The brass bell let out a rhythmic chime as engine #7236 backed passenger cars into the station for the 150th anniversary of the Colebrookdale Railroad. It's a sound that would have been familiar to the returning Civil War soldiers who built the Colebrookdale line.
"The Colebrookdale was built by citizens in Boyertown and Pottstown who petitioned the Pennsylvania Legislature for permission to connect the industries and people of Berks and Montgomery counties to the national freight network," said Nathaniel Guest, executive director of the Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust. "Products from Boyertown and Pottstown, and all the communities in between, could be delivered to locations all over the United States, and really all over the world."
The rail line further connected Pennsylvania's iron industry to the market, fueling what would become one of the nation's largest production hubs.
According to Guest, the line had the added benefit of allowing arts and crafts and agricultural products to come and go.
"This railroad has so much to do with the identity of what it means to be from Pennsylvania," Guest said.
Guest and other railroad enthusiasts celebrated Colebrookdale's 150th anniversary by driving in a ceremonial golden spike. It's a tradition that would have also highlighted the railroad's opening back in 1865, when the line, running between Pottstown and Boyertown, was completed.
Today, the railroad is an example of a community and economic development project. Colebrookdale has received grants and support from multiple counties and the state.
The railroad draws 20,000 to 30,000 visitors annually and provides a $1.8 million impact on the local economy, according to the Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust, a nonprofit that operates the railroad.