EBT Southbound #15279
On a sunny afternoon in early Spring, an East Broad Top Railroad mixed train heads south toward Orbisonia. The train is mostly coal hopper cars with a few passenger cars on the back in this reenactment, but back in the day, the EBT did indeed run many coal trains with a single passenger car on the back. Most times it was a car full of miners coming and going to work at the coal mines in Robertsdale.
Doing all the work, the newly and fully restored #16 steam locomotive spins black coal smoke into the sky. Not long ago, this 100-year-old steam locomotive was in roundhouse storage covered in decades-long dust like the one in the inset picture below. The steam train also travels on the newly restored track all the way as well…note the new rock ballast underneath the train.
It’s amazing this little narrow gauge railroad still exists at all after closing as a commercial carrier in 1956 when it was sold for scrap…the entire railroad was to be torn up for salvage including the locomotives and cars. But Kovalchic Metals didn’t do as expected and kept the railroad as it was, eventually offering popular tourist rides over a short section that continued for decades.
It was a small tourist operation that eventually dwindled and stopped in 2011, leaving the future of this unique railroad and important historical artifact in limbo. However, a recent acquisition by a railroad-focused non-profit group brought new leadership and resources enough to begin a complete restoration that will eventually expand operations. The hope is the East Broad Top Railroad might be totally restored from one end to the other and be a valued site for all railroad enthusiasts everywhere to visit. Over time, that day may indeed come.
A lot of needed work has already been done toward that goal. Steam engine #16 was rebuilt and passed the FRA safety inspection to run again after decades of sitting in the roundhouse. Other locomotives on the property are set to be restored as well. The East Broad Top now has four brand-new passenger cars for its tourist trade, modern steel replicas of turn-of-the-century transportation. In addition to the current track restoration, more track miles are currently being restored south to Saltillo.
Perhaps even more important than the physical things that were improved to bring this railroad back to life, a new website www.eastbroadtop.com was created to reach the public through modern means. The website is very well done and showcases the many themed events at the EBT throughout the year, including shop tours and trolley rides at the nearby trolley museum. Overall, the new website has proven to be very effective in getting the word out about all those themed activities year-round at the East Broad Top Railroad and serves as the main portal for booking a ticket to any of them.
Another further interesting website to visit is the Friends of the East Broad Top, febt.org. As the FEBT says, they’re about preserving a time capsule like no other, which the East Broad Top truly is.
Location: Colgate Grove at Shirleysburg, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.
Up Next: Old Girl, New Tricks #15278