Berks County Attraction ‘Roadside America’ A Coronavirus Casualty
SHARTLESVILLE PA – A once-thriving tourism destination in northern Berks County that endured through good times and bad for 85 years is closing forever. It’s become a non-essential business victim of the coronavirus pandemic, which has kept visitors away and its doors locked for months.
Roadside America (at top) – located just off Interstate 78 outside Shartlesville, 49 minutes northwest of Sanatoga – began with one man’s love of model railroading. It initially filled his home, and then moved into a walk-through museum that charged admission. The place was most popular in an earlier era, when road trips to regional spots were considered a vacation and tour buses arrived weekly.
Its huge, garage-like space of several thousand square feet (above) was filled with a display of dozens of working and constantly circling toy trains. They chugged through changing landscapes, then crossed into a village of hand-crafted miniature buildings populated by tiny plastic people. The scenery even featured a running river and waterfalls (below).
But like so many other spots that draw crowds, Roadside America was forced to close in March (2020) as COVID-19 spread and threatened lives.
Potential patrons stayed home during the pandemic, KYW Newsradio reporter Mark Abrams explained in a story broadcast and published Sunday (Nov. 29), causing Roadside America ticket sales to wither and revenue to dry up. Its bills, however, kept coming. The attraction announced its demise on its Facebook page. Its operator, granddaughter of the founder, will hire an auction house to sell off her family’s beloved train-set-on-steroids, piece by piece.
Thirteen years ago – on March 28, 2007, 17 months before The Post began publishing in Sanatoga – its now Managing Editor Joe Zlomek and wife Debbie made the trek to Roadside America on the recommendation of an acquaintance. Photos that accompany this article were taken then.
Editor’s Note: When The Post takes a road trip, its readers go too. “Travels With The Post” is a series that reports on places and activities beyond our customary coverage area, but usually within a drive of three hours or less of Pottstown PA. Joe Zlomek, managing editor of The Post, is an accredited travel writer and a TripAdvisor.com contributor since 2006. Read other articles in this series.
Photos by Joe Zlomek