support of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Endless Mountains Heritage Region, the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau, Wyoming County Commissioners, the Tom E. Dailey Foundation, the Pepsi Refresh grant program, and donations from countless individuals and businesses.