Posts Tagged ‘East Broad Top steam locomotives’

EBT Continues Restoration Work, Planning More

October 11, 2021

The historic East Broad Top Railroad and allied Friends of the East Broad Top group recently shared some updates on their efforts to get the Pennsylvania narrow gauge tourist railroad in to service.

That included finishing track rehabilitation to the Colgate Grove picnic area and wye.

The work, included removing brush, replacing cross ties and installing ballast, was completed in time for a EBT Friends annual reunion last weekend.

Opening the track to Colgate Grove adds another mile and a half to excursion train service although surfacing work remains to be completed.

Scheduled excursion train service returned on June 11 over three miles between Rockhill Furnace and Runk Road.

The EBT is now turning its attention to rehabilitating the track south of Rockhill Furnace with the goal of providing excursions into a scenic mountainous area once dotted with coal mines.

This is work is getting a boost from the EBT Friends group which recently pledged to assist with this work.

The railroad would like to reopen 20 miles of track in a region that has not seen regular EBT train service since 1956.

Thus far the excursion trains have been pulled by a center-cab General Electric switcher with occasional special appearances of a gas-electric car built by the EBT in 1927.

However, shop workers are seeking to restore EBT steam locomotives to operating condition.

EBT officials say Nos. 16 and 14 may be the first locomotives to begin revenue service followed by No. 15, which was the last steam locomotive to operate on the railroad before operations ceased in 2011.

The EBT Friends group also said it is raising money to rebuild a razed passenger and freight station and water tank in Saltillo, located 7.8 miles south of Rockhill Furnace.

The first step is to raise $25,000 for preliminary work to be done by architect John Bowie of Philadelphia, a longtime FEBT member and author of the Historic American Engineering Record study of the Saltillo depot before it was demolished.

Bowie will donate his time for that phase of the project.

EBT General Manager Brad Esposito said the 275-foot-long 1904 steel trestle over Aughwick Creek at Pogue although it will need abutment work.

He described tunnels at Sideling Hill and Ray’s Hill as “not great, but not terrible.”

The EBT Friends group has been working for years to help stabilize the shops complex in Rockhill Furnace where some structures were sinking into the ground; leaning at precarious angles; and suffering roof, rafter, foundation, and window damage

The East Broad Top Foundation, which owns the railroad, has raised $156,919 thus far this year.

The foundation and the EBT Friends group both said their membership has increased significantly since the foundation acquired the railroad.

EBT Restoration Work Continues to Progress

October 5, 2021

Officials of the historic East Broad Top narrow gauge tourist railroad in Pennsylvania said track repair and restoration of shop facilities continues at a rapid pace.

Track work has involved replacing thousands of crossties while the shops in Orbisonia have been stabilized.

EBT has purchased a standard-gauge tamper that it converted to narrow gauge use.

Excursion trains are currently operating over 2.5 miles of track between Orbisonia and Runk Road fill.

Work on the Orbisonia shops has included restoring line shafts in the main building and stopping the structure from sinking further into the ground.

Officials said the shops were built over a marsh and in some places structures had sunk as many as 3 feet.

Every building in the complex has been restored to a level footing.

On Sept. 16, EBT held a golden spike ceremony to mark the first time since 2011 that a train has operated to the Colgate Grove picnic area where trains have traditionally been turned.

EBT hopes to be able to resume regular excursions to Colgate Grove by late this year.

No date has been announced yet when steam operations will return to the EBT although shop forces continue to work to restore the railroad’s fleet of five steam engines.

The first steamer expected to return to operation will be 2-8-2 No. 16, which last steamed in 1956 and never operated during the tourist era.

EBT 16 May Steam This Year

August 22, 2021

East Broad Top Railroad officials won’t say when its first steam locomotive will be restored to operating condition, but indicated it could be this year.

The locomotive, Baldwin-built 2-8-2 No. 16, continues to progress with work completed on its air tanks, dynamo, piping, two air pumps, two Hancock Inspirator injectors, new ceramic insulation, and new boiler jacketing.

Trains magazine reported on its website on Saturday that the tender tank for No. 16 was returned to Curry Rail Services for additional work.

EBT workers are rehabilitating passenger cars at the rate of one car every week or two.

Workers also are seeking to finish rebuilding the track in a quarter-mile section to enable trains to reach Colgate Grove, the traditional northern terminus for trains between 1961 and 2011.

The work includes replacing ties, improving drainage, and clearing brush on an S-curve north of Runk Road Bridge.

EBT at 60 and Looking to the Future

August 18, 2020

East Broad Top Railroad No. 12 Mikie and No. 15 sit outside Orbisonia station.

This past weekend the East Broad Top Railroad celebrated its 60th Anniversary since it started operation in 1960 as a tourist line.

The six steam engines currently do not run although four were out on display. The other two are currently being worked on and will hopefully be operational next year.

Trains did run but they were either hauled by diesel or the M1 gas electric doodlebug. They didn’t run very far as only a mile of track has been rehabilitated.

Much work has been done in fixing the line including stone ballast which the EBT never had.  Being a coal hauling short line it used cinder and slag ballast only for all the years it was operational.

The new ownership group is investing a lot of effort in restoring the line.

The first goal is to restore operation to the five mile stretch that the tourist line used. After that other parts of the line may be put back in service.

Still a fun time was had by all who visited.  I was able to get there on Friday Aug. 14 and here’s a few pictures from that day. I hope to return many more times in the future.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

EBT No. 17 sits outside the Orbisonia shops.

Gas electric M1 pulls into the station.

A view down the track and the new stone ballast and track work.

