Colebrookdale RR Offers Sensory-Friendly Train Ride

BOYERTOWN PA – A “Sensory Friendly Saturday” train ride, specifically designed for individuals with autism or other sensory sensitivities and their families, is planned by the Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust for March 27 (2021; Saturday) at 1 p.m., departing from its Boyertown train station, 64 S. Washington St. Tickets are available here.

“Even in the best of times, families of and people with autism often experience uncertainty, distress, and feeling forgotten,” railroad Educational Programs Director Michele Barrett explained. “In the midst of a pandemic, these challenges were amplified.” Colebrookdale hopes “to offer an opportunity for our friends to know … we are doing our best to ensure a safe, comfortable experience for them to enjoy an outing with their loved ones.”

Barrett, a certified teacher, also is a self-described “autism mom” who knows more than a little about such challenges. A video (above), posted to her YouTube channel, provides what she calls a “social story” that serves as an advance preview which introduces sensitive riders to the special event.

The railroad also is offering these suggestions for potential riders and their families:

  • Its parlor car is designated as the quiet car for those who wish to be away from sound and other activities while still enjoying the ride. It will also be a place for any on-board passenger to visit for a moment of calm if necessary. Neither music nor narration will be broadcast in this designated quiet area.
  • Those with sound sensitivities should bring headphones to block-out sounds that may be overwhelming, including the trip narration broadcast in its deluxe coach, dining, and garden cafe cars. Its crossing procedure will be modified to eliminate the horn.
  • Complimentary coloring books and crayons will be provided to children. They should feel free to bring a sensory toy, fidget, or book to read. The train will attempt to stagger boarding times to alleviate anxieties that result from waiting in long lines. Passengers are encouraged to bring weighted blankets or vests for their comfort during the trip.
  • The railroad will turn off or remove artificial air fresheners from areas used during the event. It also has asked its staff to refrain from wearing perfume or cologne during the event.
  • Those with light sensitivities should bring sunglasses or a hat. They may be most useful for visiting the open-air car. Where possible, the train will dim lighting, or cover intense lighting in the ceiling with fabric, during the event.
  • The railroad will offer an a la carte menu available for purchase on the train. An exception is being made for those with dietary considerations, and anyone with food allergies or sensitivities may bring their own drinks and snacks.

Photos supplied by The Colebrookdale Railroad