History of the WK&S

History is a moving target. And so this page continues to be a work in progress. Additions, corrections and criticisms are always welcome.

Before the WK&S

The 1960s

The 1970s

The 1980s

The 1990s

The 2000s

The 2010s

What's Left of the S&L

Before the WK&S

The Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern exists on a stretch of track first known as the Berks County Railroad, but more widely known as the Schuylkill & Lehigh branch of the Reading railroad.

By 1871 the mighty Philadelphia & Reading Railroad was 37 years old and dominating transportation through the Schuylkill Valley. The P&R aimed to fully control not just the transport of anthracite hard coal, but production as well. The P&R's early efforts were somewhat covert, but by 1871 the railroad had openly organized a subsidiary called the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company and began taking over area coal lands and mining operations. Communities up and down the Schuylkill Valley were obligated to buy P&R coal. The Berks County Railroad was envisioned as a means to bypass the Philadelphia & Reading's monopoly by funneling Lehigh Valley coal to the city of Reading and then on to the port of Wilmington via a second railroad called the Wilmington & Reading. The Wilmington & Reading was already in operation and was still an independent carrier. The Berks County Railroad was backed by a group of local industrialists who also saw the proposed railroad as a means of supplying low-rate Lehigh Valley coal to their existing factories along the eastern banks of the Schuylkill River in Reading.

The Berks County Railroad was incorporated in 1871 and would run about 44 miles between Reading and a connection with the Lehigh Valley Railroad at Slatington. Construction was under-funded and under-engineered. And the new company had to fight off a series of legal challenges hurled its way from the Philadelphia & Reading. Nevertheless, the new railroad was completed by 1874 and opened with a silver spike ceremony at Lynnport on June 18. And then the new company promptly went bankrupt after less than a year's operation. The expected low-rate coal trains from the Lehigh Valley Railroad lasted about ten days and then dried up. The LVRR was under backdoor pressure from the more influential Philadelphia & Reading. The P&R threatened the LVRR's interchange traffic if cooperation with the Berks County Railroad continued. Without its Lehigh Valley partner, the Berks County Railroad had few trains to run.

The Berks County Railroad was first and foremost intended to be a bridge between the Lehigh Valley and Reading. Without this intended source of traffic the railroad was a victim its own location through rural northern Berks and western Lehigh Counties. Of course the railroad was a boon to local communities. In fact, many online towns like Kempton and Wanamakers were established as a result of the railroad. But without any major cities or industries, the line would not be profitable as an independent railroad.

In 1875 the company was reorganized as the Reading and Lehigh Railroad with close ties to the Philadelphia & Reading. The company was quickly leased to its former arch enemy and became known as the Berks & Lehigh branch of the P&R. But both railroads were plagued by financial and legal issues through this period. The Reading & Lehigh was again reorganized around 1880 as the Schuylkill and Lehigh Railroad. And in 1883 the line was again leased to the P&R for 999 years and became known as the Schuylkill & Lehigh branch. Some would call it the "Slow and Lonesome". Not surprisingly, the P&R took a dim view of the Wilmington & Reading's involvement with the Berks County Railroad scheme. The W&R would survive for a while, but it too was eventually gobbled up and became known as the P&R's Wilmington & Northern branch. One day the Wilmington & Northern would supply a key station structure to the future WK&S.

The most exciting period in the history of the Schuylkill & Lehigh began in the early 1890s. Under a new president the P&R suddenly and recklessly exploded in all directions. The sleepy Schuylkill & Lehigh branch was to serve as the P&R's springboard into New England. The P&R acquired the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Then from Slatington to Boston and beyond the P&R acquired a chain of lines including the Pennsylvania, Poughkeepsie & Boston, the Central New England & Western and the Boston & Maine. The PP&B was better known by its later name, the Lehigh & New England. All of this was in place by the end of 1892. System-wide the P&R had collectively doubled in size and was running express trains between Philadelphia and Boston! For a few brief months the S&L looked to become a bustling bridge line as was originally intended 20 years before. But the P&R's reckless expansion was fueled by reckless financing. It all came crashing down in February 1893. The P&R fell into bankruptcy and lost all its new acquisitions. Many of these acquisitions were by lease and so control of the individual railroads fell back to their original owners. The P&R shrank to its former size and the Schuylkill & Lehigh branch was once again the "Slow and Lonesome". Some credit this fiasco with spurring or at least fueling the national Panic of '93. As the P&R was reorganized over the next few years a new holding company emerged called the Reading Company.

For the next 60 years or so the S&L puttered along as a sleepy branch line. But there were some big corporate changes in 1923. The Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company had long been the target of antitrust lawsuits. Finally in 1923 the Supreme Court decreed that the Reading Company had to divorce itself of the Coal & Iron Company. In that same year thirteen of the Reading Company's railroad holdings were formally merged together including the Philadelphia & Reading and the Schuylkill & Lehigh. The Reading Company itself became a common carrier and the Philadelphia & Reading and the Schuylkill & Lehigh ceased to exist as corporations. System-wide the railroad assumed its new identity as the "Reading Company". The Schuylkill & Lehigh continued to be known as the Schuylkill & Lehigh branch or just the S&L. Folks along the line probably didn't notice that anything had changed.

The S&L was perhaps best known for the "Berksy", the local passenger train that operated between Reading and Slatington. And the Berksy was perhaps best known for transporting students to and from the high school at Slatington. The Berksy was a local nickname, not the official name of any train. The nickname was often applied loosely to any movement on the S&L be it passenger, freight or otherwise. But the nickname was more specifically associated with the morning northbound and afternoon southbound passenger trains that transported students to and from Slatington High School. Students came from as far south as Lenhartsville.

S&L passenger trains made two round trips per day between Reading and Slatington and typically comprised a doodlebug and trailer coach. During the winter months that equipment would be substituted with a Reading class D 4-4-0 camelback steam locomotive, an RPO/combine and one or two coaches. Passenger operations were discontinued in 1949. During the last few years of operation one of the two round trips was by bus.

There were typically two S&L freight trains in the early twentieth century. One made a full round trip between Reading and Slatington. The second made a local round trip between Reading and Kempton. The local enjoyed use of a 62' turntable at Kempton. But the turntable was removed in 1928. The second train may have been cut back to Evansville thereafter or simply eliminated. It may be that this train was replaced by an extra dispatched from Reading only when the Evansville cement traffic was too overwhelming for the remaining Reading to Slatington run. Evansville wasn't much of a town, but it was home to the sizable Allenton Portland Cement Company. The cement company was perhaps the S&L's single most significant customer. Freights were powered by 2-8-0 Consolidations nicknamed "Long Johns" in reference to their bituminous-burning long narrow fireboxes. These were conventional end-cab locomotives as opposed to the Reading's signature camelbacks with their wide Wootten fireboxes.

The S&L carried all the usual freight one would expect along a rural mostly agricultural branch line. One of the biggest S&L commodities in the area of what would become the WK&S was the potato. In Kempton potatoes were loaded on the feed mill spur as well as the double-ended team track. The long double-ended siding immediately north of Kempton (future site of the WK&S) was mainly for the storage of potato cars. Potatoes were loaded on a single-ended team track at Trexler and Wanamakers had a separate spur just for potato loading.

The Schuylkill & Lehigh didn't actually go to Slatington. Rather it terminated at Little Run Junction on the Lehigh Valley's tiny Slatedale Branch. Little Run Junction was about two miles shy of Slatington and appears to have been located on the west side of the small town of Emerald immediately west of Old Mill Road and Franklin Street. S&L trains typically turned their locomotives on a wye at Little Run Junction then backed along the Slatedale Branch for the remaining two miles to Slatington. Some sources cite Best as the location of the wye. Best was the final station along the S&L and was less than two miles from Little Run Junction. Facilities at Slatington were nonexistent except for a small hose to water locomotives. Company executives were not always happy with this arrangement. There were at least two plans to bypass the Lehigh Valley, but these plans never made it off paper. Then there was the short-lived infamous takeover of the Lehigh Valley in 1892. But from there on out the S&L settled into a quiet coexistence with the Lehigh Valley negotiating trackage rights over the Slatedale Brach. Many sources cite 1947 as the year S&L passenger service was discontinued. That may have been the year that the school students started using buses. But passenger train service continued until 1949. The last passenger train was April 9. Later in 1949 the Lehigh Valley began to abandon their Slatedale Branch. The Reading subsequently established Best as the S&L's northern terminal. But service was cut back to Germansville by 1960 and then back to Kempton by 1962.

Around 1947 a group of former Berksy passengers gathered to form a reunion organization sometimes called the "Berksyites". They were mostly graduates of Slatington High School. The organization elected officers and planned reunions every five years. Decades later they would return to their rails, holding reunion events at the future WK&S.

The 1960s

By 1962 the track between Germansville and Little Run Junction was already gone. The Reading Company operated the S&L only as far north as Kempton and the track from Kempton north to Germansville was next on the Reading's list for removal. Enter the WK&S railroad which was as yet an unnamed organization. The earliest piece of paper I have regarding what would become the WK&S is a brief open letter of invitation from 1962. The letter was directed toward anyone interested in working at and/or investing in a new excursion steam railroad. The letter speaks of purchasing the 11.5 miles of track between Kempton and Germansville. Negotiations with the Reading Company were already underway. Without providing any details, the letter also speaks of operating a 4-6-2 steam locomotive from the Canadian Pacific along with vintage passenger coaches. These grand plans would not come to pass. Yet this was the beginning of a tourist railroad legacy that has so far spanned more than half a century.

The original plan was to operate the railroad between Kempton and Germansville (or at least to Lynnport or New Tripoli). But the new upstart was faced with having to renegotiate usage rights with all the land owners along the line. This situation arose because the Reading had technically abandoned the line and apparently wasn't in a position to directly transfer property to the new tourist outfit. There's some debate on this topic. In retrospect it isn't clear if these negotiations were really necessary. In any event the company hit an uncooperative land owner just north of Wanamakers and that's as far as it went. The line north of Wanamakers was eventually scrapped. The remaining three miles of track between Kempton and Wanamakers was only a fourth of the organization's original ambition. But it's worth noting that this "setback" probably played a key role in the railroad's long term success. Three miles of track is a manageable length for a volunteer organization. Any more could have been fatally overwhelming. The three mile line was purchased for scrap value; $65,000.

It's further worth noting that the new organization probably could not have found a better three miles of track in terms of scenic beauty and diversity. Passengers are treated to rolling farm fields including an orchard and often a pumpkin patch. There are forests, fills, cuts, tree covered hills, a bridge over scenic Ontelaunee creek and the two old-time towns of Trexler and Wannamakers. Passengers even get a good view of their own train thanks to some sharp curves along the line. Due to a rural somewhat isolated location, things haven't changed much over the last hundred years or so. A new house might crop up now and again, but that's about it.

The new upstart found some needed cooperation closer to Kempton. On the north side of town the track ran through property owned by the Kempton Community Center. The benefit of a new tourist attraction was recognized and land was made available for the current WK&S station complex. But this was nothing more than an empty field at the time. The new railroad would be starting from scratch. Nevertheless, the Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern, "The Hawk Mountain Line", was on its way! The word "Southern" represented optimistic potential for southern expansion as the Reading Company continued its retreat. But the WK&S has never had any affiliation with Hawk Mountain or the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. The slogan was a marketing strategy to tie the new operation with another nearby, well-known and popular attraction. Also note that Wanamaker is spelled without an "s". The town is called Wanamakers, but "Wanamaker" was the railroad-designated name of the station.

I use the terms north and south when describing the WK&S because that's how the line appears geographically. Trains run north to Wanamaker and south back to Kempton. Overall the Schuylkill & Lehigh branch ran in a northeasterly direction from Reading to Slatington. Nevertheless, timetable direction was west from Reading to Slatington. The WK&S adopted this convention for its timetable so timetable direction is still west from Kempton to Wanamaker. Confused? For the purpose of this document and the rest of my website I stick with north and south.

The winter of 1962/63 was a busy one as the WK&S set off to turn three miles of track into a functioning railroad. Aside from three miles of main line the only existing physical structures were a long double-ended siding just north of the town of Kempton where the new WK&S Kempton station was to be built, a single-ended siding at Wanamaker and the Wanamaker station. The siding at Wanamaker had been double-ended, but the Reading had long since removed the northern switch. The WK&S wished to have a run-around at each end of the line, so one of the first projects was restoration of the Wanamaker siding. Word has it that the WK&S salvaged a switch from an abandoned siding at Trexler. The switch was not an ideal match for the track alignment at Wanamaker. It worked, but the ride over the switch is a bit bumpy. This is the only early track project for which I haven't found any documentation.

Ownership of Wanamaker station had been transferred from the Reading Company to the adjacent Wanamakers General Store in the mid-1950s. The General Store used the station as storage. I believe the WK&S acquired the station by 1963 or soon thereafter. Wanamaker station has the distinction of being the only WK&S station existing in its original location. WK&S stations at the Kempton end of the line were trucked in from other places.

