Posts Tagged ‘narrow gauge railroads’

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.

Steam Saturday: Narrow Gauge Lines Closer to Home

October 17, 2020

Maybe you often get the itch to venture to Colorado to explore narrow gauge, but making such trip isn’t feasible.

Closer to home, though, are two narrow-guage operations, the Huckleberry Railroad near Flint, Michigan, and the East Broad Top at Orbisonia, Pennsylvania.

The latter is still not back in operation but should be within the next year or two.

In the meantime, here are a images made at both railroads in 1994 and 1995.

The top and next three images were made in September 1994 on the Huckleberry Railroad and feature ex-Alaska Railroad No. 2, formerly the 152.

Following that are image of EBT Nos. 12, 15 and 17 made in October 1994 and October 1995.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Helps Make up for Pandemic Disappointment

August 25, 2020

Where standard gauge used to end at Antonito, Colorado.

I had been looking forward to a Colorado trip that would have started last weekend.

It was to be the Victorian Locomotive Roundup on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad out of Antonito, Colorado.

It was scheduled to feature four pre-1900 steam locomotives operating on photo specials on mostly inaccessible parts of the railroad. I had tickets for Aug. 25, which was to feature recently restored Denver & Rio Grande 4-6-0 No. 168 & D&RG 2-8-0 No. 425 (315).

With the COVID-19 pandemic going on I cancelled the trip and shortly afterward the railroad postponed the photo special to next year.

In July 1992, Ursula and I used our vacation time and planned a trip that featured Colorado and California.

The first part of the trip began at the Cumbres & Toltec. With the combination photos I took and the video that Ursula shot the sting of this year’s trip being cancelled kind of went away.

Below are a sample of what we got from Chama, New Mexico and Los Pinos, Colorado.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

at Chama, New Mexico, on July 19, 1992.

At Chama.

Between Chama and Cumbres Pass.

Between Chama and Cumbres Pass.

At Cumbres Pass.

At Cumbres Pass.

At Los Pinos, Colorado.

At Los Pinos, Colorado.

At Windy Point, Colorado.

D&RG No. 168 was donated in August 1938 and put on display in Antlers Park in Colorado Springs. It was removed from display in early 2016. Operating restoration was completed by Cumbres & Toltec in October 2019.

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.

East Broad Top Railroad Sold to Foundation

February 14, 2020

Looking toward the shops in Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania, in August 1962. You can see freight and passenger cars, EBT M-1 gas-electric car, two steamers (I believe 12 and 14), and Johnstown Traction 311. (Photograph courtesy of Robert Farkas collection)

The East Broad Top Railroad has been sold to a non-profit group whose backers include Charles “Wick” Moorman, Bennett Levin and Henry Posner III.

The sale was announced on Friday by the EBT Foundation, which will own 27 miles of the EBT from the south end of the concrete-arch bridge over the Aughwick River below Mount Union to the road crossing in Wood Township.

The foundation said it also acquired the narrow-gauge railroad’s shops, rolling stock, and equipment from the Kovalchick family.

In a news release, the parties noted that the EBT is a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Although events will be held this year, regular operations are not expected to get underway until 2021.

“This is the best possible outcome for the railroad, which has been in my family for two generations,” says Joseph Kovalchick, whose father, Nick Kovalchick, purchased the EBT after its coal mines closed in 1956.

The Kovalchick family will continue to own coal-company property that had been jointly owned with the railroad.

Kovalchick said in a statement that his father never intended to scrap the railroad after buying it.

“But it is clear that a for-profit business model is not sustainable. Our faith in the new model is reflected in both the sale and the Kovalchick family’s ongoing role on the board of the new non-profit,” he said.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Brad Esposito, a 20-year veteran of the Buffalo & Pittsburgh led the effort to purchase the EBT.

He was joined by EBT enthusiasts David Brightbill, Lawrence Biemiller, and Stephen Lane.

Esposito will become the general manager of the railroad.

He said the EBT Foundation is committed to preserving and operating the EBT as a steam railroad that will provide education about the role of railroads in local and national history as well as help to promote local and regional tourism and economic growth.

The EBT closed in 2011 and work needs to be done to rehabilitate its tracks, locomotives and passenger cars.

This work will also include installation of a fire-suppression system in the shops and roundhouse, and stabilization of structures in the Rockhill Furnace complex.

The foundation plans to work with the volunteer group Friends of the East Broad Top, which has sought to preserve the property since 1983.

It will also work with the Rockhill Trolley Museum, a volunteer organization that since 1960 has operated over the former EBT’s Shade Gap Branch.

Also involved in advising the foundation are Linn Moedinger, former president of the Strasburg Rail Road, and Rod Case, a partner at the consulting firm Oliver Wyman who leads its railway practice.

