News Wire Top 10 # 4: The East Broad Top Revival Continues

East Broad Top # 17 poses on the turntable at Rockhill Furnace, Pa. On June 11, 2021. A nearly identical engine, # 16, is expected to be back for the 2022 season. (Dan Cupper)

ROCKHILL FURNACE, Pa .– The East Broad Top Railroad narrow gauge plans to celebrate 2022 as another milestone – the 150th anniversary of the start of construction in 1872 – with further track restoration and a return to operation of steam locomotives.

While 2020 was the year of a miraculous rebirth for the historic south-central Pennsylvania line, 2021 built on this remarkable event with rapid track and rolling stock rehabilitation, and the start-up of new ones. programs.

A National Historic Landmark, the 33-mile railroad has escaped dismemberment twice, once in 1956 when a junkyard bought it after the end of public transport operations and relaunched a 4½-mile stretch for the steam tourism service 1960-2011, and again in 2020 when the Kovalchick family sold most of the property to EBT Foundation, Inc., a non-profit group backed by rail industry leaders Bennett Levin , Wick Moorman and Henry Posner III.

Partially dismantled steam locomotive at round hours
EBT 2-8-2 # 14 rests next to Car # 8 in the historic Rockhill Furnace shopping complex on October 9, 2021. # 14 is expected to be the second steam locomotive to return to service. (Dan Cupper)

Foundation chief executive Brad Esposito said the most significant achievement of 2021 was the resumption of scheduled passenger service, which began on June 11. an integral part of what we do. We couldn’t do it without them. We have made significant progress on the 16 (Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-2 engine, 1916) and look forward to deploying it in 2022. ”Engine No. 14 (1912) is also being restored, another from the EBT stable of six Baldwin Mikados.

In 2021, EBT deployed its own staff of just over a dozen full-time and a handful of part-time workers, with the voluntary help of the 1,600-member Friends group, which hosts meetings of monthly work and even more frequent track work sessions.

The c.1900 machine shop complex at Rockhill Furnace, comprising more than a dozen buildings, was once threatened with decay and deterioration, but a collaboration of the railroad, Friends and a contractor has brought the buildings to a state of stabilization in 2021. The complex is remarkably complete, with an overhead shaft and belt machine tool drive system.

Red and green central diesel drives the train across the bridge
The first regular East Broad Top passenger train since 2011 crosses Blacklog Creek just north of Rockhill Furnace, Pa. On June 11, 2021. EBT’s diesel-powered trains carried more than 11,000 passengers in 2021. (Dan Cupper)

During the year, EBT carried more than 11,000 passengers over 42 days of operation and organized store visits for 1,110 customers. “The response from the public is incredible,” Esposito said, “and that’s with a diesel engine. [locomotive]. Anticipation is building for next year with the steam operations.

He noted that visitors would stay three or four hours, enjoy the train ride, shop tour, and rides on the adjacent Rockhill Trolley Museum, which offers a 2 mile roundtrip electric train over part of the city. hold. of the former Shade Gap subsidiary of EBT. “We have worked with RTM to develop a unique visitor experience that is both entertaining and informative,” said Esposito. “And we also worked with the communities around the railroad.”

Another milestone, he said, was the installation of the first components of a fire extinguisher system that will protect the shopping complex and the eight-stall rotunda. Including the pumps and water supply which will be concealed inside the EBT coal landfill, this system is expected to be completed in 2022.

Colgate Grove’s dilapidated picnic shelters were razed in 2021, and prep work began on a new post and beam lodge. With washrooms and changing rooms, Esposito said, it will be a “sizable” structure designed not only for regular picnic passengers, but also for weddings, art festivals, concerts and other entertainment events. .

Man beside train talking to engineer
East Broad Top general manager Brad Esposito prepares to board the No. M-1 gas-electric on June 11, 2021, the first day of regular operations. Esposito emphasizes the important role the Friends of the East Broad Top played in the rebirth of the railroad. (Dan Cupper)

The Foundation was successful in securing public and private grants for work on the stores, the picnic, the Brill Co. railroad’s 1926 gasoline-powered electric car, and the extension of the track north to the Picnic -nique and now, south to the mountains that held the coal mines which provided the lion’s share of EBT’s tonnage in transit days.

“I can’t stress enough working with the Friends,” Esposito said. In addition to providing volunteer labor on stores, rolling stock and track, the group of volunteers helped fund the launch of an archival program. This project aims to catalog and ensure the long-term protection and accessibility of several pieces of railway and mining documents dating from the 19th century. The Friends matched the Foundation’s initial funding to hire archivist Julie Rockwell and an assistant in 2021, and this program will continue in 2022.

The pent-up enthusiasm for EBT has surfaced in the growth of Friends’ membership – which has doubled to over 1,600 since the Foundation purchased the railroad. In addition, the Friends fundraising campaign for 2021 exceeded its goal by raising $ 156,000, doubling the amount initially sought, and the 2022 campaign goal of $ 100,000 – only three months old – has already been reached. achieved 86% of goal.

Further reading from the news feed:

“East Broad Top notebook: damaged bridge replaced …”, May 14, 2021.

“East Broad Top reopens for regular service…”, June 14, 2021.

“East Broad Top notebook: work continues to restore the steam locomotive …”, August 21, 2021.

“East Broad Top completely reopens the tourist era line…”, October 11, 2021.

“Friends of East Broad Top Completes Rockhill Stores Job …”, October 11, 2021.

Coming December 29: Top 10 stories # 3.


Top 10 from the news feed: The finalists.

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Top 10, # 9 (tie): Amtrak puts equipment aside, refuses revenue.

Top 10, n ° 8: Climate challenges.

Top 10, n ° 7: Shortage of railway personnel.

Top 10, n ° 6: Electric locomotives with battery and hydrogen.

Top 10, n ° 5: Amtrak speaks with CSX, NS about the Gulf Coast service.

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