In the early months of 1963 the WK&S was scrambling to acquire motive power and rolling stock. A letter to the Reading Company dated February 1963 ambitiously fished for a laundry list of items including stations, outbuildings, water tanks, water columns, wood coaches, locomotive #1251 and a T-1 locomotive (for display only). The 0-6-0 shop locomotive #1251 would have indeed been a neat acquisition. But a T-1? I don't think the back-woods S&L branch could have accommodated such a move. The WK&S was quite serious about acquiring wood coaches. It's a recurring topic in letters exchanged with several other railroads. But by 1963 wood coaches had mostly been scrapped or converted to work cars. Pickings were slim and the railroad didn't have time to conduct any major restorations. It's fortunate that this idea didn't play out. A fleet of wooden coaches would have been a maintenance nightmare and could have overwhelmed the company in the lean years to come. As another aside, the WK&S has never had anything more than a fire hose to water the steam locomotives. In 1963 the WK&S appears to have purchased a Reading water column from the St. Nicholas yard. Components for a water tank were also acquired. But nothing was ever erected and I beleive everything (or at least the water tank) went to Hamburg in the mid 1980s as part of the defunct Blue Mountain and Reading operation.

Motive power came not from the Reading, but from the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company of Birdsboro, PA. A pair of 0-4-0 saddle tank locomotives numbered 2 and 3 were purchased for $1300 total and delivered in May 1963. I believe both locomotives arrived by truck. Number 3 was a Cooke locomotive built in 1910. The locomotive was inoperative when it arrived at the WK&S and as far as I know was never intended to be anything more than a static display. Number 2 was built in 1920 by the H. K. Porter Company of Pittsburgh, PA. This locomotive was put to immediate use and faithfully worked its guts out serving the WK&S for the better part of four decades. Tiny #2 was often charged with pulling all the railroad's rolling stock all at once!

The Colorado Fuel & Iron Company owned another 0-4-0 locomotive #4 that was sold to the Strasburg Railroad in 1962. Number 4 was former Reading Company #1187 and is now the last surviving Reading camelback.

A letter from the Reading Company dated April 1963 offered composite cabooses #92947 and #92936 for $2,000 each, baggage car #1748 for $1,500 and wood coaches #90936 and #93119 for a price to be determined. I don't know why the WK&S would have wanted a baggage car. Perhaps it would have been for a museum display or storage. Although not mentioned in this letter, the WK&S opted to purchase a class PBl steel coach #1365 along with the aforementioned composite caboose #92936 for $2,912 total. I find it interesting that a composite caboose was valued significantly higher than an all-steel coach. Coach #1365 was on site and ready to go for opening day. Caboose #92936 arrived a little later that summer.

Next up was a Lackawanna "Boonton" coach #582. The car came from the Erie-Lackawanna yards at Susquehanna Depot, PA and was purchased for $1,000. The deal was finalized by April 1963 and this car was also ready to go by opening day.

From the Lehigh & New England came gondolas #729 and #730 purchased for $1,100 each. Also from the LNE came a motor car and trailer which were shipped inside the gondolas. This equipment arrived in May. The WK&S contracted to have the gondolas quickly converted to open observation cars. At least one was ready for opening day. In retrospect it's fascinating how all these items were readily purchased from railroads we now view as ancient "fallen flags".

In addition to acquiring gondolas #729 and #730, the WK&S expressed interest in acquiring LNE box car #688, flat car #901 and business car #100. None of this came to pass. The Lehigh & New England had already ceased operations by 1963. All of this equipment was part of an oddball roster of leftover MOW items. The equipment was being used for LNE rail scrapping or just sitting around waiting for final disposition. Even business car #100 had been relegated to rail scrapping duties.

The new Kempton station came from the town of Joanna along the Reading's Wilmington & Northern branch. The station was purchased for a mere $275. But it cost $2,200 to have a house moving company cut the building into sections and move them to Kempton. Another $2,000 was spent to renovate the building after it was on site. The station serves as ticket office, waiting room and crew room.

Opening day was Memorial Day, Thursday May 30, 1963 (it wasn't until 1971 that the holiday was changed from May 30 to the last Monday of the month). The Joanna station had been erected along with at least one outhouse. Parking was on the station side of the tracks. Otherwise the area was baron compared to what we see today. The first train comprised locomotive #2 along with one or two open cars sandwiched between coaches #582 and #1365. Number #2 pulled the train north to the end of the line at a point just north of Wanamaker. The train was then shoved back south to Wanamaker where the locomotive was run-around on the passing track. Then the train was pulled to Kempton completing the trip. Once back at Kempton the engine was run-around the train again in preparation for the next trip north.

I don't know exactly when the track north of Wanamakers was pulled up. But I believe it was still there when the WK&S first got running. And I don't know exactly where the first WK&S trains would have stopped before the track was removed. But once the track was pulled up it seems a bit more was removed then was necessary. At some point the WK&S re-laid a few more yards of track along Rt. 143 to the present day bump-post. At times the north end of the line was used to store derelict equipment. The railroad's southern border was only 50 yards or so south of the passing track at Kempton station. The spot on the main line was marked by some crossties wedged over the rails. Apparently there were some trust issues between the Reading Company and the WK&S. The Reading insisted on a physical barrier and went so far as to unbolt both rails. There was also a mainline derail in front of the old Reading station in downtown Kempton. The rails were only reconnected when an occasional delivery was scheduled. Cooke locomotive #3 was cosmetically restored and usually sat on display at the border. This left just enough room for another WK&S locomotive to move from the main line to the passing track and run-around the train.

Not to get ahead of myself here, but there's another interesting aside regarding the southern border. In the 1970s the WK&S acquired more track to the south. The rails were reconnected for good and the border was no longer a border. Nevertheless, the location of the old southern border is clearly marked by a semaphore signal. The semaphore was a WK&S addition and is just for show. Although the signal doesn't control train movements, it is wired to the station and can be remotely operated from the ticket office.

The railroad's initial batch of rolling stock appears to have retained its predecessor paint and lettering through most of 1963. Soon the equipment was re-lettered "WANAMAKER KEMPTON & SOUTHERN", or just "WK&S". Everything retained its original base color. The exception was locomotive #2. As early as 1963 #2's saddle tank wore a coat of glossy dark green. But it only lasted a few years. The shade was nearly black and difficult to pick out from old photographs.

Around August 1963 the WK&S returned to the Reading Company and purchased class PBh coaches #1474 and #1494. These appear to have sold for $2,200 each. Combine #408 was also purchased for $2,000. The WK&S expressed a willingness to accept Reading combine #518 if for some reason #408 couldn't be obtained. But #408 was obtained and is somewhat famous for having been included in the Reading's Iron Horse Ramble excursions. The two coaches were delivered around August. The combine came late in 1963 or perhaps early 1964. Combine #408 arrived with functional air conditioning and an axle-driven generator. But WK&S track speeds were insufficient to make it work and the systems were never used. The generator's drive shaft has since been removed. Note that these cars were twice the cost of the first Reading coach #1365. Number 1365 appears to have been the worst of the lot and was withdrawn from service by around 1980. All of the Reading and Lackawanna coaches were common commuter cars and arrived at the WK&S in solid olive green. Combine #408 arrived in the Reading's two-tone green.

Put this rolling stock in perspective. Now it's an important collection of historic equipment. But in 1963 these were common everyday cars that were still in active service on the big railroads. WK&S passengers got a coach experience that was not unlike a commute in and out of Philadelphia. In modern terms, imagine taking a historic rail excursion only to find yourself riding in an ordinary Amtrak coach. I wonder if this was seen as a detraction at the time. Or perhaps everyone was so enthralled with the steam locomotive and rural atmosphere that it simply didn't matter.

Late in 1963 the WK&S purchased two more gondolas #10381 & #10390 and a flat car #719 from the LNE. The three cars arrived in February 1964. The gondolas carried two more LNE MOW trailer cars. The WK&S negotiated the price of the gondolas down to $600 a piece even though they were nicer than the two purchased previously. All four gondolas were converted to open observation cars. I don't know why the railroad wanted a flat car.

Another early purchase was former Atlantic City wood coach #72. The car was purchased from the Ironton Railroad where it had been converted to a tool car. But by the time the WK&S expressed interest the coach was just a car body without trucks and couplers. A deal was made by August 1963 and #72 was subsequently delivered to the WK&S by truck. Most folks know coach #72 as the model railroad car located behind Kempton station. But that project was still more than ten years away. In 1963 the car was placed on the ground by the south side of the station and converted to house a museum display which was open by 1965. The Atlantic City Railroad was a P&R subsidiary predating the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines.

Around August 1963 Porter #2 was joined by Baldwin 2-6-2 #250 formally of the Bonhomie & Hattiesburg Southern in Mississippi. The B&HS was the original and sole owner of the locomotive up to that time. Locomotive #250 was an impressive sight on the new little tourist railroad and highly popular. Number 250 was delivered to the WK&S in a train that also included the two new Reading coaches #1474 and #1494. Number 250 was up and running before the end of the 1963 season.

1963 was initially viewed as something of a shakedown while 1964 was intended to be the railroad's grand opening year. But by all accounts 1963 turned out to be a big success in its own right. The operators hoped to carry about 10,000 passengers through 1963, but the number was more like 27,000. And the company had already sold the majority of its initial stock offering of 100,000 shares.

A Reading freight station was acquired from West Catasauqua along the Catasauqua & Fogelsville branch. The freight station along with a maintenance shed and a motor car shed from the same location were purchased for $175. Again, the station was cut up and trucked to Kempton. And again, the costs of moving and refurbishing the station were exponentially higher than the purchase price of the station itself. The station was reassembled next to the Joanna station and became the WK&S gift shop. From Chapman near the area of Kuhnsville came a Reading auxiliary building, a tool house and another motor car shed. These three buildings were bought for only $45. The auxiliary building was converted to the refreshment stand. I believe the gift shop may have been open by the end of 1963. The refreshment stand was still under construction by the spring of 1964. The gift shop and refreshment stand were initially operated by the Kempton Community Center. I believe the refreshment stand continued to be rented to various outside operators at least through the 1970s. It may not have been operated directly by the railroad until sometime in the 1980s or '90s.

The WK&S acquired a slew of outbuildings from the Reading Company comprising an assortment of sheds and shanties that found a variety of uses over the years. Three sheds were lined up south of the coal dock along what would become the pit track. They served as oil and tool sheds and were the railroad's first maintenance facilities at the Kempton end of the line. One shanty went to Trexler. Eventually this shanty would be known as the "relay house" supporting electrical equipment for flashers at the Trexler grade crossing. A shanty sitting next to the gift shop housed well equipment and was called the "pump house". Right across the tracks sat another shanty by the locomotive watering plug. The top of a watchman's tower was by the crossing between the station and the parking lot. And a shanty went to Fuhrmans Grove serving as a small platform shelter. This quick description covers three or four decade's worth of activity. Some shanties were moved around and occupied two of the aforementioned locations. Many have rotted away. Some are still around. More details appear throughout this document.

The initial WK&S brochure from 1963 advertised trains departing on the hour from 1:00-5:00 on Saturdays and 1:00-6:00 on Sundays. The 1964 brochure added July and August weekday service at 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00. Sunday departures in 1964 were as tight as 20 minutes requiring a two-train operation. But by 1965 the Sunday schedule was back to more or less hourly so the two-train operation appears to have been short lived. Weekday service was expanded in 1965 to include June as well as July and August. The 1965 brochure also included ticket prices; $1.10 for adults and $.70 for kids. The 6:00 Sunday trips were eliminated for 1966. The 1966 brochure cited Saturday night Moonlight Runs on June 18 and October 29 departing at 9:00. Another Moonlight Run was listed for 1967. I have no brochure for 1968, but there was another Moonlight Run on October 5. A 1969 brochure does exist although the railroad did not operate that year. Here is a bizarre bit of astro-trivia; the inaugural Moonlight Run scheduled for June 18, 1966 coincided with a new moon.

Although the WK&S operated out of Kempton, the two steam locomotives were at first stored and serviced on the passing track at Wanamaker. Initially there was no source of water at Kempton so a primitive pumping arrangement was setup at Wanamaker with water supplied from a nearby stream. The WK&S acquired an old Reading auxiliary building which was moved to Wanamaker and erected next to the station. In 1963 it probably served as the first WK&S shop building. The shed still stands and is currently used for storage. By the end of 1963 the railroad was exploring the possibility of drilling well at Kempton to supply water for the locomotives. The job was contracted to R.H. Odenheimer Co. of Allentown. Spring photos show the well project still under construction when the railroad opened the 1964 season. It was probably finished by summer. Subsequently the locomotives were stored and serviced at Kempton. A coal dock was built at Kempton along the lower passing track. And a new "shop" was erected from some maintenance sheds placed along the lower passing track. All of these buildings were former Reading Company sheds or shanties moved in from other locations.

Number 250 was the favored locomotive and #2 usually served as backup. Little #2 was just an industrial saddle-tank switcher and didn't receive its home-built coal tender until 1970. The locomotive didn't even have a bunker. Coal was simply piled up on the cab floor. Range was limited. In addition to taking water, the locomotive had to be coaled several times per day. Through the mid 1960s the WK&S was actively searching for another operable steam locomotive that could serve as a more compatible running mate for #250. But no leads played out and within a few years the railroad had bigger problems to worry about.

Regardless of whether the day's motive power was #250 or little #2, trains from this period included most every piece of available rolling stock and passengers filled it all! Period pictures show #250 pulling the Lackawanna coach followed by a pair of open gondola cars followed by all four Reading cars followed by a third open car and the Reading caboose bringing up the rear. The locomotive could just barely squeeze by this nine car train at the Wanamaker run-around.

Having two operable steam locomotives, the WK&S briefly operated a two-train schedule in 1964. It would appear that the second train, powered by #2, only operated during the peak of mid-day Sundays. The procedure appears to have been for #2 to follow about 20 minutes behind #250. Number 2 would pass #250 at Wanamaker and then shove back into Wanamaker after #250 departed for Kempton. The action was captured on a novelty record that was once available at the WK&S gift shop. Here's the description from the record jacket...

