The imagination of three local railroad enthusiasts generated an idea that led to the creation of the Shenandoah Central Railroad, a one mile, narrow gauge line, in Penn Laird in Rockingham County in 1953. It was intended to be an operating museum, but was often referred to as a tourist excursion line. At that time it was one of only three narrow gauge railroads still operating in the United States. Many remember the railroad by the name of the engine – Tweetsie – a nickname given affectionately by North Carolina Girl Scouts for its “shrill, birdlike whistle.”
Shenandoah Central Railroad owners Dr. Paul S. Hill, President, C. Grattan Price, Jr., and Wade M. Menefee, Jr, with the engine known as “Tweetsie.” Each weekend, the three railroad buffs donned authentic uniforms and manned the train, acting as engineer, fireman, and conductor.
In 1953-1954, the Shenandoah Central Railroad operated in Rockingham County, Virginia, as a “museum on wheels” for narrow gauge railroads.
On Memorial Day in 1953 the park opened to the public and over 1,300 passengers took rides. Tweetsie ran every Sunday through Labor Day weekend. The line ended at a picnic area where passengers could relax and children could enjoy the playground. The train then backed up the mile to return to the station. During the first five months, 10,000 visitors paid the round trip fare of 40 cents for adults and 20 cents for children.