Colebrookdale Railroad has been honored with a national award that acknowledges innovative county government programs.
The Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties recognizes the county's efforts to build a multicounty, public-private partnership that prevented the loss of the freight line, creating a heritage railroad and viable freight hauler in the process.
The association honors recipients in 18 categories; Berks was recognized in the Arts category.
"The abandonment of the railroad would have cost millions of dollars, with no return," commissioners Chairman Christian Y. Leinbach said in a written statement. "Instead, we’ve built a growing economic engine and jobs creator and we did it through an unprecedented partnership that includes state, federal and local governments, foundations, donors and volunteers."
The 9-mile freight line was established as a link between Boyertown and Pottstown in 1869. Upon learning that the line was going to be abandoned in 2009, Nathaniel Guest formed the Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust and approached Berks officials for assistance.
The county bought the line in March 2009 for $1.35 million to continue service to its freight customers through an agreement with Eastern Berks Gateway Railroad. In 2014, the commissioners handed it over to the Berks County Redevelopment Authority.
Montgomery County officials have worked closely with Berks to develop the line, with 2 miles of track in the neighboring county.
The association, based in Washington, has recognized county government innovations annually since 1970 though its Achievement Awards.
"This is the first time Berks County has received a recognition from NACo, and we’re so proud that it’s for a project like the Colebrookdale," Commissioner Michael Rivera said in a statement.