"The trackside scene at this rural station is introduced by the brass bell of #250 as she backs against her train to await the arrival of #2. The coupling-up operation is distinct as the car knuckles clash and the trainman connects the airbrake hose. With her train, #250, her blower and air pumps going, awaits the momentary arrival of #2, coming up the valley from Kempton. Soon #2 is heard whistling for Steinsville and Wanamaker crossings and then occurs the familiar screech of steel-against-steel as she pulls her train onto the siding alongside #250. Following this, the conductor gives #250 a "highball" and, drivers slipping, she starts off for Kempton. #250 whistles for Steinsville crossing while in the background can be heard #2 whistling "backup" in preparation for backing down to the Wanamaker station. #250 again blows for another crossing as the train disappears from sight and sound into the everlasting hills."

Number 2 initially faced north whereas #250 faced south. As far as I know, no train was ever double-headed with #2 and #250. I suppose that would have looked silly with the locomotives facing opposite directions. Eventually #2 was turned to face south. I believe that happened sometime in the late 1960s. Still, I haven't seen any evidence that the two locomotives were ever double-headed.

Aside from steam locomotives, the WK&S added some internal combustion power to its roster. Early in 1964 the railroad investigated a small diesel-mechanical Plymouth locomotive. The locomotive's Hercules DRXC engine was freeze-damaged and deemed un-repairable. Documentation indicates that the railroad was pessimistic about this deal, but the locomotive ended up on the property anyway. Perhaps there were plans to re-engine the unit, but nothing became of it. In 1970 the locomotive was scrapped and its chassis became a home-built coal tender for Porter steam locomotive #2. Instead of fixing the Plymouth, the WK&S pursued a 20 ton gas-mechanical Whitcomb #1871. The Whitcomb was purchased from Equipment Corporation of America in October 1964 for $3,600. Number #1871 was one of the few early pieces of equipment to arrive by truck, not rail. Presumably the locomotive was used for yard work and perhaps an occasional charter train. Color pictures of #1871 from the 1960s and early 1970s are scarce. The Whitcomb may have been painted a primer red color when it came to the WK&S. By 1967 it appears to have been black with yellow handrails. Either way the unit does not appear to have had any lettering so the number 1871 may not have been widely known. Around 1975 the unit was given a spiffy new paint job and renumbered 20. But that's a story for the next decade.

The 1964 WK&S brochure mentions a trackside picnic area. "One of our two locomotives will drop you at the picnic area...then pick you up again on your signal." This was the first specific brochure reference to Fuhrmans Grove. But the Grove existed right from the railroad's beginning in 1963. Fuhrmans Grove was a creek-side picnic and fishing area located several hundred yards north of Trexler. Passengers would bring their picnic baskets, coolers and fishing poles and request to detrain at the grove from any southbound train. Grove goers would then flag down another southbound train when they were ready to return to Kempton. The creek is called Ontelaunee Creek or Maiden Creek depending on what map you're looking at. Apparently "Ontelaunee" is an Indian word for "Little Maiden". Fuhrmans Grove was a WK&S fixture until destroyed by a freak windstorm in 2011.

Early brochures also note that the train passed by the Renegade Ski Slope and passed close to the site of a former Delaware Indian village. But no details were provided and I don't know anything more about these sites including their locations.

Another feature of the 1960s was an Indian Chief character. His picture appears in the WK&S 1964 through 1966 brochures as well as a WK&S postcard. But I've found little substantiated information about the person or his act. The person's name may have been Skip Madeira (or possibly Jim Madiera). His character does not appear to have had a name. Apparently he'd hop on the northbound train, interact with the passengers and hop off the returning southbound train. He may also have had a teepee set up somewhere on the property (perhaps down by the flagpole). He may have been a Reading Railroad employee and friend of WK&S founding president Bill Huyett.

April 1965 saw the first issue of a WK&S public newsletter called "All Aboard!". The newsletter appears to have been distributed for free at the railroad or could be received by mail for a small fee. The one-page newsletter included topics on WK&S facts and current and upcoming events as well as general offbeat railroad stories. The backside often included a generic history of the WK&S and the surrounding area. The newsletter was published on a monthly basis during the operating season (about seven issues per year). But by 1968 it was only a quarterly publication. And by 1971 it may have only been an annual publication. The last issue I have is from 1973. The newsletter has been a big help in piecing together the early history of the WK&S. But my collection is far from complete. Please contact me if you have any copies of "All Aboard!".

Aside from noting the Moonlight Runs and major summer holidays, the WK&S brochures made no mention of special events through the 1960s. The annual Pennsylvania Dutch Farm Festival at the neighboring Kempton Farm Museum was probably a big draw along with the annual Kempton Fair at the neighboring Kempton Community Center. But none of these events were plugged in the brochures. The railroad appears to have sponsored an antique car show through the 1960s, but again, it's not mentioned in the brochures. A 1963 picture of the first antique car show depicts the cars lined up where the gift shop and refreshment stand have yet to be erected. Beginning in 1965 the brochures were somewhat supplemented by the aforementioned WK&S "All Aboard!" newsletter. The newsletter often mentioned events that the brochures did not. The spring 1968 newsletter in particular notes the antique car show, a Sandman Special (another night run), the Kempton Fair, a WK&S Craft & Sample Fair, the Farm Festival and yet another Moonlight Run followed by a Square Dance. Some contemporary literature refers to the Moonlight Runs as Harvest Moon trains. That name would be reincarnated two decades later when the WK&S began running Harvest Moon Specials in October 1989.

The track received some attention in late 1963 or early 1964. Work was contracted to W.E. Yoder Inc. Grade crossings at Trexler and Wanamaker were rebuilt. Three switches were refurbished. These would have been the two passing track switches at Kempton and the southern passing track switch at Wanamaker. No mention was made of the northern switch that was installed a year earlier. 1,125 ties were replaced along the line including the bridges which were fully retied. Other bids were tendered, but Yoder won the job and appears to have become the contractor of choice for subsequent track projects.

Kempton yard was further developed in 1964. A purchase order dated March 1964 authorized W.E. Yoder Inc. to supply labor and parts to build a crossover along the Kempton passing track thereby dividing the track into a northern or upper passing track and a southern or lower passing track. The project utilized secondhand material including two #8 switches. The crossover appears to have been built to facilitate two-train meets at the upper passing track. But two-train operations don't appear to have lasted beyond 1964. Subsequently the upper passing track has always been used for equipment storage. Ironically the crossover's orientation is more conducive to train meets that never happen.

The railroad would have been obligated to run just about every piece of rolling stock simply because there was no place to store anything without blocking the main line or passing tracks. Fortunately there appear to have been enough passengers to justify such operations. The situation was somewhat alleviated when the upper passing track became available for storage.

Another purchase order from March 1964 authorized Yoder to build the "back track", a short isolated section of track running parallel to the mainline but behind the station. Initial invoices refer to this track as the "Kistler Extension". The track comprised 385 feet of used 79 lb. rail with a bumper at each end. The track was intended for the display of static equipment and was sometimes referred to as the "museum track". But at this point in time the WK&S still received most all its equipment by rail. It made little sense to have a section of track that was not connected to the rest of the system. There's no indication that anything was actually placed on the back track immediately after it was built. I haven't found any early pictures of the back track from before the Museum Train was set up in 1967.

Whatever the railroad's initial reasoning for the back track may have been, plans for the "hole track" were soon in the works. The hole track is a diagonal run of track that connects the main line to the back track via a switchback configuration. A purchase order from September 1964 authorized acquisition of track supplies and two #6 switches from the Cleveland Wrecking Company of Birdsboro, PA. At this time the project appears to have had the rather grandiose name of "Kempton Terminal Trackage". That's not to say the hole track was built in 1964. The purchase order was for material only, not labor. Moreover, the truck-less museum car #72 was on the ground right where the hole track was to be built. This seems to be another indication that the hole track was an afterthought. There's an exterior picture of the museum car showing that the hole track switch had been built in front of the station. But the museum car itself blocked any further construction. It wasn't until around February 1967 that a pair of trucks was acquired for the museum car. So it's conceivable that the hole track wasn't finished until after the museum car was re-trucked. Another consequence of building the back track first is that the subsequent back track switch doesn't quite line up. The older back track has an ugly kink where it meets up with the newer switch. The hole track would also be employed for equipment storage.

On the other hand, there is some indication that the hole track components were initially purchased in support of a future engine house project. Original plans for the "Kempton Terminal Trackage" may not have looked anything like the eventual hole track. In the mid 1960s there was a stack of secondhand steel roof trusses on the property that was apparently intended for an engine house. But they ended up being used for a building at the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad. There's no indication as to why these engine house plans were not implemented. Perhaps it was simply a lack of funds. No WK&S locomotive would see the underside of a roof until 2006 when track was built into the railroad's new shop building.

The aforementioned museum car #72 and the back track were part of a larger project called the "Museum Train". The Museum Train was to be a static display of equipment and railroadiana under the curatorship of a separate non-profit organization called the Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern Rail Road and Historical Foundation. The Foundation grew out of the existing WK&S organization and had its own membership, board of directors and officers. I don't know what the railroad's original intentions may have been back in 1963 when 0-4-0 Cooke #3 and Atlantic City #72 were first purchased. But by 1964 plans were taking shape for the Museum Train which would include both #72 and the Cooke. Initial efforts focused on transforming #72 into the museum car and building the back track to eventually display the equipment. The museum car was open by the beginning of the 1965 season although it still lacked trucks and still sat on the ground next to the station. The 1965 WK&S brochure notes the museum housing "a collection of rare railroad antiques as well as interesting photos, maps, ect." All of the artifacts appear to have been on loan from the personal collections of those associated with the Historical Foundation. Contemporary accounts indicate that there were enough items to not just fill the car, but to have a regular rotation of displays. In keeping with the non-profit nature of the project, there was no charge for admission, but donations were welcome.

Expansion of the Museum Train project continued. B&O composite coach #X4111 was purchased for $300 around October 1965. Since the car was found in the B&O's Somerset yards, it was named Somerset. After arriving at the WK&S the car was repainted and lettered "WK&S RAIL ROAD MUSEUM" - "SOMERSET". It may have been assigned WK&S number 1965, but no number appears in any photograph.

In a letter from March 1966 the WK&S expressed interest in "borrowing" an LNE bobber caboose #512 from the Jaycees of Bethlehem. As far as I can tell, #512 had been restored around 1962 at the LNE shops and then moved to the former CNJ station at Bethlehem. Around 1962 the station had been leased to the Jaycees who were attempting to develop the property. The WK&S thought the caboose could be put to better use as a display within the Museum Train. Shipped by rail, the caboose was at Kempton by May 1966. It started out as a loan, but whatever the ensuing arrangement may have been, the WK&S would eventually come to own the caboose outright.

Next up was a derelict CNJ business car #98 which was acquired around October 1966. This car was not purchased by the railroad directly. Instead four men from within the organization each chipped in $200 to cover the car's $800 purchase price. They then donated the car to the Historical Foundation. Motivation for the purchase was to provide the public with "something new" for 1967.

As the B&O car, LNE caboose and CNJ business car each arrived at Kempton they were not immediately moved onto WK&S rails. The WK&S had no room to store anything else prior to completion of the hole track with its connection to the back track. Instead the cars were lined up on the Reading side of the Reading/WK&S border. The cars sat in the order they were delivered on the main line across from the Kempton Farm Museum. Members of the Historical Foundation worked on restoring the cars in that location until the hole track was finished in 1967.

Early in 1967 a pair of trucks was finally acquired for museum car #72. And by September 1967 the Museum Train was fully in place on the back track and open to the public. Admission was still free with a suggested donation of 10 cents. From north to south the collection included 0-4-0 Cooke locomotive #3, LNE caboose #512, Atlantic City coach #72, the B&O Somerset and CNJ business car #98.

When Cooke locomotive #3 was delivered to the WK&S in 1963 it faced south. When it appeared on the back track it faced north. Apparently this "turn" was accomplished with a piece of panel track and a bulldozer. It would have made sense to do this while the hole track was under construction. Conversely, Porter #2 initially faced north, but was turned south. Number 2 also appears to have been turned by the panel track and bulldozer method.

Locomotive #3 and caboose #512 were displays in of themselves. Of note is that the caboose retained its heritage paint scheme (or at least an approximation thereof). Perhaps the caboose was left as is because the LNE was already out of business by then. Or perhaps it was a condition of the Jaycees deal. Most every other piece of equipment on the railroad was lettered for the WK&S throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Coach #72 was the original museum display car and was still used as such. It would appear that the B&O car was also intended to house museum displays. But I have no firm confirmation that that ever happened. I haven't found any interior pictures of the B&O car from any decade. Business car #98 was intended to be restored as another display in of itself. The observation platform sported a drumhead that read "WK&S RAIL ROAD MUSEUM". The Historical Foundation had some grand plans for #98 including ornate fixtures and furnishings as well a "royal purple" paint job and a new name, the "Mountain Queen". The Foundation did make some significant progress with #98 at least in terms of stabilizing it against further deterioration. But the car was never renamed or properly furnished. The Foundation appears to have fizzled out with the railroad's closure at the end of 1968. And thus the Museum Train operated for little more than one full season. All of the railroad artifacts were presumably returned to their private collections. In 1970 there was some talk of reestablishing the Museum Train, but by 1971 everything on the back track had been repurposed.

