Last Updated on May 27, 2022 by Editor
WHY GO: In the 1870’s the railroad brought prosperity to Boyertown PA. So it’s kismet that a revitalized Tourist Railroad is doing the same. Pair this railroad lovers getaway with an artsy things to do in nearby Reading PA for a delightful stay in Southern Pennsylvania.
Things To Do In Boyertown PA
VISIT: Building a Better Boyertown
The town’s largest employer, Boyertown Burial Casket Company, opened in 1893. This coffin maker was the second largest in the world in the 1960’s and 70’s. BBCC employed over 1,000 workers, and produced over 60,000 caskets per year. When the company closed in 1988, Boyertown naturally fell into decline.
But that was not the first tragedy this community-minded town endured.
In 1908, the horrific Rhoads Opera House fire claimed the lives of 170 theatergoers and one firefighter who perished in an accident rushing to the scene. The fire was the area’s most devastating disaster before or since.
But Boyertown has resilience in spades. In 2002, town visionaries began to brainstorm ways to bring Boyertown back, through Building A Better Boyertown.
RIDE: Colebrookdale Railroad Secret Valley Line.
Spearheaded by Lawyer and Historic Preservationist, Nathaniel Guest, this tourist train, inaugurated in 2014, has been attracting thousands of visitors to Boyertown from all over the world. The original rail-bed, built by returning Civil War soldiers, opened in 1869, bringing local manufactured goods to newly developing towns and cities.
When these industries dried up, the rail line was all but abandoned. Guest raised funds to resuscitate the railroad. He has since turned it into one of the most preeminent year round Excursion Trains in the county,
Colebrookdale Railroad ride from Boyertown to Pottstown PA
Dedicated as one of the country’s “Preserve America Stewards” by first lady Michelle Obama less than a year after it was unveiled, the 1 ¾ hour, eight mile Colebrookdale Railroad ride from Boyertown to Pottstown, with its deep cuts and tight curves, crossing tall timber trestles and rushing creeks, is one of the most stunning you’ll ever experience.
Holiday themed runs and foliage excursions are most popular. But special event trains, like Cupcake-Tasting, Mother’s Day, and Brewery-to-Brewery Tours are gaining ground.
Riders in love might want to book a Valentines Day trip. “We had weddings on the train,” says Guest, who also agrees it’s a great place to pop the question. “This is the only excursion railroad with an open 360 degree-view railcar that’s free for all to use. With guaranteed seats inside.”
And oh, what seats they are. Pullman cars from the 1800’s have been meticulously and lushly restored, down to plush leather seating, Maxfield Parish stained glass windows, Tiffany-style lights, drapes, mosaic tile floors, and other Victorian adornments.
Oak columns in the upscale Bar Car came from a theater in Rochester. Other train car appointments were either replicated or sourced to represent the period.
But Guest even saw to the new Train Station and its surroundings. He sourced fencing from the Smithsonian National Museum of Industry in Bethlehem PA and scored a Beaux Arts fountain from Detroit. And, talk about repurposing! Over 110,000 handmade bricks, discovered under asphalt in Pitcairn PA, were used to pave the walkway.
Reinvesting in Heritage
Guest, who teaches Historic Preservation at Cornell University one day a week, grew up in this area. He believed in capitalizing on what made this town unique. “Reinvesting in heritage is a wonderful way to bring people, money and investment to the area.”
As a result, many businesses have opened here since Colebrookdale RR began running trips. Excursions run year round. Check website for schedule and RSVP portal. Tickets start at $36 adults, $50 with meal, Polar Express $45.
Colebrookdale Railroad is one of the most quirky-romantic places to propose in PA.
VISIT: Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles
The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles opened in 1965 in a 1872 carriage factory turned custom truck manufacturer. So, you’ll find a collection of over 90 historic vehicles made in PA, some produced right on site.
Standouts include a white fiberglass 1952 Henry J, commissioned by a local businessman who loved boats, a 1958 Mr. Softee Truck, assembled right in the building, and a 1942 International Half Ton WWII M-1-4 Ambulance, one of 900 made in Boyertown.
The collection also includes the historic Reading Diner. This Reading icon is a huge draw twice a year on Diner Day when it opens to the public. On those days, food prices reflect those of 1938 (5 cent coffee!). The authentic 1921 Sun Oil gas station also brings back many a memory.
Visit on Saturdays and you can tour the original carriage factory, featuring a period machine shop and three blacksmiths (one woman!) who bang out iron carriage parts – which in the 1800’s included the wheels. Open Tues-Sun 9:30-4. $8 adults, under 15 free.
