The Colebrookdale branch, also known as the Colebrookdale spur, Colebrookdale industrial track or Colebrookdale line, is a railway line in Pennsylvania. It runs 8.6 miles (13.8 km) from a junction with the Harrisburg Line in Pottstown to Boyertown. At its fullest extent, the line continued another 4 miles (6.4 km) to Barto. The line was built between 1868 and 1869 by the Colebrookdale Railroad (not to be confused with the heritage railway of the same name) and part of the Reading Company system until 1976. Berks County has owned the line since 2009. The Eastern Berks Gateway Railroad operates freight service; heritage passenger services are run under the Colebrookdale Railroad name.

Colebrookdale branch
Excursion train at Boyertown in 2017
OwnerBerks County, Pennsylvania
LocaleBerks County, Pennsylvania
Opened6 September 1869 (1869-09-06)
Line length8.6 mi (13.8 km)
Number of tracks1
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Route map

New Berlinville
Pine Forge
Harrisburg Line
to Reading
Colebrookdale Junction
Harrisburg Line
to Philadelphia

History edit


The first Colebrookdale Railroad was incorporated on March 23, 1865. The company completed a line between Pottstown and Boyertown, branching off from the main line of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, on September 6, 1869. The extension from Boyertown to Barto opened on November 16. The Philadelphia and Reading leased the company on the completion of the line.[1]

The Colebrookdale Railroad was one of twelve railroads merged into the Reading Company effective December 31, 1945.[2] Passenger service over the branch ended in 1950.[3] The Reading filed to abandon the last 1.6 miles (2.6 km) of the branch, between Bechtelsville and Barto, in 1965.[4] On the Reading Company's final bankruptcy in 1976, ownership of the line remained with the reorganized Reading estate. The final system plan of the United States Railway Association classed the line as "light density" and it was not conveyed to Conrail.[5] Conrail operated the line under subsidy.[6]

Pennsylvania purchased the line in 1982 and designed the newly organized Anthracite Railway as the operator in 1983.[7] The Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad replaced the Anthracite Railway as the operator in 1989.[8] The Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad did not bid for renewal of the lease in 1995 and was succeeded by East Penn Railways, with an option to buy the line outright.[9] Penn Eastern Rail Lines acquired East Penn Railways in 1997.[10] Berks County purchased the line from the state in 2001.[11] The East Penn Railroad acquired Penn Eastern Rail Lines in 2007 and purchased the line from Berks County.[12]

Less than a year later, the East Penn Railroad successfully filed to abandon the line, on the grounds that providing service was not economically viable. In response, Berks County acquired the line again in 2009. The Eastern Berks Gateway Railroad, a subsidiary of US Rail Partners, assumed operation in 2010.[13] Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust assumed control of the Eastern Berks Gateway Railroad in 2013, and began running passenger excursions under the Colebrookdale Railroad name in 2014.[14]

Notes edit

  1. ^ ICC (1931), p. 454.
  2. ^ ICC (1947), p. 573.
  3. ^ Davis, Larry (October 5, 1950). "Barto Rail Line Halt Causes Little Stir". The Mercury. pp. 1, 20. Retrieved July 5, 2022 – via
  4. ^ "Railroad Seeks to Drop Colebrookdale Spur". The Mercury. May 19, 1965. p. 7. Retrieved July 5, 2022 – via
  5. ^ USRA (1975), pp. 442–443.
  6. ^ "Local officials proven right, Boyertown line in the black". The Mercury. November 12, 1976. p. 29. Retrieved July 5, 2022 – via
  7. ^ Erdman, David M. (July 31, 1983). "Local rail lines get new owner". The Morning Call. p. 21. Retrieved July 5, 2022 – via
  8. ^ Elrick, M. L. (May 22, 1989). "Railroad rolling up two new lines". The Morning Call. p. 16. Retrieved July 5, 2022 – via
  9. ^ Elser, Christopher (June 16, 1995). "Upper Perk lifeline is changing". The Morning Call. p. 17. Retrieved July 5, 2022 – via
  10. ^ "Penn Eastern Rail Lines, Inc.--Acquisition and Operation Exemption--Lines of Lancaster Northern Railway, Inc., Chester Valley Railway, Inc., East Penn Railways, Inc., and Bristol Industrial Terminal Railway, Inc" (PDF). Surface Transportation Board. December 1, 1997. Retrieved July 5, 2022.
  11. ^ Stahl, Sharon (June 24, 2001). "Berks plans to buy Colebrookdale Spur rail line". The Mercury. Retrieved July 5, 2022.
  12. ^ "East Penn Railroad, LLC—Acquisition Exemption—Berks County, PA" (PDF). Surface Transportation Board. November 1, 2007. Retrieved July 5, 2022.
  13. ^ "Eastern Berks Gateway Railroad Company–Modified Rail Certificate–in Berks County, Pa" (PDF). Surface Transportation Board. October 13, 2010. Retrieved July 5, 2022.
  14. ^ Lauer-Williams, Kathy (August 15, 2015). "All Aboard! Historic trains". The Morning Call. p. D1. Retrieved July 5, 2022 – via

References edit