In a letter dated March 1968 from the Reading Company to the Historical Foundation, the Reading confirmed that coach #1055 would be available for donation by the end of April. The former P&R composite coach was at Wayne Junction in use as a ladies wash room. The Reading planned to replace the old composite coach with a newer steel one. Car #1055 appears to have arrived at the WK&S by the fall of 1968. I don't know what the Foundation intended to do with #1055. By 1968 the Foundation already had its hands full and the back track was already at capacity. The car was in bad shape and appears to have gone unused. It would be a WK&S eyesore for most of the next 20 years.

Many of the projects associated with the Museum Train including the back track, museum car #72 and Cooke locomotive #3 were undertaken by the WK&S before the Historical Foundation formally existed. Once the non-profit Foundation was established, its members appear to have worked diligently to separate themselves both financially and administratively from the for-profit WK&S. But in reality there looks to have been quite a bit of overlap and gray area. I'm not sure how or when the Foundation was dissolved, but any of the associated rolling stock and track not already belonging to the WK&S would become the railroad's property.

A charter was granted for a Hawk Mountain Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society on September 3, 1966. Chapter meetings were held on the fourth Saturday night of each month in Lackawanna coach #582. When meetings were scheduled WK&S crews would make sure #582 was spotted in front of Kempton station so an extension cord could be run from the station to the coach. Meetings continued at the WK&S through 1969 and 1970 even though the railroad had closed down. In 1971 meetings were moved to Kutztown. The Hawk Mountain Chapter's initial core membership was comprised mostly of WK&S volunteers. But subsequent members influenced the chapter in other more diverse directions. The chapter did occasionally return to the WK&S to sponsor various day events. In August 1981, for example, the chapter sponsored a Lehigh & New England Day. They provided a prototype sized LNE bullseye logo decal and WK&S locomotive #2 was transformed into LNE #201. The event commemorated the 20th anniversary of the LNE's closure. The Hawk Mountain Chapter was dissolved on November 7, 2010.

The WK&S was established as a for-profit corporation with the idea of running a railroad and hopefully making money to boot. But quite a bit of capitol was expended to get the operation up and running. The first few years were highly successful and saw much growth. But public enthusiasm began to taper off by the mid 1960s. And 1967 was a particularly bad weather year with more days rained out than 1963-66 combined. Slumping attendance was also blamed on "the Expo". I suppose "the Expo" is in reference to the Montreal World's Fair which may have hindered the railroad's ability to attract long-distance bus tours. In any event, the railroad was unable to cover its debt and was on its way under. Many volunteers chipped in their own money and one more effort was made to run the operation through 1968. Publicity material continued to put an enthusiastic and positive spin on the railroad's future. But without any significant increase in revenue the decision was made to shutter the operation for good at the conclusion of the 1968 season. Stockholder consensus was to liquidate assets and cut loses. The WK&S appeared to be finished.

Information is sketchy, but annual passenger figures from the decade look something like what's shown below. These are impressive numbers by today's standards. But back then the finances were stretched too thin to make it work.

1963 = about 27,000
1964 = about 40,000
1965 = over 30,000
1966 = over 30,000
1967 = about 40,000
1968 = about 30,000

There was at least one last false start before the end of the decade. According to a newspaper clipping from March 1969 a man named Stephen Falk had agreed to take over the line and open the season on Saturday April 19. Perhaps this explains why there was a 1969 brochure. But of course there was no 1969 season and I haven't seen the name Falk in any other reference.

I don't believe the property was ever completely abandoned. Despite a total lack of income, I believe there was a skeleton crew of volunteer caretakers on hand. They were probably the faithful who hoped the railroad would run once again.

The 1970s

A small group of men prevailed upon the rest to give the railroad yet one more try. The railroad would be operated purely on a volunteer basis and any further delusions of turning a profit evaporated. The WK&S reopened around June or July 1970. The operating philosophy of the "new" WK&S could be summed up in one word - frugal. Advertising expenses were reined in. There were no more major equipment purchases, no outside contractors and no paid general manager. Unless absolutely unavoidable, all work was done in-house. I've heard stories of WK&S volunteers rehabilitating bent nails to avoid buying new ones. And the volunteers have a knack of knowing someone who knows someone who just happens to have what the railroad needs. Sometimes a useful item will just "appear". Nothing is thrown away because surplus items can always be bartered for work or other items of need.

As noted above, the WK&S was established as a for-profit corporation owned by stockholders who hoped to not just run a railroad, but make some money as well. This seems to have been a fad at the time as many other similar tourist rail operations cropped up around the country. The vast majority of them would eventually convert to an all-volunteer structure or cease to exist all together. The WK&S was in fact a mostly volunteer organization at least in the operations department. The only paid employee was a general manager. But the company overspent on equipment acquisitions, outside contractors and advertising. Borrowed money was required and income couldn't keep up. I don't mean to imply that the original operators lacked dedication or were financially irresponsible. They were faced with turning an abandoned three miles of track into a ticket selling operation as fast as possible. They were able to do that in just a few short months, but it took a lot of capitol. Initial success and growth indicated that they were "on the right track". But in the long run they were unable to maintain the momentum.

A "Save the Railroad" committee was formed even before the original operation shut down at the end of 1968. The corporate structure didn't really change. Control of the company was simply transferred to a new group of men who were willing to buy stock, assume responsibility for the company's debt and operate the railroad on a volunteer-only basis. The new operators were also able to convince the bank to go along with their plans. Stock was transferred at pennies on the dollar, but at that point the stock was worthless anyway. It almost didn't work. The original stockholders still planned to liquidate the railroad right up to a pivotal meeting held at the end of May 1970. But the new plan was approved and the railroad was back up and running by the middle of the summer. Varying accounts place the railroad's reopening in June or July. Debts appear to have totaled about $78,000. That's 78,000 1970 dollars; a lot of money. The debts were paid off by 1982, but the company never transitioned to a money making venture. The railroad does make money of course. But all profits are folded back into the operation. The company has never paid a dividend and it's safe to say it never will. Buying stock is a great way to financially support the railroad, but once purchased the stock is essentially worthless.

I have no brochure from 1970. Perhaps there was none as the railroad only operated a partial season. Starting around June or July trains appear to have run on Saturdays and Sundays at least through October. The property was in shabby shape after a year and a half of neglect. There was no money for weed spraying and most everything needed a coat of paint. Locomotive #250 sat on the main line south of the station. It was out of service and partially disassembled. Volunteers focused their scarce resources on the much smaller and less complex locomotive #2. Number 2 ran with a fresh coat of black paint, but no markings or other accents. In 1964 the railroad had acquired a dead diesel-mechanical Plymouth locomotive. As far as I know, nothing was ever done with this unit. Then in 1970 the locomotive was scrapped and its chassis became the basis for a home-built coal tender for #2. Early pictures show #2 still running without the tender. But the tender appears to have been finished and implemented by the end of the summer.

1971 got off to an early start with the WK&S Ski Train. The two-car Ski Train comprised a coach and caboose both with coal stove heat. The train ran three trips per day for at least two days including February 7. The Ski Train idea was a play off a nearby and newly established ski area called Big Valley. But there's no indication of any official coordination between the WK&S and Big Valley and no indication that the idea was repeated in subsequent years.

The 1971 brochure advertises weekend and holiday trains departing on the hour from 1:00-5:00 (no weekday service). Fares were $1.10 for adults and $.55 for kids (lower than in 1965!). Locomotive #250 was still on the property, but out of service in need of repairs. All trains were run with the more economical Porter #2 which now sported a coal tender home-built the previous year. Number 250 had not run since the end of 1968 and would never steam again at the WK&S.

The 1971 brochure first mentions the "Party Coach" available for charter. The title "Party Coach" was soon refined to the "Hawk Mountain Club Party Car". This was Reading combine #408. The combine's classic two-tone green was covered in a coat of Tuscan Red and lettered "Hawk Mountain Club". For $50 you and 50 of your friends could charter the party car for a full day. Caboose charters were also available for $25. There was no specific mention of equipment charters through the 1960s so this looks to have been a new idea. The party car got lots of press in many newspaper articles throughout the 1970s. By all accounts the party car was a big hit.

A notable station improvement finished in time for the 1971 season was the addition of a paved patio next to the refreshment stand which was setup with picnic tables. The area between the gift shop and refreshment stand had just been a sloped lawn through the 1960s. The patio project included a tall view-blocking wood fence on the south and west sides of the patio. I'm not sure what the purpose of the fence may have been, but including the refreshment stand itself, the patio was enclosed on three sides. Perhaps the fence was meant to block views of the outhouses which were behind the refreshment stand. The fence may have lasted into the 1980s when it was replaced by a landscaped embankment.

The new operators had some non-railroad ideas that seem pretty farfetched in retrospect. According to a newspaper clipping from 1970, "The principal thing we hope to do is make a little Disneyland here" and "We plan to get kiddie rides, have helicopter rides and concessions of all kinds". Another clipping talks of converting the station into a mini movie theatre. Other ideas abounded. My impression is that the managers were initially way over ambitious and optimistic about the railroad's future. But they seem to have quickly settled into the reality of operating a railroad on a shoestring budget. Most of these initial ideas didn't materialize. But the WK&S brochure from 1971 did cite such attractions as the "Hawk Mt. Hobby Car", "Dapper Dan's Clown Shack" and "The Emporium Boutique".

Dapper Dan was a clown who rode the train and hung around the station. The Clown Shack refers to the top of an old watchman's tower that once sat by the railroad's entrance between the parking lot and station. Dapper Dan was a popular figure around the Allentown area and was played by Dan Bonner. Bonner played Dapper Dan for more than 60 years until 2015 when he was 91 years old and moved to Florida. As for the WK&S, Dapper Dan's Clown Shack was not mentioned again beyond 1971.

The Hawk Mountain Hobby Coach was an extra-fare tin-plate toy train exhibit run by Joseph Freeman of Allentown. The toy train exhibit replaced the museum displays in coach #72 on the back track. The Emporium was housed in the B&O coach on the back track and appears to have been some sort of ladies clothing shop run by Mr. & Mrs. Richard Hersh of Allentown. During this period the back track equipment was sometimes referred to as the "Coach Shops". In 1974 the toy train exhibit in car #72 was replaced with an HO scale model railroad layout built and run by the Schuylkill & Lehigh Model Railroad Club (SLMRC). The 1975 brochure included a picture of a scale model circus exhibit called "Circus World" which displaced the Emporium in the B&O car. The attraction was actually called "Circus Wonderland". In any event, it was gone by 1978. P&R composite coach #1055 took the place of CNJ business car #98 on the back track. CNJ business car #98 was reactivated and used as a charter or extra fare car thereafter. P&R coach #1055 was an old composite car donated by the Reading Company. It may have been intended to house another attraction of some sort. But I believe the coach was in bad shape to begin with and was never used for anything but parts storage. By 1978 the Schuylkill & Lehigh Model Railroad Club in car #72 was the only remaining back track attraction. The Cooke locomotive went to another museum. The B&O and P&R coaches were left to rot and eventually went to Strasburg. CNJ business car #98 was used for a time in charter service, but was eventually traded away. The LNE caboose was restored to service.

1971 saw construction of the Berksy Trolley. The trolley was home-built from an old jitney chassis with an automotive drive train and a trolley body fabricated from scratch. The jitney car appears to have been purchased back in February 1967 along with a powered car. The cars came from the Reading Company and were originally used to shuttle brakemen in hump yards that lacked automatic car retarders. I don't know why these cars were purchased in 1967. But the un-powered car would go on to become the trolley and the powered car was occasionally used for maintenance of way purposes. The powered car was nicknamed the "Green Hornet" because it was green. The Green Hornet was sold off sometime in the 1990s.

The Berksy Trolley was named after the "Berksy", the local passenger train that once carried passengers between Reading and Slatington back in the old S&L days. The trolley appears to have been available for some November shakedown runs after the railroad's regular 1971 season concluded at the end of October. But it wasn't formally introduced until 1972. The trolley was a model of efficiency. When business didn't justify the steam train, the trolley could be run with a few gallons of gas, one volunteer motorman and another to run ticket and gift shop sales. The trolley operated mostly during the early spring and late fall. For a time it also operated summer weekdays returning the WK&S to a seven days per week operation. The trolley was a substantial money maker thanks to the cost effective nature of its operation.

In 1971 the Reading Company, as expected, was giving up more of the S&L and intended to abandon the line from Kempton south to Evansville. Unfortunately the WK&S was in no financial position to do anything about it. The original Kempton station in downtown Kempton was dismantled and lost. The main line through Kempton was eventually scrapped. Only the double-ended siding remained through town. But the WK&S did manage to acquire another 1.2 miles of track including the siding through Kempton and the main line south to a point designated as "North Albany". The Berksy Trolley would eventually put this extra track to good use. The track south of N. Albany was scrapped and the WK&S became a landlocked railroad.

But before the track was pulled up the WK&S acquired a new steam locomotive, Porter 0-6-0 #65. Number 65 was built in 1930 and came from the Safe Harbor Water & Power Co. of Columbia, PA. Baldwin #250 was deemed too big and complex (i.e. expensive) to repair and operate effectively so it was sold off. Number 250 was the last piece of equipment to leave by rail. Number 65 was the last piece of equipment to arrive by rail. Both moves occurred during February 1972. By then a contractor, H.B. Moyer, Inc., had gained control of the line to Evansville and intended to scrap the rail. But the operation was delayed one month to facilitate the locomotive moves. In fact some track maintenance was needed to get the locomotives over the line. Both moves were conducted by the contractor's tiny gas-mechanical Vulcan locomotive. The WK&S acquired the 1.2 miles of track to N. Albany from the contractor through a 3,000 share stock deal. I interpret "stock deal" to mean "donation". The railroad wasn't in any position to pay cash for the track and I imagine that the stock would have been a tough sell to anyone looking for a serious investment.

Safe Harbor donated #65 to the WK&S while #250 was sold off for cash. This is another example of how the railroad slowly crawled its way out of debt. Locomotives #2 and #65 both faced south and double-headed trains would become a popular special event.

1972 seems to be the year that the railroad really got rolling again. A flyer was printed explaining the railroad's ambitions...

"Many people have asked us if the Wanamaker, Kempton and Southern Steam Rail Road at Kempton, Pennsylvania, is still operating. The purpose of this note is to declare a resounding YES to that question. 1972 marks the start of the third season under new management after a 1½ year lapse in 1969-70. The WK&S will present the largest number of operating dates since the line began 10 years ago between March and November 1972. The introduction of "The Berksy", a custom-built trolley car which will run the same three mile route as the steam train between Kempton (Berks County) and Wanamakers (Lehigh County) begins Sundays starting in March."

The 1972 brochure proudly introduced the new Berksy Trolley. The steam train ran on Sundays May through October and Saturdays July and August. The Berksy covered the remaining Saturdays and Sundays March through November including weekdays during July and August. The WK&S was back to a seven days per week operation. This schedule remained unchanged for the next several years. The 1972 brochure also made note of Leaser Lake, a new 117 acre lake for public recreation located just north of Wanamakers. An interesting marketing trick appeared in the 1974 brochure. What was previously described as a 3 mile ride was now called a 6 mile round trip. If 3 is good, 6 must be better!

Special events were given more attention in this decade. The brochures specifically note the dates of the Kempton Fair and Pennsylvania Dutch Farm Festival each year. The 1972 brochure cites School Field Trips, a Railroad Retirees Day and an NRHS Day hosted by the Hawk Mountain Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. The 1974 brochure notes the Kempton Centennial. The town of Kempton celebrated its 100th birthday July 14-20. The 1974 brochure also shows a picture of people square dancing on the picnic patio next to the refreshment stand. But a Square Dance Special was not specifically mentioned until the 1975 brochure. I believe this event was coordinated with a square-dance club called the "T-Bow Twirlers" from the Allentown area. The event got started as early as 1973 and included square-dancing during the train ride. The 1975 brochure also includes an Antique Car Show and a Railfan Weekend. Special events seem to have been deemphasized by 1977 except for the WK&S 1st Annual Old Car Show. A line from the brochure reads "Antique Cars return to the WK&S this year after a ten year Absence." Did they forget about the car show that was advertised just two years before? Later brochures ambiguously hint at special events, but the car show, fair, farm festival and school field trips are the only events mentioned by name.

The aforementioned School Field Trips, later called Educational Field Trips, were first noted in the 1972 brochure. Solicited to local elementary schools, the railroad would typically schedule steam trains on a few weekdays each spring and occasionally in the fall. Teachers would organize the outing as an educational field trip. Throughout the 1970s and '80s the railroad typically printed a separate flyer for this event...

"Educational field trips for elementary schools, parochial schools, nursery schools, head start groups, day care centers, children's homes have become a tradition each year on the WK&S Steam Rail Road. What a unique experience for the youngsters!"

In 1974, for example, field trip fares were $.40 for kids and $.75 for chaperones. There appear to have been at least some WK&S school trips operated back in the 1960s. But details are sketchy. Instead of having pre-designated days, these early trips may have operated more along the lines of an individual train charter.

Beginning in 1971 the pit track and inspection pit were built between the lower passing track and the maintenance sheds. Construction photos of the Berksy Trolley from 1971 show the trolley sitting on what would become the pit track. But it was just a short standalone section of track without the pit and without a switch. The finished trolley was moved off the pit track in late 1971. I'm not sure how that was accomplished. In 1973 the inspection pit was built, a switch was installed and the rest of the track was finished up. The pit track switch was from the south side of downtown Kempton. The switch became available after the mainline through town was removed sometime after February 1972. The pit track ran in front of a row of maintenance sheds that were placed there in the mid 1960s. It's interesting that the old sheds were set back from the passing track as if the pit track had been planned all along. With the pit track complete WK&S crews could spot equipment right next to the maintenance sheds where it could be repaired or restored out of the way of regular operations on the passing track.

Back in the 1960s the WK&S had moved a small cream and brown wood shanty to the grade crossing at Trexler. The crossings at Trexler and Wanamaker were probably flagged during the 1960s. The crossing at Trexler wasn't a busy road back then; not that it is now. But sometime in the early 1970s the WK&S installed lights and an automatic flasher system at the crossing and the shanty became the relay house. The world has not always been kind to the relay house. Once it was shoved off its foundation by a errant car. Then in 2012 the system was destroyed for good by falling trees from hurricane Sandy. The remaining lights were dismantled by the spring of 2014.

In the early 1970s the railroad took a renewed interest in restoring CNJ business car #98. But the static "Mountain Queen" plans from the previous decade were scrapped in favor of something more practical. A simpler more durable restoration transformed #98 into another charter car. Number 98 kept its traditional olive paint, but was lettered "The Golden Hawk". By 1973 the restored Golden Hawk was ready to join the railroad's existing Hawk Mountain Club Party Car (combine #408). The charter cost was still $50 for either car. Like most business cars, #98 was equipped with a galley. WK&S volunteers were known to put the galley to use from time to time for various internal events. P&R coach #1055 took #98's spot on the back track to become part of the "Coach Shops", but the car does not appear to have ever been occupied and was only used for storage.

1973 also marked the operational debut of the railroad's new steam locomotive #65. With #65 up and running WK&S crews were able to work on #2 allowing for some double-headed trains by 1974.

The railroad got some TV publicity in 1973. During September Hess's department store videotaped their fall fashion show at the WK&S which was subsequently broadcast from Philadelphia. The broadcast was a boost to WK&S ticket sales. That wasn't the only sales boost. During the mid 1970s there were some internal concerns about the ongoing oil crisis and general inflation. But instead of hurting the railroad these problems were a boon. The WK&S was a short day trip from many metropolitan areas and lots of people took advantage of the railroad's frequent schedule and inexpensive fares. The railroad's small size and lean operating practices were paying off.

The 1974 brochure mentions a hiking trail to Donat's Peak. I believe the trail began near Fuhrmans Grove. Donat's Peak is the tallest hill looking northeast from Kempton station. The peak is visible from several other points along the railroad. I'm aware of no hiking trail. As far as I know it's all private property now. But a Donat descendant was involved with early WK&S operations. Perhaps that's how permission for the trail was secured.

Getting back to the railroad's new track to North Albany; my impression is that the scrappers began taking up the rail to Evansville right after Porter locomotive #65 was delivered in February 1972. Nevertheless, the WK&S did not formally take possession of the N. Albany track until early 1974. I'm not sure what was going on during those two years. Obviously the railroad was able to convince the scrappers to leave the N. Albany track during whatever negotiations were underway. In 1974 WK&S volunteers directed their attention to getting the N. Albany track back in service. Brush and saplings were cleared from the line. And some track repair was required where switches had been removed in downtown Kempton. The main line through town had also been removed. Each end of the old double-ended passing track had to be reconnected to what was left of the main line. The passing track became the main line. This created a not-so-attractive track alignment through town as subsequent trains swerved from the original alignment to the passing track alignment and then back again. Before 1972 the track had passed by the tiny village of Albany. By 1974 the track ended a few hundred yards north of Albany; hence the WK&S-designated name "North Albany" or just "N. Albany". North Albany was only a spot in the woods just shy of Stony Run Valley Road. But N. Albany did end up with a station of sorts. Early in 1975 the WK&S moved a small wood shanty to the end of the line that was painted up in traditional cream and brown with a blue and white "N. Albany" sign. The shanty was a LVRR fire hose house from the Lehighton yards which was purchased for $10 and moved in on a dump truck.

The "Southern" in Wanamaker Kempton & Southern finally meant something. There looks to have been at least one semi-official double-headed steam excursion to North Albany near the end of August 1974. But most of the attention would come the following year. The 1975 brochure advertised the Berksy Trolley as making the expanded 9 mile round trip between Wanamaker and N. Albany. The 1975 brochure also introduced the extra-fare "Albany Flyer". The Albany Flyer was the last steam train of the day. It ran from 5:00 to 6:15 and covered the full 9 mile round trip. Of course there was no passing track at N. Albany and no way for the locomotive to run-around the train. As the train returned from Wanamaker, it continued south past Kempton and onto N. Albany. Then it had to shove back north to Kempton. The Albany Flyer continued through 1976, but was no longer listed as an extra-fair train. The Albany Flyer was gone by 1977. Steam trains reverted to running only the 6 mile round trip between Kempton and Wanamaker. But the Berksy Trolley continued operating over the entire line for the next 20 years of its service life. Since the trolley was bidirectional and required no switching, it could make a round trip between Wanamaker and N. Albany in about the same time it took the steam train to make a round trip between Wanamaker and Kempton. So both the trolley and the steam train were able to maintain an hourly schedule even though the trolley went further. This was the tradeoff that the trolley offered. It may not have been as glamorous as the steam train, but passengers got to see a section of the railroad not otherwise traveled.

The 1975 brochure also introduced the "new WK&S Campground Area at Kempton Station". Twenty sites, no conveniences and $2 per night. The brochure even included a picture of the railroad's parking lot crowded with campers and tents. Apparently there was a large camping group or club from the area of Berwick, PA that would come to the Kempton Community Center every year during the 1970s. The group would often spill onto the railroad's parking lot and I believe that is the origin of the picture. In any event, an offer to camp in the railroad's parking lot did not appear in any subsequent brochure. The 1976 brochure meekly pointed out that there were "numerous family campgrounds nearby".

Back in 1964 the WK&S acquired Whitcomb #1871, a small gas-mechanical locomotive for yard work. The locomotive was painted plain black without any lettering so the number 1871 may not have been widely known. In 1975 the Whitcomb received a spiffy paint job and was renumbered 20. The number 20 represented the locomotive's weight of approximately 20 tons. After 1975 the locomotive appears to have played a more important role in WK&S operations in addition to just yard switching. Whitcomb #20 and caboose #92936 were known to occasionally pinch-hit for the Berksy Trolley during summer weekday runs in the 1970s and early 1980s. And it powered some charter trains comprising a caboose or two and maybe a few freight cars. By the 1980s #20 had clutch problems and couldn't move much more than its own weight. It was sold off in the late 1990s.

Also in 1975 the WK&S constructed a shop building just north of the coal dock along the lower passing track. In usual frugal fashion the building was constructed from recycled material. In late 1974 or early 1975 the WK&S salvaged a station from Corsons PA, just outside Philadelphia. Corsons was along the Reading's tiny Plymouth Branch between Conshohocken and Oreland. Timber from the station was used to frame the shop building. Wall boards from the station were used to sheath the shop's roof. Old garage doors were used as the shop's exterior walls. The shop had an inside dividing wall along the roof line. The north side included a short section of track running perpendicular to the lower passing track. It was intended to store an MOW speeder, but was more often just used for general storage. The south side was a workshop and crew hangout and included a coal stove. A small lean-to addition was subsequently attached to the east side of the building and served as a rudimentary woodshop. The garage door shop looked nothing like the old Corsons station which was a humble little building with a shed-type roof. The garage door shop stood until the big red pole building was erected in the mid 1990s.

While having no direct impact on the WK&S, 1976 marked the year that rail assets of the bankrupt Reading Company were transferred to the new government-backed Consolidated Rail Corporation otherwise known as Conrail.

WK&S brochures had often cited the existence of Wanamaker station. But 1977 was the first brochure to specifically mention that something occupied the station; "Wanamaker Rail Road Depot Antiques". The railroad rented the station to a tenant who operated the antique shop. I believe there were at least two tenants who operated the station in this capacity between 1977 and the late 1990s. Passengers were welcome to tour the station antique shop during the short layover as the locomotive was run-around the train. The antique shop lasted until the late 1990s when the current tenant passed away. There's not a whole lot of information about how the station may have been used before 1977. A WK&S newsletter from 1971 included a rather cryptic side note; "Here's an invitation for you to take a short walk and have an extra cold snack at the Wanamaker Station... just reopened this year". In 1975 the station may have been rented to a tenant who displayed railroad memorabilia.

As early as 1976 the CNJ business car #98 was regularly chartered by the Horlacher Brewing Company of Allentown. The Golden Hawk lettering was covered over by a red rectangular paint patch with "The Horlacher Club" in yellow lettering. The design also included a yellow suit of clubs symbol and a yellow border around the red rectangle. Color pictures from this period also indicate that the platform railings were painted gold. It all looked quite obnoxious. The brewery hosted outings two Sundays a month with a keg on tap. Horlacher had been struggling financially and went out of business in 1978 still owing money to the railroad. The red and yellow Horlacher Club logo was covered with a black or olive paint patch and the car was never re-lettered.