The Allegheny Ridge Corporation, which manages the region’s state-designated Heritage Area, was also listed in a news release as a supporter of the foundation.

The EBT was built between 1872 to 1874 to haul coal to a new iron furnace in the center of the state. At one time it also interchanged coal with the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The 33-mile EBT survived the collapse of the local iron industry at the turn of the 20th century and was purchased in 1956 by the Kovalchick Salvage Company of Indiana, Pennsylvania.

The railroad has a gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches and is the the only original narrow-gauge railroad surviving east of the Rocky Mountains.

Its shops complex dates to the 1880s and was expanded between 1905 and 1907.

Housed in the roundhouse in Rockhill Furnace are six narrow-gauge steam locomotives built for the EBT by Philadelphia’s Baldwin Locomotive Works between 1911 and 1920.

The roundhouse also contains an M-1 gas-electric car built in 1927 with plans and parts from Philadelphia’s J.G. Brill Companyand Westinghouse Electric.

The EBT passenger car fleet is believed to date to the 1890s.

Track remains in place over nearly the entire 33-mile main line between Robertsdale and the former PRR connection in Mount Union.

Norfolk Southern now operates the former PRR mainline between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

The railroad’s new website is eastbroadtop.com

Nov. 2 Photo Shoot Planned at East Broad Top

September 17, 2019

A photo shoot is being planned for Nov. 2 at the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania.

The event will be limited to 30 photographers and feature afternoon and evening photo opportunities.

The starting time is 1 p.m. A dinner break about 4:30 p.m. will precede the night photo shoot.

Tickets are $149 per person. Information is available by contacting Lawrence Biemiller at biemiller@mac.com.

Photographers will be able to make images of a 1918 Baldwin-built steam locomotive on the EBT turntable and of the 1927 gas-electric unit in multiple locations around the Rockhill Furnace yard.

There will be antique vehicles and crew members wearing period dress.

Other equipment will be spotted around the yard for the event, and some of it may be moved to provide variety. No rides will be offered on any equipment.
Lighting experts will help create the nighttime shooting opportunities in and around the roundhouse.

EBT No. 17, a 2-8-2 will be featured on the turntable. It pulled the narrow gauge railroad’s last mainline coal trains in March of 1956 and pulled tourist trains through 2001.

The gas-electric car, M-1, was built in the EBT’s shops using blueprints and components from Brill and Westinghouse.

It is reported to be the only such piece of equipment built for an American narrow-gauge railroad that remains operable today.

The EBT has been closed since late 2011 and has been offered for sale by its owners, Joe and Judy Kovalchick.

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.

In Search of Keystone State Steam: Part 2

November 3, 2016

dsc_3509

Second of a series.

Eastern Pennsylvania is known for its anthracite coal. Often called hard coal, anthracite is known for its sub-metallic luster, high carbon content, lack of impurities, and having the highest calorific content of all types of coal except graphite.

The mining of anthracite in Pennsylvania is not what it used to be, but it is still mined and there remains a relatively stable market for it.

In Ashland, Pennsylvania, the Pioneer Tunnel Coal mine takes visitors inside a horizontal drift mine that extend 1,800 feet into the side of the Mahanoy Mountain.

Today passengers can ride on a three-quarter mile ride around Mahanoy Mountain behind the Henry Clay, an 0-4-0 tank engine that was built in 1927 by the Vulcan Works.

A highlight of that trip is viewing the remains of the strip mines, but the journey ends at the Pioneer Tunnel, which is open to visitors.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

dsc_3511

dsc_3531

dsc_3536

EBT Group Buys More Track of Fabled Line

March 21, 2014

Another segment of the East Broad Top Railroad has been sold to a group seeking to preserve the historic narrow-guage line.

The East Broad Top Preservation Association said it has purchased from the Kovalchick family four miles of track and right-of-way from Mount Union to the Aughwick Creek bridge.

“It has been a long process, much longer than we thought,” said Association President Larry Salone.

Salone is seeking private and commercial financing to purchase the rest of the railroad from Aughwick to Alvan, including the section between Orbisonia and Colgate Grove that operated as a tourist railroad for many years.

The Association will hire an engineering firm to review the condition of the four-arch concrete bridge over the creek.

Track workers are expected to soon resume installing ties in the dual-gauge track in the Mount Union yard area and will proceed south to the industrial park near the village of Allenport.

The Association has asked the federal Surface Transportation Board to set up a new “EBT Connecting Railroad” to operate standard gauge track in Mount Union from a connection with Norfolk Southern at CP Jacks. The trackage serves an industrial park that now does not have any active rail customers.