EBT Eyes Reviving Branch Line Dormant Since 1940s

A branch line of the East Broad Top Railroad that has been out of service since the 1940s may be rebuilt and host excursion trains the EBT Foundation said.

The branch would provide ridge top vistas and increase the number of destinations available to visitors riding EBT trains.

The 2.5-mile branch is known as the Coles Valley Branch but also has been called the Midvalley Branch and Joller Branch

The EBT ceased public excursions in 2011 and in February of this year was acquired by the EBT Foundation.

EBT officials have said work is underway to rehabilitate four miles of the 32-mile mainline between Rockhill Furnace and Colgate Grove.

The more scenic sections of the railroad, though, lie to the south of there. The foundation owns the southernmost 27 miles of the EBT.

Eventually, the EBT is working to reopen the railroad to the Robertsdale/Woodvale area.

EBT Foundation chairman Henry Polsner III discussed reviving the Coles Valley Branch during a recent reunion of the Friends of the East Broad Top.

Posner said during his remarks that offering multiple rides and destinations would provide more opportunities for tourism investment including attracting visitors who will stay for multiple days in the region.

“We want to appeal to as broad a range of people as possible, to give people a reason to stay and boost the local economy,” he said.

The 1,300-member, nonprofit Friends group recently awarded a $86,000 grant to the EBT Foundation to pay for restoration of carpenter’s shop at the Rockhill Furnace shops complex.

The foundation is still working on a master plan of options without timelines, all of which are dependent upon receiving adequate funding.

The Coles Valley branch diverged from the mainline between the Wrays Hill and Sideling Hill tunnels just south of a horseshoe-shaped curve.

EBT officials have said Sideling Hill Tunnel will be easier to rehabilitate than Wrays Hill Tunnel.

Preliminary engineering inspections of all bridges and tunnels on the EBT concluded that the largest span, the 275-foot-long Pogue Bridge located three miles south of Rockhill Furnace, is in much better condition than expected.

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