Caboose Ride Between Boyertown And Pottstown Brings Hopes Of Local Railroad Tourism

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The brick-red caboose rolled into town, the relic greeting its new home as its wheels ground to a halt on the rails.

“Welcome to Boyertown!” announced Nathaniel Guest, president of the Colebrookdale Preservation Trust, who was decked out in a traditional railroad conductor’s uniform.

The 20 or so passengers who took the hourlong scenic excursion Friday afternoon applauded and then gathered their things.

The recently renovated caboose had just completed its inaugural run from Pottstown to Boyertown on the Colebrookdale Railroad, an almost 9-mile stretch of track that connects the two communities.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article/20140120/NEWS/301209949/1052#.Ut1Qc_Qo6c8

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Santa Express Brings A Little Christmas Magic To Bellefonte

Counties constituting the Happy Valley Region ...

Counties constituting the Happy Valley Region of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BELLEFONTE, PA — Dressed as Rudolph this weekend, Mike Hawbaker made his way through the train cars of the Santa Express.

During one of the 11 trips, Hawbaker approached a small child, who gave the costume-clad volunteer a small piece of paper. The child had hand drawn a little picture of the reindeer and wanted to give it to the red-nosed Christmas staple.

“That’s why we do this,” Hawbaker said, smiling as he looked at the drawing.

The annual event is a joint effort among the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority, the Nittany and Bald Eagle Railroad and the Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society, train owner Jeff Pontius said. He also organizes similar events in Williamsport, Bloomsburg and Sunbury.

Hazleton Mayor: Graffiti-Marred Trestle Sending Wrong Message

Downtown Hazleton, PA

Downtown Hazleton, PA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hazleton Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi believes a railroad trestle that greets motorists who enter the city from South Church Street should serve as a welcome sign that leaves a lasting impression with people who pass beneath it.

But in its graffiti-covered state, the bridge is sending the wrong message, the mayor contends.

A racial slur that was spray painted on the bridge years ago greets northbound motorists shortly after they cross into city limits.  A pedestrian walkway beneath the trestle is deteriorated to the point where people must walk on the street.

“It’s like the welcoming sign to Hazleton and it’s got a nasty message beneath it,” Yannuzzi said.  “I don’t think it should be there.”

Read more:  http://standardspeaker.com/news/mayor-graffiti-marred-trestle-sending-wrong-message-1.1480501

Amtrak Reports Increase In Ridership On Keystone Line, Says Lancaster Is Third-Busiest Station In State

Ridership on Amtrak’s Keystone line through Lancaster County grew by 5.2 percent in the last six months, the nation’s passenger railroad corporation announced Tuesday.

Amtrak has 13 trains each weekday stopping at the Lancaster, Mount Joy and Elizabethtown stations on the Keystone line and nine weekend trains.  The Keystone line carries passengers between Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

The Keystone carried 723,461 passengers in the first half of the fiscal year, compared to 687,860 during the same period last year.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/836140_Amtrak-reports-increase-in-ridership-on-Keystone-line–says-Lancaster-is-third-busiest-station-in-state.html#ixzz2QAEZu4bn

Montco Coroner: Body Found On Pottstown Railroad Tracks Had No Sign Of Injury

POTTSTOWN — The identity of the 48-year-old man found dead Monday morning beneath the South Charlotte Street bridge over the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks is Ronald Sheerer.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20121218/NEWS01/121219392/montco-coroner-body-found-on-pottstown-railroad-tracks-had-no-sign-of-injury

Passenger Rail Excursions Planned For Historic Short Line In Boyertown

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sound of the whistle echoed through Boyertown Saturday as the diesel engine left a rail yard near Third and Chestnut streets pulling two hoppers loaded with scrapped steel.

The 8.2-mile downhill trip to Pottstown had begun.

Engineer Fitzhugh “Beanie” Clark said Eastern Berks Gateway Railroad is running one or two trips a week on the historic short line known as the Colebrookdale Spur.  It first became operational in 1869.

The Berks County commissioners bought the line for $1.35 million in March 2009 to save it from abandonment by a former owner, and contracted with Eastern Berks to operate it.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=401732

Boytertown Council Hears Plans For Colebrookdale Rail Spur, Park

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Image via Wikipedia

There is no shortage of ideas for new projects in and around Boyertown.

Borough council heard three of them this week: rail tourism, a walking trail and a fenced-in park area for dogs.

