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Historical museum opens in Weatherly

  • The secret is out-Weatherly has an awesome history and you can learn about it at the new Weatherly Area Community Museum at the Train Works.
    The secret is out-Weatherly has an awesome history and you can learn about it at the new Weatherly Area Community Museum at the Train Works.
Published December 01. 2012 09:04AM

azagofsk@ptd.netLooking for something to do on a winter weekend? The Weatherly Area Community Museum at the Train Works had its Grand Opening on Saturday, Nov. 24, and the secret is out - Weatherly has an awesome history.

The Museum is located in the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Dispatch Office which is located behind and across the tracks from the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Station that now serves as the borough's municipal building. It's current access is on an unpaved service road between Hudsondale and Wilber Streets with its entrance off East Main Street.

Museum director Jack Koehler and his wife, the former Esther Romig share a deep love of the town's heritage. Her great great grandfather, Ben Romig, saw the land as rich for lumbering and farming and in 1825, purchased 400 acres in on the west side of the creek that runs through the town. Because of the dark color of the stream caused by tannin runoff from the large stands of hemlock, he named the town Black Creek.

In 1935, Romig sold his land to Asa Packer, and in 1836, the Beaver Meadow Railroad ran tracks through Black Creek on their way to the inclined planes connecting with the Lehigh Canal. In 1837, the Hazleton Railroad at the Train Works site. Packer would incorporate the Beaver Meadow in 1864 and the Hazleton Railroad in 1868 into his Lehigh Valley Railroad.

David Weatherly promised the town a clock if it would change its name to his. The town changed its name to Weatherly, but David Weatherly never delivered the clock.

In 1863, the town incorporated into the Borough of Weatherly. In 1901, steel magnate Charles M. Schwab celebrated the town where his wife grew up by giving the borough a new school, topped by a clock tower housing a Seth Thomas clock. Weatherly students are now attending a new school has been built and the Schwab school is currently for sale.

The Train Works project began in 2004 when, after a speculator bought the site for taxes and then put it on the market, the Weatherly Rotary Club and the Weatherly Library raised $75,000 and obtained a $125,000 loan as a down payment to buy the property. They were having difficulty paying the mortgage. The Weatherly Borough received a Federal grant and now owns the property.

The largest of the buildings, the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Locomotive Works, had its massive roof in disrepair and with no funding available in the foreseeable future, to reduce the potential liability of a collapse, the Borough hired a contractor to remove the roof, and the contractor keeps the steel in lieu of payment.

The Museum is about 85 percent complete. What remains, and is waiting for additional funding, is one large room which contains original Lehigh Railroad naturally finished tongue and groove paneling.

Koehler, with the help of friends and family have been working since September to set up the Museum, often working to 11 p.m. They completed the task on the eleventh hour-on Friday night just before Saturday's opening.

The Weatherly Area Community Museum is located at the Train Works complex, a four-building future site for development of the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Locomotive works to someday be developed into a community center. The Museums's winter hours are: Saturday 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., and Sunday 1 - 4 p.m. Admission is free. For information, call Jack Koehler at 570-427-4601.

Jack Koehler, the unofficial historian of Weatherly has, over the past 60 years, assembled an exhaustive collection of documents and memorabilia depicting the borough's rise, fall and current efforts at rebirthing itself as a historic destination.

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