Tamaqua train tourism kicks off
Dave Frederick of West Penn Township surveys his own standard-gauge Chain Circle Railroad. The line is one of two private Tamaqua area-based rail lines at the focus of upcoming tours sponsored by a Lehigh Valley industrial museum. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Tamaqua train tourism will kick into high gear in less than two weeks thanks to the hard work and hospitality by two Tamaqua area residents.
On July 28, two busloads of visitors will arrive in town from a Lehigh Valley museum to provide rail fans a rare and first-ever opportunity to view two privately owned backyard railroads several miles apart.
Both locations are something out of the ordinary.
West Penn Township’s Chain Circle Short Line owned by Dave Frederick is a standard-gauge railroad with a 35-ton industrial diesel locomotive built in 1942.
Just north in Tamaqua is The Tunnel Railway, the work of resident Warren Speegle. His setup is a 2-foot gauge operation that runs a pair of electric-powered mine locomotives meant to emulate the famous Chicago Tunnel Railway which hauled freight underneath the city for the first half of the 20th century.
Organizers said the fact that Tamaqua area can boast of two such destinations is remarkable.
“I don’t know many places in the entire country that have such a thing, let alone one community with two,” said Mike Piersa, historian, National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem.
Piersa said he’s amazed at the accomplishments of the two men.
“This is unique and special. They both put a lot of work into their railroads and they want them to be enjoyed.”
Tour literature emphasizes that this is the real thing.
“These are not toy trains, but full-size railroads located an hour from the museum in the coal region. Although short, both railroads feature just enough track to have an operating locomotive and rolling stock. Each place exists because of the efforts of its owner, family and friends.”
Visitors will leave the Lehigh Valley at 1 p.m. to head north.
According to the itinerary, they’ll arrive in the Tamaqua area on a pair of Steel Street Tour buses and will visit the first of two railroads. They’ll spend the day in the community, view the town’s own railroad display and train station and grab a snack at one of the nearby restaurants before viewing the second railroad.
The tour is not handicapped accessible and the museum laid out some special notes for anyone thinking about taking part.
“Footwear suitable for a variety of surfaces is recommended. There may be mud, grass, loose gravel and places that require walking over rails. Although train rides will not be offered, the locomotives will likely operate for demonstration.”
There is a cost involved to help defray expenses associated with the buses and work involved. Anyone interested in more information or in taking part in the tour can call 610-694-6644.