Posts Tagged ‘East Broad Top Foundation’

EBT Launches Scheduled Excursion Service

June 16, 2021

The historic Pennsylvania-based East Broad Top Railroad inaugurated scheduled service on June 11.

Although the narrow gauge railroad has offered a handful of excursions during special events, it was the first time that it has operated scheduled public passenger service since 2011.

The first train was pulled by General Electric center-cab diesel switcher No. M-7 and ran from Rockhill Furnace for about 3½ miles to Runk Road Bridge.

The train operated three round trips over the weekend.

Special movements ran earlier in the week to Colgate Grove using gas-electric car No. M-1 and parlor car No. 20, the Orbisonia.

One of those trips, on June 8, carried the EBT Foundation’s board of directors who inspected the progress made in rebuilding he railroad.

EBT officials have said they hope to begin scheduled service to Colgate Grove within a few weeks.

Track on the wye at Colgate Grove is being relaid with work almost complete on the south leg.

Trains will depart at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. on June 25-27 and July 9-11 and 23-25.

Service beyond those dates has yet to be announced but special runs are set for events being held

Aug. 12-15; Sept. 11-12; Oct. 9; Oct. 16-17, 23-24; Dec. 4; and Nov. 26-28, and Dec. 3-5 and 10-12.

EBT Receives Grant from Pittsburgh Foundation

May 8, 2021

The East Broad Top Foundation has received a $100,000 grant from the  Allegheny Foundation of Pittsburgh that will be used to support rehabilitation of the Colgate Picnic Grove

EBT locomotives have turned on a wye at the site since 1961. Part of the the wye was originally a line to a clay pit near Shirleysburg.

EBT said the grant will be used to make better use of Colgate Grove. They said such events as musical performances and food tastings are being considered.

A new platform will be built and plans are in the works for a new pavilion.

Officials also said the grant was unusual because the Allegheny Foundation concentrates its giving in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The EBT Foundation operates the historic East Broad Top narrow gauge tourist railroad, which will begin regular operations in June.

EBT Seeking Post-War Era Freight Cars

January 19, 2021

The East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania is seeking a few standard-gauge freight cars.

The historic narrow gauge railroad plans to use the cars to show how during the post World II era standard-gauge freight cars were transformed into use in narrow gauge operation.

That was done using special transfer trucks and cast-aluminum coupler adapters.

EBT officials said the cars they are seeking must be specific to the era that will be portrayed.

Photographs show the EBT made widespread use of boxcars of the New York Central, Reading, and Pennsylvania Railroad, and gondolas of the Erie, Pennsy, and Baltimore & Ohio.

The EBT also hauled tank cars loaded with asphalt used to build paved roads in rural areas. Some cars carried supplies used to construct the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Standard-gauge cars were transformed at Mount Union, Pennsylvania, where the EBT had a connection with the Pennsy.

A gantry crane known as the Timber Transfer would lift standard-gauge cars and workers would roll narrow-gauge trucks beneath them.

The EBT Foundation, which operates the narrow gauge railroad, said those who have leads about available and era-specific standard-gauge cars should call it at 814-447-3285.

EBT Receives $1.4M State Grant

December 31, 2020

The East Broad Top Foundation has received a $1.4 million economic development grant that will be used for several projects and to help retire a mortgage held by the railroad’s previous owner.

The grant was awarded by the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget with funding from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

Among the projects the EBT will apply the funding toward are building a new events facility at Colgate Grove four miles north of Rockhill Furnace.

Also in the works are extension of the main line northward a mile to Shirleysburg, stabilizing buildings within the Rockhill Furnace machine shops complex, and stabilization of a coal tipple and chutes at the south end of the Rockhill Furnace yard.

EBT plans to replaced deteriorated crossties throughout the yard.

The historic narrow gauge railroad shut down commercial operations in 1956 but operated as a tourist railroad between 1960 and 2011.

The EBT foundation acquired the property earlier this year from the Joseph Kovalchick family and is restoring its locomotives, rolling stock and infrastructure.

Plans are to resume public scheduled service next May or June. Steam locomotives are projected to begin revenue service in 2021.

The EBT owns six Baldwin 2-8-2 steam locomotives.

EBT Foundation General Manager Brad Esposito said the priority of the projects work listed in the grant application is undetermined.

EBT No. 16 Expected to be First Steam Locomotive to Return to Revenue Service

December 13, 2020

The East Broad Top Railroad expects to have its first steam locomotive back in service sometime in 2021, but officials are not predicting yet when that will be.

The first locomotive that will be returned to revenue service will be No. 16, “sometime next year,” said Chief Mechanical Officer Dave Domitrovich in an interview with Trains magazine.

Officials said No. 16 is in better condition than No. 14, which has also been tabbed for restoration to operating condition.

