With a unanimous vote Monday, June 9, Pottstown Borough Council signaled its support for a grant to help erect a historic railroad station in Memorial Park to be the home of the Pottstown stop on the Secret Valley Line.
Nathaniel Guest, president of the Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust, said the station, built in 1887, was slated to be demolished.
The preservation trust secured the building and will bring it to Pottstown in pieces since it was determined it could not be moved whole.
The building is 70 feet long and 20-feet wide and would be surrounded by six-foot decks on all sides and would have 21 parking spaces. The station would also be a BikePottstown bike-share location so those riding the train into Pottstown from Boyertown could then take a free bicycle to explore the area.
Guest said the trust is applying to the Commonwealth Financing Agency to pay the costs of moving the station and creating the setting in Memorial Park.
The station “will introduce visitors to the attributes that make the Secret Valley unique in Pennsylvania,” according to materials provided by the trust.
It will also be used by:
• Bike riders getting to the Schuylkill River Trail;
• Bird-watchers “who will enjoy a 360-degree view of the valley;
• Fisherman going to the fishing hole at the confluence of Manatawny and Ironstone creeks;
• Seasonal riders who will want to see fall foliage, Christmas and Halloween events as well as special food, wine and beer-tasting rides
• And children who will ride the annual “Mudball Express” during which native wildflower seed-laden mudballs will be hurled from the train.
The station would also be an access point for something called the “Pottstown Arts and Recreation Loop,” which includes Pottsgrove Manor, the Carousel at Pottstown, Manatawny Park Mini-Golf, the art galleries at Montgomery County Community College and ArtFusion 19464, the Schuylkill River Trail, the splash park, BMX, basketball, baseball and other recreational facilities in Memorial Park.
A nine-mile Civil War-era railroad through the New World’s oldest iron-making valley, the Colebrookdale Railroad connects Pottstown and Boyertown through the scenic hills and woodlands that comprise the Manatawny and ironstone valleys.
The trust has moved steadily forward with securing the railroad, attracting new freight clients and assembling historic rail cars to create a tourist excursion railroad similar to the Strasburg Railroad.
According to a report in the Schuylkill Highlands Landscape Initiative, there is a “significant need for an anchor attraction” to serve as a catalyst for capturing tourist dollars in the “middle Schuylkill region,” which includes Pottstown and Boyertown.
A 2012 study, paid for by Pottstown, Boyertown, the state and the William Penn Foundation called the development of the Colebrookdale Railroad “a smart way to fill this need for an anchor attraction,” according to the Trust.
It is anticipated the line will attract 20,000 to 30,000 visitors each year “generating millions of dollars each year for local businesses,” according to the Trust.
In the next five to seven years, the Trust anticipates spending up to $8 million to restore historic passenger cars and other facilities to service the line and its passengers.
However, riders need not wait that long.
Guest told council “it is our goal to begin offering rides on Oct. 1.”
According to the project’s feasibility study, the railroad’s direct spending will inject $980,000 a year into the local economy; with visitors adding another $1.8 million in economic impact; will create 270 jobs through the implementation phases with 80 new sustained jobs thereafter.