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RR owner plans for Carbon line

Andy Muller has big plans for his new rail line in Carbon County.

On Thursday, the owner and CEO of Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad outlined some of his plans for the new portion of line, which runs from Packerton Yards to Haucks Junction in Schuylkill County. Muller entered into an agreement of sale with Carbon County Thursday morning. He purchased the 19.5-mile Panther Valley line for $4.7 million in cash and in-kind services.

The biggest changes will be seen in Jim Thorpe.

“Some people love New York,” Muller said. “I love Jim Thorpe.”

Muller said that he and his wife have been coming to Jim Thorpe since 1983 and have fallen in love with the picturesque Victorian town. “It’s an amazing place and you are very lucky,” he told the board of commissioners. “The railroad is very fortunate to be part of it, because the railroad can only succeed if the local economy succeeds and it can only carry people if people come to visit.”

Over the next year, residents and visitors alike will see some changes and improvements to the line as a whole, as well as the main area in Jim Thorpe.

Muller said that he is hoping to get track speed for freight trains up to 40 mph, from the current speed of 25. To accomplish this, his crews will install over 70,000 feet of new rail along the line.

He will also improve the current county parking lot entrance and pedestrian crossing, as well as install a second pedestrian crossing near the new pedestrian bridge and construct a tower at the main entrance to the county lot.

“We are going to put between $4 and $5 million into this railroad,” Muller said, noting that the railroad needs about $11 million in work and he plans to invest heavily in this new portion.

“We’re committed to spending that so you will have a first class main line coming through Carbon County. Then it will be up to the local people and railroad to work together to get some industrial development.” Muller also noted that Carbon County has something a lot of counties want and that is tourism.

“It’s going to be amazing what Jim Thorpe is going to achieve in the future,” he said, but one problem still remains, parking.

Muller hopes to work with the borough and county to try an solve that issue and even alluded to the potential the former Packerton Yards site has for a secondary location.

“You’re going to see a lot of things happening,” he told the commissioners. “We’re just thrilled that now that we own the railroad we can put all this money into it.”

Another new venture the railroad is hoping to begin is passenger excursions from the Wilkes-Barre area to Jim Thorpe on weekends since Muller recently purchased a new stock of passenger coaches from a bankruptcy sale in Colorado.

“I have a lot of exciting things I want to do,” he said. “I love trains, I love railroading. This is what I love to do and so this partnership with the county will just be a lot better.

“There is so much potential here.”

A steam engine pulls into the Jim Thorpe train station. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO