Coming Into Rockhill #15301

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The Story

On a foggy morning, East Broad Top #16 pulls a train from the south into Rockhill Yard. The harp switch stands with their red and white heads are at attention for the go-by. Black coal smoke from #16 trails behind and up into the gray heavens, mixing with the foggy gray atmosphere.

In this modern-day reenactment of the 1920s industrial age, this train is much like the coal trains the East Broad Top hauled back in the common carrier days that lasted until 1956. Short coal trains of up to 22 hopper cars with a combine car on the end usually did the job. The train crews actually preferred the combine or other passenger cars to the usual caboose due to a far better ride. Look closely and you’ll see that combine car in the far distance on the tail of the train.

Coming out of the thick hanging haze of gray, the narrow gauge train passes a railroad trackage rarity: a three-way stub switch. The switch is thought to be the last of its kind anywhere in North America, and certainly the only one left where it was first laid down over a century ago. Even further, it is still used every day in railroad operations, which is an interesting mechanical feat.

Overall, the narrow gauge three-way stub switch has lasted quite a while with more to go, just like the East Broad Top #16 locomotive running past in this train picture.

Location: a view into the 1920s industrial age at Rockhill Yard, Orbisonia, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. Picture and story © Andrew Dierks


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