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Carbon commissioners honor railroad operator

A Berks County businessman with strong ties to Carbon County has been honored for his commitment to building a business that has helped both economic growth and the tourism industry.

On Thursday, the Carbon County Commissioners adopted a resolution recommending Andy Muller Jr., chairman and CEO of Reading Blue Mountain and Northern, be named Railroader of the Year by Railway Age Magazine. The board noted after the meeting that it was learned that the magazine had selected someone else for the honor, but had not disclosed who it was.

Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein said that the entire RBMN family has been an asset for Carbon County on many projects.

Commissioner Chris Lukasevich added that Carbon County has been blessed with pioneers in railroading over the centuries, including Asa Packer, Josiah White and later on George Hart, but it was Muller who has been the “Railroader of the Year” in Carbon County for the last two decades “and we’re extremely appreciative of that.”

Tina Muller-Levan, Andy’s daughter and a member of the railroad leadership, accepted the resolution on her father’s behalf.

“He is my Railroader of the Year,” she said.

Muller started his career in railroading in September 1983 when he purchased a 13-mile short line between Hamburg and Temple.

Over the next 15 years, he continued to acquire additional branches, expanding his operation.

In 1996, Muller acquired the Lehigh Middle Line segment of Conrail’s Reading Cluster and his story with Carbon County began.

Through negotiations with previous boards, Muller became the sole rail operator over the county’s lines and connected RBMN’s Lehigh division.

It 2002, he created a connection between his Reading and Lehigh divisions and started building a new foundation in Jim Thorpe, which would become his largest site for passenger service.

He restored two bridges that cross the Lehigh and enter into Lehigh Gorge State Park and would, in 2005, create Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway.

Today, Muller’s commitment to Carbon County has enhanced the tourism in Jim Thorpe, growing the passenger tours through the gorge to near 250,000 riders annually.

He also restored two historic steam engines and has expanded both freight and passenger to additional locations throughout the area, most recently a 10-acre tract and nine buildings in Nesquehoning.

“Andy’s investment in Carbon County continues unabated,” the resolution states, adding that his vision and RBMN has been “an invaluable asset to this county.”

Nothstein said that while they learned Muller didn’t receive the honor this year, he will still be featured in Railway Age Magazine in an upcoming issue in 2023.

Andy Muller Jr.