Named for a settlement of mechanics who made and repaired Conestoga wagons in the early 19th century, Mechanicsburg’s continued growth was also attributed to the Cumberland Valley Railroad (CVRR). Completing its line in 1837, Mechanicsburg was designated as a water station where workers could restock the locomotive’s wood and pump water. The train became the town’s link to the world of business and industry. Grain and feed companies, lumber yards and numerous factories were purposely built alongside the railroad tracks. Archives show that, at one time, there were twenty-five trains chugging through the town daily carrying travelers, coal, feathers, fruit, ice, mail and newspapers. During the American Civil War, the railroad was an invaluable method of transporting troops and supplies. Today, approximately six trains travel through Mechanicsburg each day, which has recently increased due to new operations on the local sub-line owned by Norfolk Southern.
Another part of Mechanicsburg’s growth occurred when the Naval Support Activity was built on 840 acres (3.4 km2) of land in Hampden Township, Pennsylvania. NSA Mechanicsburg continues to serve as one of the Defense Departments major logistics sites. Although automotive technology changed the town forever, today’s residents cannot dismiss the vital role the railroad played in its development.