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On track for history

The dramatic comeback of the 148-year-old Tamaqua train station - saved from the brink of demolition 30 years ago - will be saluted in a way that nobody could have imagined.

The revitalized 1874 passenger depot will get its own official postage stamp in 2023, according to the United States Postal Service.

The depot was selected and included among four others across the country because it’s an example of a train station that continues to contribute to the community.

“Noteworthy railroad stations began brightening the American landscape by the 1870s and, although many were torn down once they had outlived their original purpose, hundreds survived,” explained a Monday USPS announcement.

Jim McKean, U.S. Postal Service public relations, said the local depot fit the bill.

“As with all the stations featured, the Tamaqua Station is an architectural gem that continues to play an important role in the community.”

The others are: Point of Rocks Station in Maryland; Main Street Station in Richmond, Virginia; Santa Fe Station in San Bernardino, California; and Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The development is being met with a stamp of approval on the streets of the community and the news is sparking a flood of comments on social media.

“This so great for the town of Tamaqua,” said resident Erla Biasi. “A beautiful picture of our train station on a stamp that will be used and seen in all the USA and beyond!”

Resident Ben Turrano is looking at possibilities.

“Can you imagine the happiness of collectors and rail fans who can get their Tamaqua stamp postmarked in Tamaqua!”

Betty Holmberg Horton is hoping, as many others are, to learn the stamp’s date of release.

“Would love to get the first day of issue stamped on something.”

The Tamaqua train station’s $1.5 million revitalization came about through tireless work of volunteers, including members of Tamaqua Save Our Station, initially led by the late Ken Smulligan, and through support by Tamaqua Borough and civic groups.

Long time SOS and Tamaqua Historical Society volunteer Dale Freudenberger says the honor is fitting because it points to the larger role the depot played throughout history.

“Recognition of Tamaqua’s Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Station is certainly deserving and recognizes the importance of the Tamaqua Station as a hub in the Anthracite Coal Region. This is a great honor for our beautifully restored station and our community.”

The depot has continued to benefit from improvements over the years.

In 2020, the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad installed a $36,000 passenger platform to improve walkability and safety. The Victorian-style platform includes historically accurate gooseneck lamps and other embellishments.

The depot now serves as an official visitors center for Schuylkill County and the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area. The depot includes a restaurant and functions as the boarding site for train excursions to and from the borough.

In its peak years in the first half of the 20th century, more than 40 passenger trains stopped in Tamaqua daily. The Victorian station was one of few that offered travelers the convenience of a full service restaurant.

The depot continues to greet visitors who arrive via rail on special ride-and-dine excursions and for summer concerts and special events.

The restored 1874 Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Passenger Station, Tamaqua. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
A Tamaqua Train Station stamp will be issued by the USPS in 2023. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO