Northeast of Reading and west of Bethlehem, tucked into the hills and fields of rural Pennsylvania, lies the Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern Railroad. The railroad is a remnant of the former Berks County Railroad that connected the Wilmington & Reading Railroad and the Lehigh Valley Railroad back in the late 19th century and was absorbed into the Pennsylvania & Reading Railroad (P&R) as the Schuylkill & Lehigh branch line (WK & S History).
In the mid-20th century, as rail was superceded as a major mode of transportation by automobiles and trucks, the branch line wound up isolated as the P&R pulled up connecting track and scrapped it (WK & S History). The line now operates as a historical attraction and local family-friendly activity, with special events throughout the year.
This weekend, the railroad was running their annual Santa Claus Special, and as a train-loving family, we reserved tickets and picked up Pop Pop to take M up to enjoy a train ride and some Santa time. The special features Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and Frosty the Snowman strolling the platform before boarding the train. On board, Santa and Mrs. Claus come by to pose for pictures with the kids, and the elves pass out a little gift for each kid. This year they were handing out WK&S drawstring baggies – just right for packing for a visit to grandma’s, though also not the most engaging gift for small children. M developed a sudden shyness when Santa and Mrs. Claus came through, so we had to trick him into this picture with Mrs. Claus:
After our train ride, we also took some time to go visit the model railroad they have set up in a separate car behind the station, picked up two little pull-back and wind-up trains for M to play with, and had a little snack from the outdoor snack bar. Pop Pop and MAP enjoyed looking at the engines and cars and talking about the trains, while also revisiting memories of yore, as MAP’s family used to come up to the railroad as a family activity relatively often when he was growing up.
The train ride runs between Kempton and Wanamaker, but passengers don’t hop off the train at Wanamaker, 3 miles from Kempton. There’s a little station house at Wanamaker that is now run as a bait & tackle shop and just a few steps from the station house is the Wanamaker General Store. We drove back up to Wanamaker after M had his fill of model trains and watched the next Santa train come up the track, switch the engine around and head back to Kempton.
We also took a short stroll through the General Store, which conveniently enough, had a toy section right through the back door and is set up as a coffee and gift shop on one side, and a mini-market and sandwich counter on the other. They had lots of neat stuff to look at and all of the produce in their produce case is sourced from local farms and orchards. It was a nice little break between the train and our dinner plans at the Stony Run Inn.
Sadly, M was getting pretty tired out since he hadn’t napped and was getting tetchy and cranky, so between his high level of fatigue and unwillingness to co-operate and a less-than-stellar experience with the service at the inn, and a drop in the quality of their food and menu, we did not have the best dinner. However, it was a great day overall re-establishing an old family tradition and getting a little celebration time in before M’s little brother turns up sometime in the next few weeks.