The tourist railroad envisioned by Nathaniel C. Guest would use the historic 8.6-mile Colebrookdale Spur line between Boyertown and Pottstown, which Berks County bought for $1.35 million in 2009.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=364402

Jim Thorpe: Revitalization Success Story – Pottstown: Umm, No…

Postcard picture from 1915 of a "bird's e...

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I drove up to Jim Thorpe today thinking it would be cooler in the mountains (not) and because it is a funky place (this was not my first visit, hence I already knew it was funky).

Jim Thorpe is the county seat of Carbon County.  Carbon County has a total land area of 387 square miles and 65,249 residents, based on the 2010 Census (a population density of 171 persons per square mile).  Jim Thorpe’s population was 4,804 (2000 census) with a land area of 14.5 square miles (mostly undeveloped, obviously).  Carbon County borders Lehigh County to the south and Luzerne County to the north.

Jim Thorpe was originally two towns across the Lehigh River from one another – Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk.  The two towns merged and adopted the name Jim Thorpe, after famed Native American Olympian Jim Thorpe who is buried in the borough.  Originally, what is now Jim Thorpe was a railroad and coal-shipping center.  Like many Pennsylvania towns, Jim Thorpe found itself on the downside of post-industrialization and languished for many years.  Becoming Jim Thorpe was the first attempt to boost the local economy.  This offered only limited success and so the town leadership needed to find other means of ramping up their economy.

Today, Jim Thorpe is a bustling small town that has become a destination (are we paying attention Pottstown?) using its natural surrounding, its heritage and some good marketing. 

Jim Thorpe has capitalized on being a former railroad town.  You can take an awesome train ride along the Lehigh River.  During the trip you learn about local history, play games and answer questions.  It is very enjoyable and affordable.  Asa Packer and his son Harry Packer have mansions in Jim Thorpe.  Asa’s mansion is a museum and Harry’s mansion is a B&B.  Asa Packer founded the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Lehigh University.

Jim Thorpe is a river town.  The Lehigh River runs between both sides of town.  Taking advantage of being a river town, Jim Thorpe offers whitewater rafting on the Lehigh. 

Jim Thorpe is also a mountain town.  It’s called the “Switzerland of America”.  Taking advantage of being in the mountains, the town offers mountain biking and hiking.  They threw in paintball just because.  And don’t forget the Anthracite Triathlon, paying homage to being a coal-shipping center and part of the Coal Region.

Jim Thorpe is a historic town, full of 19th century architecture.  One can see examples of Federalist, Greek Revival, Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne and Richardsonian RomanesqueSt. Mark’s Episcopal Church, the Carbon County Courthouse, the Packer Mansions, the Train Station, the Hotel Switzerland, historic Broadway, the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Building and the Carbon County jail are some of the architectural attractions in town.

Jim Thorpe is so cool.  How cool is it??  Jim Thorpe was listed as number 7 on Budget Travel magazine’s America’s Coolest Small Towns in 2009.

Downtown Jim Thorpe is full of restaurants, bars, boutiques and stores of all kinds.  No empty buildings or mental health drop-in center.  Everything is clean and neat.  There is signage every where so you can find your way.  There is plenty of cheap parking…you have to pay but it is only a few dollars for the day.  There is plenty of foot and vehicular traffic coursing through the downtown.  Keep in mind this town has 4,804 people (or there about – not finding 2010 census results yet) and their downtown puts Pottstown’s to shame.  What’s wrong with that picture?  Jim Thorpe is 4 ½ time smaller than Pottstown, off the beaten path (Carbon County is not exactly Montgomery County with 800,000 people) and yet this town still finds ways to revitalize and thrive, even in a bad economy.

Would you suppose the Mayor of Jim Thorpe nuzzles the ear of the Carbon County Commissioners at local events and undermines the borough council’s downtown revitalization strategy and possibly harms a local business?  Would you suppose the Mayor of Jim Thorpe goes on the local radio station and bad-mouths borough council or that his/her spouse calls borough council a bunch of idiots while storming out of a meeting?  Would you suppose the Mayor of Jim Thorpe blows off out-of-town visitors and embarrasses borough council by promising to do something and then not doing it?

What do you suppose Jim Thorpe’s secret it?  Would you think the borough leadership came up with a plan and sticks with it?  Would you think there is a vision for Jim Thorpe and that the leadership works together and speaks with one voice?  Would you think taking advantage of a town’s history and natural surroundings is as good idea? Would you think creating a destination environment to attract repeat visitors is a good strategy?  Do you think embracing art and culture is a good strategy?  Jim Thorpe does.

Obviously, we are doing something very wrong in Pottstown that we are put to shame by a little mountain town in rural Carbon County.  They have left us in the dust.