In 1978 the WK&S acquired Mack boxcab locomotive #35 which was donated by the Mack Truck Company. This old unit was originally one of a pair of freight motors. Long before coming to the WK&S the two units were acquired by Mack and experimentally converted to gas-electric power with questionable results. The WK&S invested quite a bit of effort into #35. Perhaps it was intended to replace little Whitcomb #20. But it never worked as well as was hoped. After one of its two prime movers failed it became even less useful. Mostly it served as an occasional yard locomotive. Nevertheless, it continued to be advertised through the late 1980s as available power for one or two car charter trains. If the locomotive was ever used in this capacity, it was a rare occurrence. The other Mack locomotive was acquired in 1986 for spare parts, but plans to repair #35 were never implemented.

The back track was rearranged in 1978. Cooke 0-4-0 locomotive #3 was sold to the Paterson Museum in Patterson, NJ for $7,400. Recall that in 1963 the WK&S had purchased #3 together with #2 for only $1,300. Not a bad profit. The money was put toward trucking Mack #35 to Kempton and paying down the railroad's debt. Pulling out #3 meant pulling out everything else on the back track including the coupler-less model railroad car #72. LNE caboose #512 stayed out and was restored both cosmetically and mechanically in 1979. The caboose never runs with regular trains, but can be chartered. Mostly it serves as sleeping quarters for volunteers wishing to spend the night. The model railroad car continued to be the back track's only permanent fixture, but was moved a little further north to where the locomotive and caboose had been. The derelict B&O and P&R coaches were returned to the back track. But then sometime in the mid to late 1980s they were moved to the upper passing track where they continued to rot away before going to Strasburg. CNJ business car #98 was already off the back track having been used for a number of years as an extra-fare or charter car.

I'm a big fan of maintaining equipment in its predecessor appearance and have little appreciation for projects like the Tuscan Red Hawk Mt. Club Party Car or the Horlacher beer car. By 1977 combine #408 had been returned to its Reading Company two-tone green. A new trend began around this time where all WK&S rolling stock was eventually returned to its predecessor paint and lettering. Perhaps this was in response to the Conrail transition. In any event, one now sees equipment lettered for the Reading Company, Lackawanna and the Lehigh & New England. This is one of my favorite aspects of the WK&S. Instead of focusing on its own identity, the railroad pays tribute to its area roots. The WK&S is located on a former Reading Company branch line. All WK&S stations are former Reading Company stations painted in their traditional colors. Except for the modern automobiles in the parking lot and the modern dress of the passengers, one feels transported back in time to the twentieth century on the Reading railroad. Of course all of the railroad's equipment is still available for charter.

The WK&S did employ a bit of artist license with coaches #1474 and #1494. They were repainted in the Reading's more prestigious two-tone green. These common commuter coaches only wore solid olive green when originally working on the Reading. Reading coach #1365 was not repainted at all, but withdrawn from service around 1980 give or take a few years. CNJ #98 was also not repainted and was more or less out of service by the 1980s.

Another quality I like about the WK&S is the lack of any babbling narration. There is no PA system on the train. Your WK&S ride experience is your own.

The 1980s

With a lot of hard work a dedicated core of volunteers had turned things around, paid off the company's obligations and settled into the business of running a successful tourist steam railroad.

By 1980 the schedule was about the same as it had been through most of the '70s. The steam train ran on Sundays May through October and Saturdays July and August. The Berksy Trolley covered the remaining Saturdays and Sundays March through November including weekdays July through August. 1980 fares were $2.25 for adults and $1.25 for kids. Coach charters were $75. A caboose charter was still $25 or the whole steam train could be charter for $500. In 1981 Saturdays were dropped for March and November. Weekday trolley service was discontinued for 1985 and March service was dropped altogether for 1986. For the remainder of this decade the railroad settled into the routine of four steam train or trolley runs per day at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00. The exceptions were a fifth 5:00 run for Sunday steam trains and only three trolley runs in November.

Noted special events from the 1980 brochure were still the Kempton Fair, Old Car Show, Kempton Farm Festival and School Kid's Field Trips. The steam train continued to operate on major summer holidays. The Farm Festival was absent from the 1982 brochure and was never mentioned again. I believe the Farm Museum closed around 1991. The generic 1982 brochure was reused through '83 and '84. So even though the Christmas Steam Specials started in 1983, it wasn't specifically noted until a new brochure was printed in 1985. The Christmas Steam Specials would become a highly successful annual event that continues today. The only other special event noted from 1985 was the Educational Field Trips. This was the status quo until the 1989 brochure added the first annual Harvest Moon Special on October 14th. On one Saturday night each October a train is run in the light of a full moon... or the dark of a pouring rain. In any event, the train runs with every available piece of rolling stock and is usually sold out. The Harvest Moon train was not entirely a new idea as the railroad had conducted Moonlight Run trips back in the late 1960s.

Through the late 1980s the WK&S printed a separate flyer detailing various charter options. In 1987, for example, a coach charter was $80 for one trip or $110 for two. A caboose was $30 for one trip or $50 for two. These charters had to coincide with a regularly scheduled steam train. The Berksy Trolley could be chartered anytime for $30 on weekends or $40 on weekdays. The higher weekday price reflects the volunteer nature of the WK&S. Most volunteers have a full-time job making weekday events more difficult to staff. Independently scheduled trains power by the Gas-Electric locomotive could be chartered for $110 with one coach or $150 with two coaches. The "Gas-Electric" refers to Mack locomotive #35. The flyer further notes that the steam train or any other combination of equipment can be chartered for a price quoted upon request.

Brochures from the early 1980s still make note of "clearly marked" hiking trails around Fuhrmans Grove. Again, I'm unaware of these trails. Mention of the trails was gone by the mid-'80s.

In 1981 WK&S Porter #2 was temporally renumbered as Lehigh & New England #201. Both locomotives were 0-4-0 saddle tanks. The event was partially sponsored by the Hawk Mountain Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society to commemorate the LNE's closing 20 years before. The Hawk Mountain Chapter provided a prototype sized LNE bullseye logo decal for #2's tender. The real #201 was a Baldwin 0-4-0 saddle tank built in 1912. Number #201 (formally #5) was inherited after the LNE acquired the Crane Railroad Company in 1914. The biggest visual difference between the Baldwin and Porter was that the Baldwin had a coal bunker, not a tender. Nevertheless, the two locomotives didn't much look alike.

Around 1947 a group of former Berksy passengers gathered to form a reunion organization called the "Berksyites". They were mostly graduates of Slatington High School. The organization elected officers and planned reunions every five years. Various newspaper articles indicate that the Berksyites rode the WK&S as part of their reunions in 1977, 1982 and 1987.

In 1982 a hand-operated station-stop semaphore was added to Fuhrmans Grove. The Reading semaphore was from Bloomsburg, PA. Fuhrmans Grove was a creek-side picnic and fishing area located several hundred yards north of Trexler along Ontelauee Creek. Passengers would bring their picnic baskets, coolers and fishing poles and request to detrain at the grove from any southbound train. Grove-goers would then flag down another southbound train when they were ready to return to Kempton. After 1982 grove-goers used the semaphore to indicate they were ready to return to Kempton. A small platform shelter was also moved to Fuhrmans Grove in 1982. The structure was an old Reading relay house. It was removed and demolished around 1990 because of deterioration. Fuhrmans Grove was a WK&S fixture until destroyed by a freak windstorm in 2011. The semaphore still stands.

Before going to Fuhrmans Grove, the old Reading relay house sat next to the WK&S gift shop and was called the pump house. It protected the presure tanks and other hardware associated with the well used to water the locomotives. In 1982 the relay house was replaced with a larger home-built pump house. The new pump house also includes a sink, shower and water heater for use by volunteers.

A block restroom building was constructed in 1983 behind the refreshment stand. For the previous 20 years the WK&S "facilities" comprised a pair of double sided, old fashion, hole-in-the-ground outhouses. One was signed Men/Women and the other was Boys/Girls. I remember thinking the outhouses were creepy. But then I was disappointed when they were closed up because the new block building seemed like a stark intrusion among all the other cream and brown wood structures. Nevertheless, I'm sure everyone appreciated all the fancy newfangled contraptions like flushing toilets, soap and hot running water. One of the original outhouses stood until 2005 before finally being demolished.

Also new for 1983 were the annual Christmas Steam Specials run one Saturday and Sunday in early December. This was the railroad's first major winter event. The name soon changed to Santa Claus Specials and the event continues to this day. Around 1981 WK&S steam locomotive #65 was fitted with a regulator and hose connections to supply steam heat to the passenger coaches. At first the steam heat was used to warm the train during chilly days in late autumn. But within two years the system was put to use for the new Christmas Steam Specials. The four-car Christmas train always comprised Reading combine #408, Reading coaches #1474 & #1494 and Lackawanna coach #582. Without any intervening freight cars the locomotive could feed steam to either end of the train. The locomotive was typically fired from Friday afternoon through Sunday and heat was supplied to the train continuously all day and night. Number 65 was the only locomotive so fitted and the only locomotive to power the Santa trains through the end of steam in 2009. Beginning in 2010 the Santa Claus Specials were diesel powered and heat was supplied from a boiler plant installed in box car #5504.

1984 was the last year for WK&S weekday service. Weekday operations became too difficult to staff. Previous success was largely the result of some younger people who had summers off as well as an older retired couple who were willing the run the Berksy Trolley and gift shop during the week.

Back in 1963 the WK&S had purchased four gondola cars from the Lehigh & New England for conversion to open observation cars. This wasn't a new idea. Pictures from the 1930s show such a car bring up the markers on a Reading Company excursion train. The LNE gondolas were composite cars comprising steel framing and steel ends but with wood planked sides and floors. The WK&S converted all four gondolas to open observation cars. A long double-sided wood bench was constructed down the center of each car for seating. Passenger access was by way of an opening cut through one end of each car which was fitted with a hinged plate. The plate rested on the buffer of an adjoining coach. The open cars were always popular and crowded. Passengers seemed to relish being pelted by dirty wet cinders from the locomotive exhaust. Pictures from the 1960s and '70s show that two open cars were often run as a pair bracketed between the Lackawanna coach #582 and one or more Reading coaches. The arrangement effectively cut the train in half because each gondola had an opening at only one end. The openings always faced an adjoining coach so passengers could not pass from one open car to the other. Perhaps this mid-train arrangement was to help shield passengers from the locomotive exhaust. By the 1980s only one open car #10381 remained in service. From the '80s through today the consist arrangement has remained about the same. One or more coaches make up the south end of the train. The remaining open car is coupled to the north end of the coaches. And more often than not a caboose is coupled to the north end of the open car. The conductor manages the coaches and open car while the brakeman takes care of the isolated caboose.

In April 1986 the railroad acquired a second Reading caboose #92830. Number 92830 was something of a wreck when it came to the WK&S. First in 1970 the caboose had been donated to a community park in Emmaus, PA and painted up in a less-than-authentic version of the Reading's new green and yellow scheme. There it suffered two years of abuse before being ousted from the park as an eyesore and hangout for delinquent kids. The Rockhill Trolley Museum took the caboose in 1972, but instead of going to Orbisonia the caboose was trucked to a storage yard in Penndal, PA. There it sat until passed on to the WK&S in 1986. The good news is that #92830 never suffered through any of the Reading's caboose modernization programs. The WK&S was faced with a major restoration project, but at least there were no ugly modernizations to undo. Restoration lasted four years and covered everything from body work and running gear to woodwork and upholstery. Proper parts were acquired including door and window hardware and a correct coal stove.

Both of the Reading cabooses owned by the WK&S are Reading "Northeastern" cabooses built in the Reading car shops. Number 92830 was built in 1936 and composite #92936 was built in 1942. The newer #92936 is sheathed in wood thanks to war-time steel restrictions. Both escaped modernization and both retain their original appearances at the WK&S. Of the two, #92936 is my sentimental favorite. When I was a kid, #92936 is where you'd find me.

There's one more footnote regarding the delivery of caboose #92830. The same Penndal storage yard was home to the derelict sister of WK&S Mack boxcab #35. Both the caboose and the sister Mack were shipped to the WK&S on the same day. The items arrived on April 3, 1986 and were unloaded the next day. The dead Mack was intended to supply spare parts for the semi-functional #35. Nothing became of it and both Macks were sold off in 2008.

Late 1988 saw the arrival of Whitcomb center cab locomotive #602. The 70 ton #602 is not something that the railroad pursued. Rather the locomotive was rescued by a historical society that then went looking to find a home for the unit. The venerable center cab started out as one of a large batch of Whitcombs built in 1944 for the Army and shipped to Europe during World War II. The Whitcombs were run as road locomotives often MUed in twos and threes. I've received quite a few inquiries about #602 from European railfans. After the war many of the Whitcombs returned home where they were rebuilt to domestic standards and peddled on the secondhand locomotive market. Some (like #602) were further modified with wider cabs and running boards and had their weight increased from 65 to 70 tons. Number 602 eventually ended up at a Philadelphia oil refinery. Back then it was locomotive number 7.

By 1987 Whitcomb #7 was at a Gulf Oil refinery in Philadelphia and out of service. Number 7 was accompanied by a long-dead sister unit #8 that was there as a parts locomotive. Number 7 would be saved, but #8 would be salvaged for any remaining useful parts and then scrapped on site. The locomotives were first donated to the Cornell Railroad Historical Society and then to the Anthracite Railroads Historical Society. The WK&S agreed to take the locomotive from the ARHS under lease. After some initial stabilization work, WK&S crews set up #7 for dead-tow and the unit left Philadelphia at the front of an 89 car Conrail freight train. The unit was handled to Hamburg, PA along the Blue Mountain and Reading. From there the Whitcomb was separated from its trucks and delivered to the WK&S by three tractor-trailers. The Whitcomb arrived at Kempton in October 1988.