No. 16 was overhauled during the 1950s and was never used in tourist train operation.

Thus it hasn’t experienced the wear and tear that Nos. 12, 14, 15 and 17 endured.

Domitrovich expects the return of No. 16 to steam to create excitement and interest in the railfan/railroad history community because it last operated in 1956.

EBT workers continue to work on Nos. 14, but it needs boiler work, including moderate minor sheet repair and replacement; new flues and tubes; and considerable running-gear work.

The drivers of No. 14 will be sent to the Strasburg Rail Road for reconditioning.

In the meantime, the EBT expects to operate a few diesel-powered excursions and is eyeing a return to scheduled service next May or June.

The historic narrow-gauge railroad in Pennsylvania was purchased in early 2020 by the non-profit EBT Foundation from the Kovalchick family, which in turn had rescued it from being scrapped in 1956.

The EBT operated as a tourist railroad between 1960 and 2011 before shutting down.

The property includes 27 miles of main line; yards, shops and headquarters; six Baldwin 2-8-2 steam locomotives; and passenger and freight rolling stock.

The EBT Foundation in tandem with the volunteer Friends of the East Broad Top group has been working to rebuild track, renovate a circa-1900 shop complex, and restore the rolling stock.

Scheduled service is expected to operate between Rockhill Furnace and the Colgate Grove picnic area, a distance of about four miles.

Long-range plans are to reopen the main line to Robertsdale and Woodvale. The EBT Foundation is studying reopening a long-abandoned mountainous branch line to offer scenic views.

Thus far track rehabilitation on Rockhill Furnace-Colgate Grove segment is about half done, with some 3,500 ties replaced out of a projected 6,500.

About half of the 18 switches in need of renewal have been completed, including a rare three-way stub switch at the south end of Rockhill Yard.

Other work that remains to be completed includes replacing the Runk Road bridge, which was damaged last spring when struck by an over-height logging truck that dented a beam and shoved the track off center.

The foundation also announced it has hired Jonathan Smith, 22, formerly with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, as a full-time sales and marketing representative.

EBT Eyes Reviving Branch Line Dormant Since 1940s

October 28, 2020

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.

EBT Gets Grant for Fire Suppression System

September 12, 2020

The East Broad Top Railroad will use a $100,000 grant to help pay for a fire suppression system in the its machine shop complex.

The grant was awarded by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.

“Fire suppression is a critical component of our stabilization and preservation effort at the East Broad Top,” said EBT Foundation General Manager Bradley Esposito in a statement.

The statement said upgrading the fire suppression system will EBT to open its shop for public demonstrations as well as ongoing essential repairs as the narrow gauge railroad works to resume operations.

Ceremony Marks EBT Reopening

August 14, 2020

A ceremony held Thursday (Aug. 13) marked the reopening of the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania.

It was the third time that the narrow gauge tourist line has reopened and was highlighted by Millie Kovalchick Linsky breaking a bottle of white grape juice on the coupler of 2-8-2 No. 12.

As a child, Linsky had performed the same ritual on Aug. 13, 1960, using a bottle of Canada Dry ginger ale.

Her grandfather, Nick Kovalchick, had acquired the former freight railroad in 1956 shortly it ceased operations.

The EBT is now owned by a foundation that is working to restore service.

Three generations of the Kovalchick family and more than 100 local residents, employees, and Friends of the East Broad Top attended the reopening ceremony.

EBT Foundation Chairman Henry Posner said the railroad is resuming the tradition of naming locomotives after key people in its history.

The first EBT locomotive so named is No. 16, which will be named “Nick” after Nick Kovalchick.

The first trip over the EBT since December 2011 was made by gas-electric car M-1 and presidential coach No. 20, Orbisonia.

They ran three-quarters of a mile north to Enyart Road, which is as far as track rehabilitation has reached.

Additional trains were to operate through the weekend.

None of the EBT’s steam locomotives were in steam, but they were displayed near the station and outside the roundhouse.

EBT Returning Some Things to Original Apperance

July 29, 2020

As restoration work continues at the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania, officials there are making an effort to restore the property as much as possible to its original appearance.

In some instances this has meant removing relics of the tourist era that began in 1960 such as the Orbisonia Station signs from a station that also served as the railroad’s general offices.

Before it became a tourist operation the East Broad Top was a common carrier narrow gauge railroad for 83 years hauling coal and other freight.

Lawrence Biemiller, communications director of the foundation that now owns the EBT, told Trains magazine that returning the railroad to its pre-tourism era appearance will be selective.

“Authenticity is a troublesome and elusive goal at a place like the EB,” he said.

