Geigertown Central Railroad Museum

berks countySeries: Attractions of Pennsylvania

An old Reading Railroad train car.
An old Reading Railroad train car.

I imagine most people discover the Geigertown Central Railroad Museum the same way that I did, by driving down Geigertown Road and noticing a collection of train cars off to the side.

To explain why the trains are here, we should begin with local train enthusiast D. J. Shirey.

Train!

D. J. Shirey

D. J. Shirey loved trains.

He worked in a variety of positions at several local railways. These included two years operating a diesel locamotive through Pottstown, eight years working on the Shay Rough & Tumble Railroad in Lancaster, four years as chief engineer at the Blue Mountain & Reading Railroad, and finally, work as a steam boiler inspector.

Besides that he was active in historical societies, operating steam engines at the sawmill at Joanna Furnace, heading the Rough and Tumble railroad club, and a member of the St. James Lutheran Church in Geigertown.

Oh, and he got married on a steam train too. With a train-themed cake. 1

Shirley's career was cut short. On October 4, 1993, Shirey was attempting to right a derailed train in Schuylkill County2, when the 260-ton railroad crane boom he was operating fell, crushing its cab. He left behind parents, grandparents, a brother, a wife, and a daughter. 3 4

He also left behind his dreams.

The road of Anthracite
The road of Anthracite

As a train lover, his dream was to collect train cars, and create his own railway, encircling his family's property. 2

Forum-poster Steve Gilbert expands:

The Shireys' project at Geigertown was to build track around the farm and then onto the abandoned grade of the Reading's Wilmington & Northern Branch. It was just starting to come together when the accident took DJ. 4

Presumably, the farmyard.
Presumably, the farmyard.

Somehow, he managed to get quite far with his plans, collecting quite a lot of railway equipment.

The Collection

There is a pretty wide variety of trian cars on display, in a variety of conditions.

Reading
Train!

Parts of the collection are beautifully restored, and apparently can still be used to take members of the general public on rides.

Other components are rather rusty and decrepit-looking.

Train!

The fact of the matter is that it's difficult to maintain these railcars, especially in an outdoor environment. As Shirley's brother Paul wrote on a forum, "[we're] trying to make it look like a nice railroad, but it is hard. It takes a lot of time and money." 4

Train!
Train!

I'm probably not enough of a railfan to comment much about the contents in the collection.

Train!
Train!

The Future

Train!

The collection continues to grow.

The JC McHugh purchased two historic Mack Truck Boxcab Locomotives, had them repainted, and sold them for $1 to the railroad museum under terms and conditions that do not permit their resale or scrapping. 5 And heck, new doors got added just last December. 6

Train!

Beautifully re-painted, these latest acquisitions are perhaps the stars of the collection.

The other recent aquisition was painted in red livery with the message "In Memory of D.J. Shirley."

I think he would be proud.

Train!
Train!

Visiting

My visit was relatively brief and chilly. The chilly wind and deep snow, and roadway with fast-moving cars meant that I mainly stuck to the outer edge of the collection.

Visitors are welcome to come by, take photos, or donate to the collection during daytime hours. 1

Citations

1 Smith, Susan Meirs. "Geigertown Central Railroad Museum is an homage to son lost on the tracks" The Reading Eagle, 16 Jan. 2021. retrieved online

2 Karas, Michelle. "Geigertown family to auction railroad items, cars" Pottston Mercury, 4 Oct. 2012, retrieved online.

3 The Reading Eagle Obituaries, Page C4. 6 Oct. 1993

4 Railway Preservation News Forum. "Geigertown equipt status?" 21 Jul. 2003-03 May 2004.

5 McHugh Locomotive & Equipment. "JC McHugh donates Historic & Vintage locomotives to a museum." No date provided.

6 Geigertown Central Railroad Facebook Post, 22 Dec. 2020.