The Colebrookdale Railroad connects visitors to the history, beauty, geology, and nature of one of the most historic, beautiful, geologically-unique, and naturally-unspoiled valleys in the United States—the Secret Valley. This magical land is part of the Secret Valley Natural, Recreation, and Heritage Area in development by the Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust.
While the Civil War-era railroad will form the backbone of the Heritage Area, visitors will eventually be able to travel between Pottstown and Boyertown by hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing, and rafting. A trail currently in planning stages, as well as the Manatawny and Ironstone Creeks, will augment the railroad in offering access for fishing, camping, bird watching, nature tours, etc. Additionally, the Trust is working to plan access to the numerous public parks and other attractions—including one of Pennsylvania’s premier breweries—located along the right-of-way.
The Colebrookdale’s quiet, sheltered course along the Manatawny and Ironstone Creeks connects the oldest iron-making sites in North America, starting at Pottsgrove Manor in Pottstown—home of the ironmaster founder—and the forges, foundries, and furnaces of what was the first iron “Silicon Valley” in the new world.
The lands along the railroad were once occupied by two Indian tribes (“Manatawny” means “place where we drink alcohol”). The tribes greeted William Penn near the railroad’s stone arch bridge in Pine Forge and a home later used by General Washington on his regular visits to the area. Washington came to the Colebrookdale valley frequently to urge the iron masters to ramp up their production for the Continental Army.
Temple University sends its geology classes to the Colebrookdale each year to study the line’s deep rock cuts. The cuts caused labor strikes in the 1860s when the Civil War veterans who dug them—by hand—revolted at the enormity of the task. Today, however, they evidence both the ancient sea floor and the ancient mountaintop from the supercontinent Pangaea. The result of both forms of rock being so closely situated was to produce a magnetic iron ore. The fact it was magnetic made it easy to find, drawing early iron pioneers and, later, Thomas Edison. Edison rode the Colebrookdale each week for six years in search of a special ore along its tracks to be used in a device he was working to invent.
Today, the Secret Valley Natural, Recreation, and Heritage Area is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Eagles, red-tailed hawks, deer, turtles, fox, turkeys, geese, and ducks are frequent sights from the train.
Unspoiled by time, the Colebrookdale's Secret Valley Natural, Recreation, and Heritage Area looks much the same today as it would to the iron-willed pioneers who first ventured along its cold, rushing creeks three centuries ago. We invite you to come experience it for yourself.