“For one thing, the railroad in, say, 1900 would be almost unrecognizable to fans today — a road of through-truss bridges, wood hoppers, and Consolidations, with the engine yard and shops arranged much differently and no sign of the present station. I don’t see it as any more ‘right’ to pick some arbitrary year in the 1920s or 1940s as a restoration goal than to pick 1899.”

One obvious change to look more authentic will be removal of the yellow painted “home of” station signs.

They will be replaced with signs reading, “General Offices, East Broad Top Railroad.”

Yet some appearances of the tourist era will remain in place including locomotive No. 12 in the appearance it had during that era.

“I don’t think we’re going back to white tires and running boards, or brass boiler bands,” Biemiller said. “And I’m sure the name ‘Millie’ will stay, since the real Millie is returning Aug. 13 to help us celebrate the 60th anniversary of tourist service.”

The locomotive is named for Millie Kovalchick, daughter of then-EBT owner Nick Kovalchick.

However, other than No. 12, the locomotive cab roofs of other locomotives are going to remain red.

Some decisions have yet to be made, including a proposal to repaint the turntable black. It is now in red paint.

Also to be decided is how cars will be lettered and whether Caboose 28 will remain in green paint.

Some restorations are unlikely to occur due to cost and other concerns. That includes reinstallation of the wood side walk at the Meadow Street grade crossing in front of the station, and the wooden platform.

The EBT operated as a tourist railroad for 53 years through 2011 when it shut down.

Looking for Love in the Steam Restoration World

February 18, 2020

On Valentine’s Day last week a group in Pennsylvania found itself showered with love after it announced that it had reached an agreement to purchase the moribund East Broad Top narrow gauge railroad.

If all goes according to plan, steam locomotives will huff and chuff again in central Pennsylvania maybe as early as this year.

On the same day that the EBT resurrection was announced I ran across a column posted on the website of Trains magazine lamenting the lack of love that another steam restoration has received.

John Hankey, who has been involved in railroad restoration for more than 50 years, decried what he described as the “unwarranted criticism, vitriol, and downright nastiness” that has been directed by some toward the restoration of Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 by the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

Hankey’s column offers a cautionary tale about what may lie ahead for the EBT project once all of the feel good moments have passed and the realities of restoration have begun to sink in.

It wasn’t that long ago when the 1309 was feeling the love.

But an announced event for the triumphant return of the Baldwin-built locomotive was canceled and the restoration project was halted for lack of funding. That had to be embarrassing and frustrating for the WMSR.

Indeed, the 1309 restoration is still in the “pause” stage as the WMSR continues to shake the money trees for the final $390,000 the restorers say is needed to complete their work.

Thus far WMSR has spent $2.8 million on restoration of the 1309 and that has strained the tourist railroad’s finances.

Hankey’s column details the travails WMSR has faced over the years since its creation in the 1980s and that alone makes it a must read for anyone seeking to understand the restoration world.

There is much we don’t know yet about the finances of the newly formed East Broad Top Foundation.

We don’t know, for example, how much it paid to buy the EBT from the Kovalchick family that has owned the railroad since the middle 1950s.

We don’t know how much it will cost to rebuild the EBT and how those efforts will be financed.

We know that three high-profile luminaries from the railroad industry – Charles “Wick” Moorman, Bennett Levin and Henry Posner III – are involved and that suggests the foundation is being backed by some deep pockets or at least people who know where to find deep pockets.

Unless the EBT foundation has some fabulously wealthy benefactors it seems likely that at some point it, like the WMSR, will be appealing for money.

It also seems likely that the same negativity that has dogged the 1309 restoration efforts will eventually descend on the EBT if it hasn’t already.

Conflicts and tensions long have been part of the business of operating vintage railway equipment. Those long predate the Internet era, which has tended to magnify disputes by giving them a wide platform on which anyone can express gripes, grievances and opinions whether those are informed or not.

Judging by the casual comments I’ve heard over the years during railfan events there is much jealousy and no shortage of opinionated people in the railroad restoration world.

There also are more restoration projects chasing dollars than there are dollars to go around.

The potential for the 1309 to run again and for the EBT to come back to life probably are pretty good given the support that they have managed to attract.

Many were skeptical that a Union Pacific Big Boy steam locomotive would ever operate again under its own power, but it did last year.

Of course the Big Boy had the resources of a Class 1 railroad in its corner.

The underlying lesson is that it takes more than dreams to return a machine to steam.

The day that 1309 finally rounds Helmster’s Curve under its own power or that an EBT steam locomotive reaches Colgate Grove with a smoke plume trailing will be a most happy one for those who’ve spent innumerable hours working to make those days possible.

There will be dozens, if not hundreds, of photographers on hand to record those historic moments.

All of those chat list and social media comments that said the restoration efforts couldn’t or wouldn’t make it that far it won’t mean anything.