Posts Tagged ‘Friends of the East Broad Top’

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 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 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.

Future of Pennsylvania’s EBT Remains Murky

August 27, 2019

The East Broad Top in August 1962 in happier days. The image was made by the late Ed Treesh.

The future of the Pennsylvania-based East Broad Top narrow gauge railroad remains uncertain eight years after it ceased operating.

The railroad’s owner says the property is for sale, although he won’t disclose the asking price.

A recent report on the Trains magazine website cited sources that placed the price at $8 million.

That includes the track, buildings, Mikado steam locomotives, hopper cars and thousands of acres of land.

The owner, Joseph Kovalchick, of Indiana, Pennsylvania, is insisting on selling the property in a single package.

Kovalcick acquired the railroad in 1956, but subsequently shut down its freight operations. In 1960 the EBT resumed operating as a tourist railroad.

The Trains report said it would cost millions of dollars to rebuild the steam locomotives to current standards, replace hundreds of ties, repair bridges, and market the operation.

Some former EBT employees have in recent years mowed the grass around the Rockhill Furnace station and painted the buildings.

Friends of the East Broad Top has undertaken volunteer work at Rockhill Furnace and Robertsdale to stabilize and restore buildings and rolling stock.

Kovalchick has paid for some of the materials used and has permitted the group to conduct periodic tours of the roundhouse and shops complex.

Saving the EBT will require a benefactor with deep pockets. No interest in taking over the EBT has been shown by the federal or state governments.

Some fear that when Kovalchick, who is in his 80s, is no longer around that the EBT may pass into history as have other narrow gauge railroads that have not been preserved.

Narrow Gauge Combine Moved to EBT

November 29, 2017

A combine car from the former Tuscarora Valley Railroad has been moved to the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania.

Car No.101 is in temporary storage on the EBT at Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania, where the Friends of the East Broad Top are helping to restore the car, which ran on a narrow-gauge line in another part of the state.

The car is the last remaining piece of rolling stock left from the 3-foot-gauge Tuscarora Valley, which ran for 27 miles from Port Royal to Blairs Mills in Juniata and Huntingdon counties between 1891 and 1934.

The Tuscarora Valley had intended to connect with the EBT’s Shade Gap branch at Richvale but never did.

The combine was built as a coach in the 1880s by Billmeyer & Small of York, Pennsylvania, and converted into a combine in 1916. The Tuscarora bought the car used in 1895.

In recent years, the car has been serving as a woodshed on a farm whose owner, Bernie Rowels, donated the carbody to the Friends of the East Broad Top.

After the Friend group was unable to move the car from Rowels’ property, the Darrow family acquired it and began restoration work.

The car has since been bought by Stephen Lane, a part-time steam engineer on the Everett Railroad, who arranged to have it sent to Rockhill Furnace.

The EBT is for sale and a long-term storage agreement cannot be achieved at this time. The EBT has not carried passengers since 2011.