Weatherly project steaming forward
Under the three-story-high ceilings and exposed beams of the Engine House, three-year-old Benjamin Assad watches a model train demonstration of "G" scale trains owned by John Simkovich and operated by his father, Bernie Simkovich.
Weatherly's recent train festival combined fun, history, learning, craft shopping, and most important of all, fundraising for the restoration of the town's ÃÂ¼ber-project - the Train Works complex - a project spearheaded by the Weatherly Rotary Foundation
The Train Works complex is the historic site where, over a century ago, the Lehigh Valley Railroad built the powerful steam engines that pulled their trains and the cabooses-crew quarters that typically attached to the end of the train. Train Works is home to four buildings on a four-acre site.
According to Gary Makuch, president of the Weatherly Rotary Foundation, there are three buildings on its property: the Engine House, a 30,000 square foot structure where the LVRR built steam engines at the turn of the century; the Caboose House where cabooses were manufactured; and the Dispatch Office where trains were ushered through the six-tracked junction. A fourth building, the Weatherly Train Station which serves as the Weatherly Borough Office, is adjacent to the Train Works site.
The Festival, in its fifth year, was held Sept. 18 and 19. Along with a variety of local and historical displays, crafters offered knitted pumpkins, designer bird feeders and herbal soaps, and an alpaca was on display.
The Switchback Gravity Railroad Foundation showcased a replica car along with photos from America's earliest enduring railroad. The Eckley Players were dressed in period costumes. Children could be photographed in a replica steam engine.
New this year on the trackage in front of the Engine House was a red caboose owned by Kermit Geary.
"This is a CNJ 91343, wooden caboose built in 1874 as a box car and converted by the CNJ to a caboose in the early 1900s," Geary said. "It was in service by the railroad until 1973 when it was sold to the Morristown & Erie Railroad. It was resold to George Hart's Rail Tours in Jim Thorpe, and then I purchased it through the Reading & Northern and the George Hart estate."
The caboose will be on display on the Train Works property behind the borough offices on Wilbur St. in Weatherly while it undergoes a restoration to its 1940s appearance.
Weatherly historian Jack Koehler provided a tour of his vast collection of local and national memorabilia that filled rooms in two buildings. An addition to his collection is a photograph of the train carrying the casket of President Abraham Lincoln as it passed through Harrisburg on its way from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois.
In the Engine House, visitors could watch a model train demonstration of "G" scale trains owned by John Simkovich and operated by his father, Bernie Simkovich. The building, with three-story-high ceilings and exposed beams, is slated to become Weatherly's civic center.
The festival also featured a Duck Race on the HazelBlack Creek. Proceeds from that event went towards the estimated $300,000 it costs to put a new roof on the Engine House.