VISIT/SHOP: Taylor Backes Glassworks
Owned and run by RISD Grad and Tyler School of Art instructor, Will Dexter, this working non-profit glassblowing studio also acts as an ersatz “Grad School” for aspiring glass artists.
Dexter’s custom lighting and designs can be found in theaters, homes, museums, and galleries all over the country (most famously in the Smithsonian, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Corning Glass Museum, and The Colby – formerly Kodak – Theater where the Academy Awards are held). But in his own studio he is both a coach and creator.
Come here, and you might get a behind the scenes tour. Dexter invites visitors to feel the heat of several 2,150 degree Fahrenheit ovens. These beauts have been running over two years nonstop! Watch fantastic pieces being formed by his employees, Dan Alters, Tim Frankenfield and Maggie Gallen, in real time.
Stop in to peruse the gallery, or sign up for a workshop and walk away with your own glass creation. Open M-F 9-5, Sat. 11-5.
Restaurants in Boyertown PA
EAT: Firefly Café, Boyertown
Even omnivores can dine contentedly at this cute Vegan restaurant. The Vegan Pulled Pork Sandwich ($12) made with Jackfruit, is strangely like the real deal. But you’ll also find Vegan Mac and “Cheese” of the day, Vegie Burgers, and many other non-meat choices on the menu.
EAT: Locals Recommend
Grind for upscale comfort food and cocktails. Brakeman’s Cafe for coffee, sandwiches, and brunch. And The Other Farm Brewing Company for fresh-brewed beer and pizza.
Hotels In Boyertown PA
STAY: Twin Turrets Inn, Boyertown. Owned by Mayor, Marianne Deery, this ten room downtown Victorian Inn is as homey and comfy as it gets. Plus, of course, with a bit of turn of last century grandeur. Rates $124-$154 include breakfast.
26 thoughts on “Boyertown PA; The Little Town That Could”
Our business, also known as Pleasant View Farm & Therapeutic Center/Cowgirl’s Reiki Ranch is located on our farm just outside of Boyertown. We offer Farm visits, Therapeutic Horseback Riding, Reiki for Animals & their people, art, nature & music events/classes for children & adults.
Thank you for visiting. Please visit again, we are always happy to see new people.
There is an excellent historical society in Boyertown. We have a great research library and a museum area with displays of local history, well known people and events. We offer programs and tours. The hours are Tuesday 5-9PM, Wednesday 9AM to 4PM and by appointment. To schedule group tours or ask about presentations at your location, or for information about historical research please e-mail email@example.com or call 610-367-5255. Ask for Lindsay.
In 1958 Boyertown Area High School Band and Color Guard went to the National Bank Competition, the COLOR GUARD won first place in National Competition. Arlan Saylor was our band master and we all respected his dedication. I would like to see something about that event. Pictures of the Color Guard and its members………
Loved the article, and I really enjoyed my visit this summer!!
Growing up in this town was special. Very proud of Boyertown and all its contributions. I enjoy going back a few times each year and seeing its transformation. It’s still the place I call my hometown.
Moved to B. Town in 8th grade and I call it my hometown today. Proud to have Fradusted from BASH! #gobears
I don’t get up to town much anymore, but my kids and I love to look for all the Bear Pride statues all around town and the surrounding area. They are all unique pieces of art that show local points of pride and history.
I still enjoy the visiting the Grill Shop, but miss Bauses.
Grew up in Boyertown, PA in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s then moved away. I absolutely love going back to visit every year. It continues to impress. Wonderful people, eateries, shops and sites. You’ve got to put this on your list of towns to visit.
Boyertown is striving to be innovators in Community health and wellness. From Senior Bingo walking to the popular annual Turkey Trot at Boyertown Patk, join us for year round family fitness!
Yes, Very beautiful little town, you can still hear the church bells everyday!! People have said for years not many towns, left like this in the United States!! Thank you for finally finding us!!
Born and raised in Boyertown. Lived here all my life. Got married here. Raised our 2 children here. Now we have 7 Grandchildren and 14 Great-grandchildren. Those that have moved away love to come and visit each year!
Hi Gloria – Having visited Boyertown, I’m not surprised by the outpouring of love for that great little town. Thanks so much for commenting – and wow! What a family!!
You are correct, Jan. These kind of progressive, yet homespun towns are definitely rare. Boyertown is a wonderful place.