Restoration of the railroad's new Whitcomb was more or less complete by 1990. Projects included the repair or replacement of several freeze-damaged heads along with wiring, airbrake and radiator work. The Lehigh & New England once operated one of the ex-Army Whitcombs. This was one of the 65 ton units without cab modifications. The LNE unit carried the number 601. So it was decided that the WK&S Whitcomb should painted up in a "what might have been" LNE paint scheme with the subsequent number 602. The idea fit well with the WK&S which already owned an LNE caboose and a bunch of LNE freight cars. Much of this equipment would be occasionally coupled up for an all LNE freight special. For years #602 existed in a semi-state of limbo as it was unclear which organization would fund the unit's upkeep. Eventually the WK&S came to own the unit outright. WK&S crews have invested a lot of mechanical effort into #602 over the years, but it remains a cantankerous beast. Parts are hard to come by and many of the systems are obsolete or unconventional. The two Buda prime movers have an odd "backwards" arrangement with the generators at the ends of the locomotive and the radiators toward the cab. Getting the Whitcomb up and running is almost as consuming as firing up a steam locomotive. Number 602 is generally held as a backup.

The 1990s

1990 is a pivotal year in the history of the WK&S. It's the year I quit being a passenger and became a volunteer.

In 1990 ticket prices were $3.00 for adults and $1.50 for kids. Group rates (20 or more) were $2.50 for adults and $1.25 for kids. The steam train ran Saturdays June through August at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00 and Sundays May through October at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 and 5:00. The Berksy Trolley ran Saturdays in May, September and October and Sundays in April and November. The 4th of July was dropped unless the day fell on a Saturday or Sunday. Steam trains continued operating on Memorial Day and Labor Day. April and November trolley trips were dropped for 1993. In 1994 steam trains were expanded to cover Saturdays in May. The trolley was down to Saturdays only in September and October. The 5:00 steam train was dropped in 1995 along with Saturday service in May. All operating days were standardized to four trips at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00. The steam train ran Sundays May through October and Saturdays July, August and October. The trolley ran Saturdays June and September. In 1997 the Berksy Trolley was replaced with a diesel train and the railroad gave July 4th another try.

Noted special events in 1990 were the Annual Car Show, the Harvest Moon Special and the Christmas trains now called Santa Claus Specials. I believe the car show was a continuous annual event even though it was absent from brochures printed in the late 1980s. The 1991 brochure includes a brief description of the car show. "See over 100 old cars and trucks, plus a flea market." The railroad provided dash plaques to the car show participants. Special events were greatly expanded in 1992. There was a Mother's Day Special and a Sandman Special which was an evening run during the Kempton Fair. This was one of my favorite trips, but it didn't last. There was Christmas in July (Santa in shorts) and the Dog Days of Summer (free hotdog with each ticket). There was a Dinner Train including a steam train ride followed by dinner at the Kempton Hotel. The Harvest Moon, Car Show and Santa Specials continued. Except for Dog Days, all of these events stayed for 1993. But 1993 was also the railroad's 30th anniversary year. Memorial Day weekend was the Anniversary Special Weekend with double-headed steam trains. There was also a Born in '63-You Ride FREE weekend (ID required). August 21-22, 1993 was the infamous Thomas the Tank Engine Ice Cream Party. 1994 added Kids Fun Weekend which has become an enduring highly popular annual event. Christmas in July, the Dinner Train and the Car Show were missing from 1995, but a Halloween Train was added at the end October. Kids in costume ride free. In 1995 the Harvest Moon Special was expanded to both Friday night and Saturday night. And the event could occur in September or October depending on which month the moon might be more cooperative. A band plays in the combine and passengers return to Kempton for cider and snacks. Mother's Day was joined by a Father's Day Special in 1997, but that only lasted one year. 1998 included a WK&S 35th Anniversary Celebration over Memorial Day weekend. The Sandman Special was gone for 1999, but there was a Kempton's 125th Anniversary Special.

In 1990 the WK&S still had a separate flyer detailing various charter options. A coach charter was $100 for one trip or $125 for two. A caboose was $40 for one trip or $50 for two. These charters had to coincide with a regularly scheduled steam train. The Berksy Trolley could be chartered anytime for $35 on weekends or $50 on weekdays. Independently scheduled trains power by the gas-electric Mack locomotive #35 could be chartered for $175 with one coach or $250 with two coaches. The flyer further notes that the steam train or any other combination of equipment could be chartered for a price quoted upon request.

In 1990 the WK&S donated P&R composite coach #1055 to the Strasburg Railroad. The Reading Company had donated this car to the WK&S sometime in the late 1960s. A 1910 product of Harlan & Hollingsworth, the coach was in bad shape when it came to the WK&S. Nothing was ever done with the car and it finally left the property in June 1990. Spare parts stored in #1055 were moved to the B&O car. Subsequently, #1055 has been beautifully restored as Strasburg's P&R #92, the "Susquehanna".

By 1992 the railroad had acquired C&O insulated boxcar #5504 in a trade arrangement for B&O coach #4111. The boxcar usually resides on the back track and serves as storage and a workshop for coach maintenance. The car was restored in 2004 and is occasionally included in photo freight charter trains. In 2010 the boxcar was further fitted with a boiler and is used to provide steam heat for the annual Santa trains run the first weekend of every December.

As noted above, trains were occasionally double-headed with the railroad's two steam locomotives #2 and #65. Only one locomotive was generally maintained in "ready to go" condition so such events were not common. But it did happen in 1993. The railroad's 30th anniversary train was double-headed and comprised the two Reading coaches, Reading combine, open car and a caboose.

More was to come later that year when the WK&S put on a "Thomas the Tank Engine Ice Cream Party" weekend. The event centered on an outside person who had constructed a "Thomas-looking" shell over his lawn tractor. The kids could have their picture taken with the mockup. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but the public turned out in droves. Saturday featured a two-train schedule. The upper passing track was cleared out and meets were conducted similar to how they were back in the '60s. Number 2 was charged with the Lackawanna coach, open car and caboose. Number 65 pulled the two Reading coaches and Reading combine. The procedure was for a northbound train to depart Kempton, pull into the upper passing track and stop. The other southbound train returning from Wanamaker would run the main all the way into Kempton station. Once the southbound train was clear the northbound train would take the main and head north for Wanamaker. Each train had to hustle to Wanamaker and back in about 30 minutes to make the next meet. The lower passing track was used for Kempton run-arounds as usual. On Sunday all the equipment was combined into a double-headed six car train. The line at the ticket window seemed to stretch half way to Kempton. The regular schedule quickly fell apart as one sold out train after another was ordered to depart as fast as another load of passengers could be boarded. This was perhaps the most successful special event in the railroad's history. But everyone agreed that the weekend was completely overwhelming and the event was never repeated. Remember, this is a volunteer organization. The volunteers have to have fun too!

1994 was the last year for the Sunday 5:00 trips. That 5:00 run made for a long day and patronage just didn't justify it. But there was some fun to be had. If there were only a few passengers at 5:00 we'd cut off the caboose and run a "caboose hop" without the rest of the train. Instead of the usual run-around at Wanamaker the caboose would simply be shoved back to Kempton. But by far my favorite run of each year (with the whole train) was that 5:00 trip on the last Sunday of the season after the clocks had changed. This was back in my Brakeman days when I was charged with the caboose. It was late autumn, cool and after dark. I'd have a fire in the coal stove and the kerosene desk lamp would be lit along with the kerosene marker lamps hanging out back. Hand signals between the crew were by lantern. The atmosphere was timeless. Without a doubt, this is one of my most powerful memories from the WK&S railroad.

One of two big events for this decade was the erection of a huge new shop building in November 1996. Built by Superior Pole Buildings of Hamburg, the 54' x 100' pole building dwarfed the old garage door shop. The building had larger workshops, more storage and two long equipment bays where locomotives and rolling stock could be restored and maintained indoors. But the building would have to wait another ten years before track would come. Track or no track, WK&S crews moved into the new building and the garage door shop was quickly demolished.

The other big event was GE center cab locomotive #7258 which came to the WK&S in February 1997. After a thorough restoration, #7258 became the railroad's first effective piece of non-steam motive power that was both efficient and reliable. In fact, #7258 caused quite a shakeup at the WK&S. Despite having other internal combustion units like #20,#35 and #602, I always remember that any yard switching was saved for morning or late afternoon weekends when a steam locomotive was available. Conversely, #7258 was (and is) routinely used for yard switching. Number 7258 marked the end of the Berksy Trolley and also settled the fate of Mack locomotive #35. Number 35 was stripped and its valuable trolley trucks were sold off to help defer the cost of restoring #7258. The carcass of #35 rusted away for another decade before being sold off in 2008. Number 7258 opened up a whole new source of revenue as the railroad now had a simple and efficient means of powering off-season and mid-week charter trains.

1996 was the last year for the Berksy Trolley. After 25 years of service the trolley was due for a major overhaul. Instead the trolley was withdrawn from service and replaced with a regular train. The train typically comprised diesel #7258, the open car and Lackawanna coach #582. The trolley was sold off in 1999. While many volunteers considered the trolley a mundane piece of equipment, I enjoyed running it and was sorry to see it go. The end of the trolley also marked the decline of the track to N. Albany. The track between Kempton and N. Albany wasn't of much use to the regular trains and by the mid-2000s the track was no longer actively maintained.

The 2000s

The railroad's first full-color brochure came in 2000. Ticket prices were $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for kids. Group rates (20 or more) were $4.50 for adults and $2.50 for kids. The steam train ran Sundays May through August and October and Saturdays July, August and October. The diesel train ran Sundays in September and Saturdays in June and September. All trains ran at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00. There was a steam train on Memorial Day, but nothing on July 4th and Labor Day. 2001 was the same except all major summer holidays were dropped for good. June Saturdays were dropped for 2002 except for one diesel Saturday coinciding with the Kempton Fair. In 2004 diesel replaced steam for May Sundays. In 2007 diesel replaced steam for August Saturdays. Beginning in 2008 November was back after a 15 year absence with diesel trains running the first two weekends. Autumn is my favorite time of year. I for one welcomed the opportunity to continue running into November. The schedule remained unchanged for 2009. Despite the printed schedule, diesel replaced steam more often than not through 2008 and 2009 due to a variety of technical issues.

Special events for 2000 included a Mother's Day Special, Father's Day Special, Kids Fun Weekend, Harvest Moon Specials, Halloween Trains and the Santa Claus Specials. The ever popular Kids Fun Weekend, Harvest Moon and Santa trains continued as the railroad's three staple special events. The Mother's Day and Father's Day Specials were gone for 2003. But 2003 added a 40th Anniversary Celebration and the WK&S Train Robbery. "Rumor has it that Bonnie & Clyde will be in town and are headed for the WK&S!" In 2004 the event was called the Bonnie & Clyde Train Robbery, but that was the last year for it. 2005 added a one-time Raggedy Ann Express to Wanamaker station. 2006 introduced the first annual Easter Bunny Express. The event is held one weekend in March or April and has been highly successful. The Easter Bunny Express is yet another example of how locomotive #7258 was put to work generating off-season revenue. Murder Mystery Trains were added in 2008. Not only have these Murder Mystery trains been highly successful, but it was the beginning of a successful relationship between the WK&S and the crew from Pines Dinner Theatre of Allentown, PA. These two organizations would continue teaming up for future special events. 2008 also marked the 25th anniversary of the annual Santa Claus Specials. There was a Wanamaker Equipment Show for 2009. "Ride the train to Wanamaker to see antique tractors, engines and other displays." In addition to more Murder Mystery Trains, the Pines Dinner Theatre gang put on a night-time Haunted Train event. "Dare to ride the terror train with horrors around each bend. Are you brave enough for the creatures lurking out there?"

In 2000 a coach charter cost $175 for one trip or $200 for two. A caboose cost $60 for one trip or $90 for two. These charters had to coincide with a regularly scheduled steam train. Independently scheduled diesel train charters cost $75 with one caboose, $140 with two cabooses or $200 with one coach. Of course any other combination of equipment could be chartered for a price quoted upon request.

The WK&S launched its first website in 2000 at www.wknsrr.com. By some glitch this site only lasted two years and the domain was lost. In 2002 the railroad launched another website now at www.kemptontrain.com. This domain remains in use today. A third version of the website appeared in 2009.

The brick station platform at Kempton was added beginning in the spring of 2000. Over the next several years the bricks were slowly extended from the station toward the refreshment stand and around to the restroom building.

In December 2000 the WK&S acquired a Whiting Trackmobile. The tiny trackmobile is a gas-powered machine used to shunt cars around the yard. It has a set road wheels running perpendicular to a set of rail wheels. The Trackmobile can be driven to the track and then hydraulically lowered onto the rails. It has a special hydraulic coupler that transfers weight from the car it's moving to itself. This weight transfer gives the trackmobile its tractive effort. The trackmobile came from Birdsboro Steel which was also the source of GE locomotive #7258. The trackmobile was donated after its owner saw the fantastic restoration job that was done to #7258. After a few years of tinkering the trackmobile was restored to service by 2004. The trackmobile is a neat little gadget, but is rarely used. It's usually stored in the shop building and is usually buried behind some other piece of equipment. So it ends up being just as easy to fire up a diesel locomotive when yard movements are needed.

