Steamtown National Historic Site is crediting the return of a working steam locomotive for an uptick in attendance during the first three months of this year.
Last December the park completed restoration of Baldwin 0-6-0 No. 26 and rededicated it during a ceremony this month to mark National Parks Week.
Through March 31, more than 10,000 had visited Steamtown, an increase of 35 percent.
Park officials also credit a visit last year of Nickel Plate Road No. 765 with bolstering the 2015 attendance, particularly during September.
In September 2014, Steamtown saw 6,900 visitors, but in September 2015 when the 2-8-4 Berkshire was on the property the number of visitors exceeded 13,000.
For the year, Steamtown had 89,592 visitors in 2015 compared with 84,257 in 2014, an increase of 6 percent.
Recent attendance figures, though, are well below what the park has seen in the past.
More than 211,000 visited Steamtown in 1995 – the year it held a grand opening – and visitation was around the 150,000 through 2000. The record low visitation was 61,000 in 2006.
By way of comparison, the The Colorado Railroad Museum draws 100,000 annually, the B&O Railroad Museum sees 200,000 a year and the California State Railroad Museum enjoys annual attendance of 500,000.
Steamtown Superintendent Deborah Conway told Trains magazine that one reason for the lackluster attendance in recent years has been that it hasn’t done enough to encourage repeat visits.
Conway, who took at Steamtown in 2014, said the park is seeking to create new and interesting events that will make people want to come back.
This includes excursions and having more working steam locomotives.
The Steamtown shops are currently working to restore former Boston & Maine 4-6-2 No. 3713.
Other attractions will include new locomotives, new exhibits and new excursions.
The park plans to repeat in September its Railfes event, although it is not expected to feature main line steam like it did last year.