Hi Barbara – I noticed that folks in Boyertown are more open to innovation than most – which is probably why the town is such a successful model of “rebirth.” I was very impressed.
Yep, Douglas – I did visit, which is why I became so enamored with the town. I can see why you love going back every year.
Thanks for commenting, James. Boyertown certainly has a huge fan base!
It is a hidden gem, for sure!
I have such good memories living in Boyertown and love going back; reminiscing and retracing some of the things done while living there. I graduated from Boyertown Area HS 1961…..”Go Bears!” This past summer my husband and I took some friends and we went to the HS. Stood in front of the new sign (was disappointed that they had changed it) and had my picture taken.
Boyertown is definitely a unique little town and will always be special to me.
Boyertown has been called one of the most haunted small towns in America by Charles J. Adams, III, the internationally known expert on paranormal phenomena. Haunted Boyertown, a local non-profit, sponsors Historic Haunted Walks around Boyertown on the fourth Saturday of each month, May through October, paranormal investigations at local haunts, and special activities with Charlie Adams. ALL proceeds from these events are donated to local non-profits, including Building a Better Boyertown, the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles and the Boyertown Area Historical Society. Contact us at Hauntedboyertown@gmail.com for further information.
My mother Ida Bilodeau says at her age she would rather make memories than receive gifts for Christmas. We gave her tickets for the train. We were so impressed exceeding all our expectations.
Run by volunteers it is a beautiful mix of the senses. We road on the dining car and enjoyed butternut squash soup, egg-nog and whipped cream with a dusting of nutmeg. We chatted with Nathaniel Guest who tells fascinating info about many historical facts. The ride was a memory my mother, husband Russ and son Micah will cherish and plan to do again as soon as possible. We are proud of this noble endeavor and as they encouraged us, word of mouth is their best advertising. I urge you : All BOARD!! Thank you to all the hard workers, and investors for making this possible.
Thanks for the info, Margaret. Sounds like lots of fun.
A wonderful tribute to the train, Nadine. Thank you so much for the great write-up of your experience!
Please join us anytime, my comp. Love to have you!
I have to be honest and say that I was a bit surprised when I read this article. I grew up in Boyertown. The town was very Pennsylvania Dutch in character then. My grandparents all spoke that German dialect as their first language. The word Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries referred to German speaking people in the kingdoms of Germany and the countries of Austria, Switzerland and Holland. Later, the word Dutch was narrowed down to only refer to people from the Netherlands. We still called it Pennsylvania Dutch when I was growing up, which was confusing at times due to changes of the word itself.
Anyway, I remember hearing racist and antisemitic talk when I was growing up in the area–1956-1976. I was told there was KKK activity in Boyertown in the 1990’s but I was not living there at the time so I don’t know how extensive that was. Friends told me that some Boyertown people eventually marched in opposition to the KKK. I believe that was also in the nineties. But things can and do change so when I read in this article that Boyertown was a progressive little town, I was curious.
I still come home to the area every other year or so to visit my mom and family but generally don’t go to town so this past April of 2019, I decided to give it a try. I bought tickets for the railroad for me and my mother. We loved it! I grew up in Colebrookdale just outside of Boyertown and we walked those railroad tracks throughout the year so what great memories that brought back for me. My mom and I also visited the Automobile Museum. Again, we loved it. A transgender person there sold us the tickets so that was also wonderful to experience. I am beginning to wonder if Boyertown has actually turned progressive over time.
Finally my mom and I went to eat at the the Vegan restaurant touted in this article. Unfortunately, that didn’t go well for us. The service was very poor. You have to get up and order your food and pay at the counter rather than be waited on. They ask for payment and a tip before you’ve even been served your food and have eaten. Our vegan pulled pork sandwiches fell apart as the bread got soggy and disintegrated in our hands. The meal cost over $40. I have eaten lots of vegan food and I was not impressed.
I do want to say that I was impressed by how lovely downtown Boyertown looks and the car museum and the train trip were marvelous! Of course, there are still some local people, who aren’t progressive but the downtown is certainly not a mirror of that. Every place is mixed bag. I am happy to have read this article so that I could see my old hometown in a new light. I am absolutely going on the train ride next time I come back for a visit.
HI Jonas – thanks so much for the feedback on your visit to Boyertown. I was also impressed by its innovative approach to revitalization. Sorry that your experience at the vegan restaurant wasn’t a positive one. Food is such a subjective thing. But overall, it seems you had a good time with your Mom exploring. I appreciate your comments! Thanks so much. Malerie
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