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From blight to bustle: Tamaqua train station officially open

A ribbon cutting was held on top of the newly completed Tamaqua Train Station passenger platform in downtown Tamaqua Monday morning.

Local officials, borough council and chamber members were on site to give thanks to Andy Muller, president and owner of Reading and Blue Mountain Northern Railroad, for his dedication and contributions throughout the project.

“Most of us can remember when this was a symbol of blight in the community, not a symbol of pride. The walls were caving in, the windows and doors were boarded up and the roof leaked,” said state Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill.

“But people came together - and we saved the station by working together. Brick by brick, window by window, door by door. Since the restaurants have been open again, since 2004, this has been a very busy place. It only happened because people came together.”

The partnership between the borough council and railroad began in 2019, said Brian Connely, council vice president.

“We had heard for years - the big bad railroad - nobody can work with the railroad. We said, look, we have a new generation in here. Why not? Let’s have these conversations, so we started having these conversations,” Connely added.

“And we sat down, drew it out, and we said how could we get it done? It was no nonsense, let’s just do it. Here it is, and it’s just fantastic.”

The platform, finished earlier this year, extends up to the main tracks for easy access on and off. The railroad installed Victorian-style gooseneck lamps, benches and vintage railroad signs.

“We were limited in what we could do because of the unsuitable conditions of the train platform,” Connely read from the plaque which was gifted to Muller. “We found not only a partner who shared our concerns, but a vision to the project that would exceed anything that the borough thought we could do in our hometown.”

Not only was the platform masterfully done, Muller decided to give back to the community. The railroad donated back Tamaqua borough’s portion of the money it originally put up to make the project possible.

“You outdid yourself,” Connely read from the plaque. “When you declared that our 20% share of the project was considered payment in full, that was even better yet.”

The money was directly distributed to help local first responders.

“When you were able to basically release the money back to the borough, the borough turned around on your behalf, and gave it to the fire departments. Not once, but twice, during the pandemic,” said Connely. “That replaced so much funding that was lost. We truly appreciate that. You don’t see that (happen) much at all, if any.”

Muller reminisced about the transformation of the train station.

“It’s hard to believe what this looked like when we bought the railroad. … This was nothing but coal dirt through here,” Muller said.

“It’s unbelievable to imagine what this looked like. The station was burned and every time it rained, the water came off the mountain and would come down to the middle of town and wash coal dirt into the street. It’s hard to imagine, we’ve really come a long way.”

Connely was happy to see over 1,200 passengers who rode the rails during Summerfest a few weekends ago.

“Now that the platform has been built, we’ve already seen benefits of community, despite the difficulties of the pandemic. From ride dines and speeder cars stopping on a regular basis to Jim Thorpe, we know that people are coming to our community because they share your love and passion for trains.”

Tamaqua recognized Andy Muller, President & Owner of Reading and Blue Mountain Northern Railroad, with a plaque on Monday. From left, State Sen. David Argall; Linda Marchalk, Tamaqua Chamber President; Andy Muller; State Rep. Jerry Knowles and Brian Connely, Tamaqua Borough Council Vice President. JUSTIN CARLUCCI/TIMES NEWS
Andy Muller surrounded by local officials during the passenger platform ribbon cutting on Monday. JUSTIN CARLUCCI/TIMES NEWS