Wanamaker station had been rented out as an antique shop until the tenant passed away in the late 1990s. After a few years of vacancy the station was again rented out around 2003 and became a mini-museum and gift shop. The agent's office and waiting room were filled with period railroad items while the freight room was used as a novelty/gift shop with lots of neat old toys for sale. There was time to tour the station before the train returned to Kempton. That operation lasted through 2012.

In 2004 the WK&S acquired another GE center cab diesel locomotive #734. Number 734 was part of a trade involving CNJ business car #98 and the Railway Restoration Project 113. Project 113 is the name of the organization that's restoring an 0-6-0 CNJ steam locomotive #113 based in Minersville, PA. The GE was donated to the Project 113 organization and in turn was traded to the WK&S for CNJ business car #98. The WK&S had not actively used car #98 since the 1980s and it was a better fit with Project 113's CNJ theme. The GE came to the WK&S in November 2004. Business car #98 left the WK&S for Minersville in January 2007.

The 65-ton GE center cab was built in December 1956 originally for the US Metals & Refining Division of American Metals (AMAX). By 2004 the locomotive was stored out of service at Koppers Corporation in Muncy, PA. At Koppers the locomotive had been used to switch cars hauling scrap ties which were burned for steam and electric. Both of the locomotive's engines still ran and one truck was complete so the locomotive could move under its own power. But the other truck had been de-motored after a failed repair attempt. Overall the locomotive was in sad shape and would need a lot of TLC. It was cosmetically beat-up and many of the mechanical systems had been crudely jury-rigged. The locomotive was moved from Koppers to Kempton by truck on Election Day, November 2, 2004.

The WK&S has always relied on speeders and trailer cars for maintenance of way. The railroad has owned some speeders over the years, but more often the speeders are on loan from one or two of the volunteers. Around 2005 the WK&S acquired something different, a 1966 GMC commercial dump truck. The truck was in pretty ratty shape, but WK&S crews got it running and added hi-rail gear. The truck was put to use for ballast spreading during track construction into the shop building. Otherwise the truck is rarely used. The truck is slowly being restored as time permits.

The MOW fleet was further expanded in February 2006 when the railroad acquired a Model 30 Burro Crane. The self-propelled crane was manufactured by the Cullen-Friestedt Company around 1952. The WK&S acquired the crane from the Rockhill Trolley Museum. The crane arrived in serviceable condition and was immediately put to use moving rail during track construction into the shop building.

The new shop building stood for nearly a decade before resources became available to begin track construction. Work began in the fall of 2004 and was mostly complete by the end 2006. All track work was performed by WK&S volunteers. The project required quite a bit of excavation through the parking lot in front of the building. The pit track switch was relocated further south enabling the pit track to be rebuilt and lengthened. Then two more switches and yards of track were built into the shop itself. Aside from the track, the shop received an equipment crane and several under-track concrete foundations to support heavy lifting jacks. Restoration projects have become far more efficient now that crews can work inside with a complete disregard for the weather.

The first major indoor restoration project was the railroad's recently acquired GE center cab #734. The locomotive was rolled in the shop in 2006 and spent several months up on jacks as the trucks were out for reconditioning. Full restoration of the locomotive was a four-year undertaking. Most every system was renewed. The WK&S never throws anything away. Components stripped from old Mack #35 were used to reconstruct the airbrake system. The locomotive was completely rewired and received extensive body work. Aside from wheel and axle contouring, all mechanical and cosmetic work was performed in-house by WK&S volunteers. At one time the locomotive carried the number 4. But it had no number when it arrived at the WK&S. It was decided that the locomotive's number would be 734 which is the last three digits of its serial number 32734.

Since 1972 the railroad had operated annual Educational Field Trips. That's not much of an official-sounding name, but the event was never much publicized beyond local elementary schools. The railroad would typically operate trains on two Fridays each May at 10:00, 11:00 and 12:00 and teachers would organize the outing as an educational field trip. But the event was declining by the middle of the decade. Diesel replaced steam for 2006. And often there weren't enough kids to run all three trips. The event took a massive hit toward the end of the decade as budget-strapped schools cut nonessential bus use. By the end of the decade the event was reduced to just one Friday and was mostly attended by a few private schools able to scrape together enough parent chaperones to provide transportation.

Early in 2008 the railroad acquired another Baldwin 2-6-2 steam locomotive #4. The locomotive was built in 1914 and spent its career working the cypress timber trade in Florida. The locomotive was retired by the early 1960s and then punted around to various tourist operations with little or no use. The locomotive was seen as a sound investment because the boiler had already been rebuilt by a previous would-be operator. But no other work had been done. The locomotive arrived in pieces and will require a major restoration. As yet the project is still on hold.

It would appear that this decade has marked the end of steam despite the recent purchase of #4. The WK&S has issued no official end to steam, it just faded away. Locomotive #2, the railroad's first locomotive, last ran in 2002. Resources to restore #4 have yet to materialize. Locomotive #65 ran sporadically in 2008 and 2009. I believe it last ran for the Santa trains in December 2009. Steam locomotives have been obsolete for more than half a century and nostalgia for the technology appears to be waning. Most of our customers seem just as happy to ride behind diesel power which is far more efficient to operate. Steam requires enormous quantities of resources. The only abundant resource is red tape.

The 2010s

By 2010 ticket prices were $8.00 for adults and $4.00 for kids. Group rates (20 or more) were $7.50 for adults and $3.50 for kids. Steam trains were no longer advertised. Diesel trains ran Saturdays July through the second weekend of November and Sundays May through the second weekend of November. There was still a June Saturday train coinciding with the Kempton Fair. For 2011 Saturdays were dropped for June and September and the whole of November was gone. November was back for 2012, but just the first two Sundays. Also for 2012, a fifth run was added each day in October at 12:00 noon. But the noon run wasn't worthwhile and was dropped for 2013.

Special events for 2010 included the Easter Bunny Express, Wanamaker Equipment Show, Kid's Fun Weekend, Murder Mystery Train, Raggedy Ann Anniversary, Harvest Moon Special, Haunted Train (now called the Train of Terror), Halloween Train and Santa Claus Special. The Equipment Show was gone for 2011, but there was a Pumpkin Patch Train added in October. A pumpkin patch and other October decorations were set up on the lawn across the tracks from Wanamaker station. "Children pick a free pumpkin during the train ride to bring home for decorating." This turned out to be a popular event and would be repeated. A Wine & Cheese Train was also added for 2011. "Enjoy a leisurely train ride sampling some of the finest local wines and cheeses available. Riders receive a complimentary etched wine glass as a memento of the trip." Also new for 2011 was Story Time with Mrs. Claus on the Friday evening before the Santa trains. "Straight from the North Pole, Mrs. Claus arrives to spend an evening on the train to read some of your favorite Christmas stories ... she'll even bring some goodies from the North Pole Bakery!" The annual Wine & Cheese Trains and Story Time with Mrs. Claus didn't appear in the printed brochure until 2012. Still produced by the Pines Dinner Theatre crew, a kid-friendly Halloween Spooktacular replaced the Train of Terror for 2012. "Halloween fun for kids of all ages, featuring Professor Whizzbang's Imagination Express, an interactive train ride and show, along with hay maze, fortune telling by Gypsy Rode Lee, treasure hunting with Captain Jack, and free treats for all the kids!"

The WK&S was always pet friendly, but I believe 2010 was the first brochure to specifically point that out. Bring your pooch!

In 2010 caboose charters cost $100 and coach charters cost $250. These charters must coincide with a regularly scheduled train. Chartering a non-scheduled diesel train cost $250 with a caboose or $500 with a coach. Of course any other combination of equipment could be chartered for a price quoted upon request. The caboose charter has always been the most popular option and out numbers all other charters by far. Sometimes there are several caboose charters per day. Usually it's a kid's birthday party. Although not always advertised, there's been a long-standing tradition that regular tickets (non-special event) are good all day. So if you want to ride the caboose, but it's been chartered, just stick around and go for another ride on a later train.

The WK&S started a Facebook page in October 2010. The fourth iteration of the railroad's website (www.kemptontrain.com) was launched in 2012. By 2013 the website was fully interactive. Regular and Special event tickets could be reserved and paid for right through the website. This was a big improvement over the railroad's old reservation system comprising an answering machine that may have only been checked a few times per week. Remember, the WK&S is a volunteer organization with no full-time staff.

In June 2010 freshly rebuilt GE center cab #734 emerged from the shop with a flashy red, gray and yellow paint scheme. With the addition of #734, the WK&S had a reliable stable of center cab diesel locomotives. Number 7258 typically handles lighter trains, charters and switching. Number 734 handles heavier trains. And the cantankerous #602 is coaxed to life if all else fails. Restoration of #734 was extensive and comprehensive. About the only untouched systems were the engine internals. Since the engines appeared to run well it was decided give the locomotive a shakedown before performing any additional work. The locomotive did indeed run well, but the #2 engine consumed an excessive amount of lube oil. So the engine was rebuilt over the winter of 2012-13 including new liners, pistons, bearings and so on. The #1 engine may be rebuilt next winter.

2010 marked the first year that the annual Santa trains were diesel powered. Boxcar #5504 was fitted with a boiler to provide steam heat for the trains which were powered by #734. It certainly was a colorful train with the two-tone green coaches, a yellow boxcar and #734 with a shiny new red paint job and Christmas decorations.

Fuhrmans Grove was hit by a powerful wind storm on Thursday May 26, 2011. Most trees were snapped like twigs or entirely uprooted. Fuhrmans Grove and several hundred yards of track were covered in thick layers of trees, many several feet in diameter. WK&S crews spent the better part of three days clearing enough trees to get the railroad back up and running. The Fuhrmans Grove sign, the semaphore and the picnic table were all oddly undamaged. Nevertheless, restoration of Fuhrmans Grove is unlikely. The sight of all those uprooted trees was somehow less dramatic than the expanse of blue sky over what was once a dense tree canopy.

For nearly 40 years the cream & brown exterior of the model railroad car looked much the same as it did back in the 1960s when it was used as a museum display car. But in 2012 the Schuylkill & Lehigh Model Railroad Club (SLMRC) repainted their car in a striking maroon and red color scheme reminiscent of the Alton Railroad. The model railroad car is right behind Kempton station. Hours generally coincide with WK&S operations.

A film crew from the PBS produced "Tracks Ahead" visited the WK&S on Saturday and Sunday August 25-26, 2012. The railroad went all out to put on a big show for the camera. The regular schedule was handled by a long mixed train comprising four coaches, an open car and caboose powered by locomotive #734. Meets and passes were staged using a second freight train consisting of a pair of gondolas, the box car and LNE caboose #512. The freight was powered by #602 on Saturday and by #7258 on Sunday. There was also a three-coach Murder Mystery train run Friday evening and Saturday evening. It was a busy weekend! Look for the WK&S episode of "Tracks Ahead" to become available around the spring of 2013.

2013 marks the railroad's 50th anniversary and the 30th anniversary of the annual Santa Claus Specials.

I've documented most of the more visible highs and lows throughout the railroad's history. Now I must mention the staggering amount of day-to-day work required to keep this operation up and running. Cleaning, painting and maintaining buildings and equipment is never ending. The lawn needs to be mowed. Accounting needs to be done. The ticket office, gift shop and refreshment stand need to be staffed. Special events need to be organized. Trash needs to be collected and restrooms cleaned. It all gets done every weekend. This railroad is only made possible through ticket, gift shop and food sales along with one of the most talented and dedicated group of volunteers you'll ever find. The railroad has an eye to the future and its history continues to unfold.

What's Left of the S&L

Aside from the WK&S, a few bits and pieces of the old Schuylkill & Lehigh still exist. In 1900 the P&R built the Reading Belt Line as a mainline bypass around congested downtown Reading. But crossline traffic to Allentown was still run through Reading and up a tough grade over Temple Hill. In the 1950s the Reading incorporated portions of the S&L right-of-way into a new stretch of track called the Blandon Low-Grade. The Low-Grade connected Belt Line Junction north of Reading with Blandon on the East Penn. Subsequent crossline traffic could run the Belt Line bypassing both Reading and Temple Hill. This network of track still serves as a hub connecting Norfolk Southern freight trains between the cities of Allentown, Harrisburg and Philadelphia. I remember 1984 when tracks of the Blandon Low-Grade (former S&L) fell into the quarry at Lauredale. The old line over Temple Hill was reactivated for several months while new track was laid around the quarry. But the neglected Temple Hill line was also in need of emergency repair. The track gangs would work during the day while all the trains were held till late afternoon. I'd ride my bike out to where the line crossed Kutztown Road and watch the afternoon logjam of trains roll by. Despite modern Conrail power, most trains still needed helpers out of Reading.

The P&R built another connection between its main line and the S&L just north of Reading. As of the 1990s this connection still served a few local industries including a Glidden paint factory and a Parrish frame plant. When I was a kid I would ride my bike over to the frame plant to watch the switching operations. There was a full-time Conrail switcher that was usually busy. During the summers of 1992 and '93 I worked at the Glidden factory as my summer college job. Rail traffic was slim, but as a forklift driver in the receiving department I was exposed to boxcar unloading (palletized bags of dry chemicals). I also handled covered hoppers filled with dry chemicals which were unloaded pneumatically. One day I got to see the local wipeout a tractor-trailer whose driver wasn't paying attention to the grade crossing by the factory's entrance. My father spent his whole working career at Glidden. Both the Glidden and Parrish plants are gone.

From Temple the S&L line remains to a cement plant at Evansville. As of 2010 I'm not sure if the cement plant still receives active rail service. The track is gone between Evansville and the WK&S and again between the WK&S and Slatington.