Used during the civil war era, the Colebrookdale Railroad is up and running again in Boyertown, Pennsylvania.
The newly restored railway is located a stone throw away from where a major tragedy took place thus bringing with it a ghostly allure to current day visitors.
On January 21, 1908 the local Rhodes Opera House in Boyertown was overfilled to capacity with men, women and children. The play that night was eagerly anticipated, and a strong turnout came to watch. But during the evening, an actor knocked over a kerosene lamp used for lighting, which set a curtain on fire. People were trapped due to improper exits and doors. Within 15 minutes, 171 people were killed in a horrific manner – some fused together, mostly above the waist. What a gristly undertaken for the volunteers and undertakers to have to separate and identify the forms.
Added to the tragedy, a local fireman was also killed when responding to the alarm.
Local basements were used to temporarily house the bodies until burial. It was truly a disturbing event for Boyertown. Thereafter ghost stories cropped up in mere days. Many people claimed the Specter of a headless man was seen walking along Main Street – apparently this was a Monday event.
Over the years, more ghostly tales have followed - many from homeowners now living in homes once used during the Rhodes fire tragedy. The Colebrookdale Railroad hosts a Eerie Unlimited train ride which brings some of these tales to life.
Having taken a trip on this lovingly restored railway, I recently had a chance to interview one of the volunteers about the restoration of the trains. To my surprise, I found out that some of the artifacts being incorporated and used for restoration were donated by none other than Pennhurst. The miscellaneous items – missing bits and pieces needed for some restoration- were found in some of Pennhurst’s basements. Having written two books about Pennhurst, this immediately intrigued me.
So, if you have a chance to ride the Colebrookdale Railway, its worth a trip. You can even treat yourself to a delicious dinner.
Check out their schedule of events.
The Dining Car:
Author Tamera Lawrence
Ghosts of Mayflower: A Pennhurst Haunting (Amazon.com)
Pennhurst Ghosts of Mayflower II