A trip to Paradise

Jason Smith and Melissa were married Aug. 24, 2013 on the train to Paradise. In Pennsylvania, that is. And they followed the ceremony with a gala reception at the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum at the Strasburg Railroad Station. A second marriage for each, the couple wanted to make this wedding day something unique, unforgettable, and joyful. Jason, the grandson of a PRR locomotive engineer and an avid model railroader, frequently took Melissa to Strasburg to see the countryside, take a train ride past lush farms and picturesque homesteads in the heart of Amish country, and visit the museum. In the museum, he pointed out the engines his grandfather had run nearly half a century before and stood with pride before his grandfather’s name on the PRR Wall of Honor, denoting the senior Smith’s four decades as a locomotive engineer. Melissa had always recognized Jason’s fondness for the railroad, and everything connected to it, so she wondered whether it would be possible to be married on the train and have a reception at the Museum. When the couple inquired., they found a friendly, helpful, and enthusiastic staff both at the Railroad and in the museum to make their dream come true. The couple carried out their Railroad theme from the very start, issuing their invitations in the form of train tickets, complete with punches from a conductor’s authentic punch. They reserved the first class car on the 5 p.m. train at the Strasburg station, and arranged for their minister, complete with a speaker system, to officiate as the giant steam locomotive lumbered its way to Paradise, soft music playing in the background, Keeping the tradition of the groom not seeing the bride until she walked down the aisle, Melissa stayed in the Station until Jason was aboard, then snuck in the passenger car’s rear door to stand behind a wall until the bridal music began. She chose to ask Jason’s seven-year-old son, James, to be ringbearer and her sister as maid of honor. The trio walked down the gently swaying passenger car center aisle, to a beaming Jason, his dad, Bob as his best man, and the minister, all prepared at the end of the car. The huge windows gave a glimpse of the hundreds of tourists delighted with the extra thrill of seeing a bride, as well as the white smoke billowing out of the engine just ahead of their car. By the time they reached Paradise, Jason and Melissa were Mr. and Mrs. Smith. As is the normal procedure for the scenic rail ride, for the return portion of the 45-minute journey, the engine was switched, and the Smiths and their wedding guests were at the rear of the train. At the station, they posed for photos from the outside car platform, behind a hastily hung “Just Married” sign that swung from the platform railing. After more photographs and congratulations from friends and strangers alike, the couple headed across the street to the PRR Museum, where their guests enjoyed a sumptuous cocktail hour in the simulated small town train station. Following that, and ample time for the guests to enjoy an afterhours roam through some of the numerous exhibits at the museum, the wedding party moved into the main exhibition hall. There the decorated tables were surrounded by steam, electric and diesel engines from a bygone era. Each table was decorated with a miniature railroad lantern, and the buffet tables and music platform encircled the reception area. Jason took the time between accepting congratulations and beaming over his new wife’s beauty and happiness to point out the engines his Pop Pop had run. He also received special permission to board Engine #4935 and recreate a family photo of his grandfather in that same engine. Carrying the railroad tradition to yet another generation, Jason’s son James also hung out the window like an experienced engineer for a photo. The couple pointed out the K4 the senior Smith had also run and explained to guests that he had worked both passenger and freight trains until his retirement in 1992. Both the bride and groom wanted Jason’s grandfather to be a part of the ceremony, so they had also arranged for a special exhibit at the Wall of Honor. Amid hundreds of names, most added since the senior Smith’s name was first engraved, Museum staff had highlighted his name on the wall, and set a candle and the 2178 photo in front of it. Did she miss the pomp and circumstance of a formal church wedding and an elegant reception at a glamourous club or restaurant? “Not at all,” an exuberant Melissa said, “I knew this was something Jason would love, and that meant I would love it, too. It was exciting, I loved having all the tourists clapping and smiling for us, and all our guests say it was the most unusual wedding they’ve ever attended. Add the sunshine filled day that we had, it was the perfect wedding in the perfect location to the perfect man.”


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