The M7 hauls a passenger train over a newly re-decked bridge.

Fabulous Fall Fun in 1987

June 23, 2020

Nickel Plate Road 765 at Clarksfield, Ohio, on Sept. 27, 1987.

My passion for steam was evident in the Fall of 1987.

In the 1980s Norfolk Southern was still operating between Orrville and Bellevue. For several years Nickel Plate Road No. 765 pulled trips sponsored by the Orrville Railroad Heritage or Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum.

Also during the ’80s the East Broad Top still had four operating 2-8-2s. Usually Nos. 12 and 17 were out just for specials as the Fall Spectacular. The regular tourist train was No. 14 or No. 15.

Finally former Pennsylvania Railroad  K-4 No. 1361 was operating crew training trips from Vail to Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

I caught one on a spectacular autumn day not knowing the following year would be the last time it would be in steam.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

East Broad Top Nos. 14 and 17 at Orbisonia, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 10, 1987.

EBT Nos. 12, 14, 15 and 17 at Colgate Grove during a rare quadruple-header.

EBT 14 and 17 at Colgate Grove.

Nickel Plate Road No. 765 pulling a New River trip at Montgomery, West Virginia, on Oct. 18, 1987.

Pennsylvania Railroad No. 1361 at Vail, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 25, 1987. That’s steam impresario Doyle McCormack in the SP cap.

PRR 1361 at Milesburg, Pennsylvania, which is the junction of the branch to Bellefonte with the Bald Eagle Valley branch.

PRR 1361 at Bellfonte, Pennsylvania, the county seat of Centre County, on Oct. 25, 1987.

EBT Expects to Have 2 Engines Operating in 2021

May 13, 2020

Paul Woodring and Bob Farkas were on hand to see East Broad Top No. 12, “Millie,” headed for Orbisonia on May 1, 1982. (Photograph by Robert Farkas)

The East Broad Top Railroad said two of its six steam locomotives are expected to return to service as early as 2021.

In a news release, the railroad said it has hired a small number of employees and commenced repairing track that has been out idle for several years.

The EBT has six 2-8-2 Mikado-type locomotives and all six have been inspected for their suitability to be returned to service.

One of the two Baldwin-built engines that inspectors said could make an early return to service has not operated since 1956.

But locomotive No. 16 was overhauled in 1955 and inspectors concluded that it is in good condition.

No. 14 is the other locomotive earmarked for a potential return to service next year.

It was overhauled in the 1980s and had been used for tourist train operations.

EBT officials said work will begin shortly on No. 16 with work on No. 14 set to begin this summer.

“We have taken a very methodical and detailed approach in determining which locomotives would be the first candidates for repair, and we are extremely fortunate to have a very talented and experienced group of steam experts advising and assisting us in getting our program rolling,” said EBT general manager Brad Esposito.

Workers have also renovated stall No. 8 at the EBT roundhouse to create a work space.

The project including pouring a new concrete floor that includes in-floor radiant heating.

Modern lighting was installed and a new electrical system was installed.

Stall eight is now separated from the rest of the roundhouse with metal sheathing to provide fire protection.

The roundhouse and machine shops will receive a fire-suppression system. Tracks in stalls five through eight were rebuilt.

Also rebuilt was the track leading into the locomotive shop and a stub switch leading to the turntable.

EBT has returned to service two hopper cars that will be used to spread ballast in future track projects, including repairing the main line to Colgate Grove this summer.

Other work set to begin soon includes stabilizing the blacksmith shop and repairing the main shops.

Volunteers from the Friends of the East Broad Top group have assisted with repairs, including starting work on a combine car.

Volunteer work has been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the membership roster of the Friends group has grown to more than a thousand.

The pandemic in part also led to cancellation of a planned open hour in early June.

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.

East Broad Top No. 12

November 23, 2019

East Broad Top No. 12 is westbound to Orbisonia, Pennsylvania, on May 1, 1982. Paul Woodring and Jim Bacon were with me when I photographed this steamer.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

East Broad Top Memories

August 7, 2019

It is May 1, 1982. Robert Farkas, Paul Woodring and Jim Bacon are chasing and photographing East Broad Top No. 12, which is en route to Orbisonia, Pennsylvania.

The three were in Pennsylvania to attend the EBT Railfan Weekend.

Paul remembers that they may have been there only on Saturday. He went on to describe that day:

“It would have been only the second time I was ever at the EBT when it was operating.

“Jim may still have been a member of the Akron Railroad Club at the time, part of the Warren area contingent who rode to the meetings together that dropped out when we went to meeting on Friday nights because Howard Murphy kept his TV repair shop open on Friday evenings.

“There were at least three of the EBT Mikes running, and maybe four, plus the M-1 gas-electric doodlebug back then. I believe back then it was capable of pulling a trailer, [which was] a caboose at that point.

“I don’t believe we rode any trains, just photographed them. It was a very quick round-trip, starting and ending at night.

“I remember having a terrible sinus headache for several hours late Saturday afternoon.

“Jim was into trying to do O. Winston Link-style syncroflash action night photography in medium format and Bob helped him set up for a shot of the last train of the evening crossing the bridge just out of Orbisonia station.

“I no longer remember if the attempt succeeded or not. Doing it with a bunch of small flashes linked together in series either all works or all fails.

“So, we went home well after dark.

“Jim has stayed involved with the Friends of the EBT, leading the ‘Boiler House Rats’ restoration crew that has done yeoman work in restoring many of the shop buildings around the yard in Orbisonia in the past 10 years.”

Photograph by Robert Farkas

This posting has been edited to correct an error in the original version. See the comment below for further information.