Writer trains eye on Southern End history
By Jo-Ann Greene, Books Editor email@example.com
Mary Louise Boomsma never rode the narrow-gauge rails of the Lancaster Oxford and South Railroad. Its trains made their last run in 1920. Yet she seems to have heard the echo of their whistles ever since moving to Peach Bottom from Paramus, N.J., in 1968.
Boomsma has just published her second book about what was affectionately known as "the Little, Old and Slow" railroad and its predecessors. The first in an intended series, it's titled "Recollections & Romance of the Peach Bottom Railway: 1868-1881" and illustrated with Michael Abel's charming pencil sketches.
The book compiles historical society records and period newspaper articles (mainly the Oxford Press) on the earliest years of the 28-mile-long railroad. Boomsma includes her brief, interpretive and often amusing comments in the margins, and they provide the reader with invaluable context.
A Feb. 4, 1874, article referencing an earlier article about a trip from Point Lookout to Oxford and seeking to clarify the location, relates that " 'The Pint,' as it is familiarly called in the Plebeian dialect of this section, is situated in Little Britain township, Lancaster county."
Boomsma writes, "Having had a dear friend from the 'old sod' of Ireland, I can understand how the Scots-Irish inhabitants all called Point Lookout 'The Pint.' "
A Jan. 13, 1875, article on "A Mishap to the Samuel Dickey" (trains had names back then), tells of locomotive pipes freezing while engineers were at supper, disabling the engine. Passengers -- including "two venerable ladies" -- "awaited in hope until 3 o'clock in the morning, when the cheering words ' all right' were given."
Boomsma writes, "With the temperature below zero that train ride and carriage ride in the middle of the night must have been very miserable. Even a pot-bellied stove did not give off a lot of heat unless you practically 'sat' on it."
In a telephone interview, Boomsma, a retired teacher, said she always believed students should know their own history. She began researching local history when she and late husband George purchased an old house once owned by the Stubbs family. They were among the farmers who built the railway to get their produce to market, she said. Local historian Jack W. W. Loose mentioned this to her, and pointed out the old Dorsey Station, located not far from the house.
Over the years, she used what she uncovered in both her classrooms and in a previous book of historical fiction for children, "Andy's Peach Bottom Railroad Adventures."
Part of the proceeds from that book and the new one, Boomsma said, will go to restore and preserve the Dorsey Station, the last remaining one on the line.
The oversized, 132-page paperback can be purchased at LancasterHistory.org; DogStar Books, 401 W. Lemon St.; and Powls Feed Service, 1934 Lancaster Pike, Peach Bottom.