Home Stretch #15272
On a sunny winter afternoon, the East Broad Top Railroad passenger train pulled by the #16 steam engine heads toward the station at Rockhill Furnace in Huntingdon County PA. It goes under the leafless tree limbs of February and over the first yard switch of Rockhill Furnace yard. There is new gravel track ballast laid down too because this is the very first day of operation after restoration efforts began.
This picture is from the inaugural run of this passenger train during the 2023 Winter Spectacular. It was a big red-letter day for railroad fans and they came out by the hundreds to see and ride this steam-powered narrow gauge train, powered by one of the original locomotives that worked the line. I saw a multitude of out-of-state license plates walking through the parking lots; people came from all over for a look and a ride. Lots of them.
It’s amazing the little narrow gauge still exists at all after closing as a commercial carrier in 1956, when it was sold for scrap…the entire railroad was to be scrapped including the locomotives and cars. But Kovalchic Metals didn’t do that and kept the railroad as it was, eventually offering 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 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 and over time, that day may indeed come.
A lot of needed work has already been done toward that goal. For this grand opening during the 2023 Winter Spectacular, steam engine #16 was rebuilt and passed the FRA safety inspection to run again after decades of sitting in the roundhouse. She was pulling four brand-new passenger cars for the day, replicas of turn-of-the-century transportation. The short length of the current operating track had new ballast and some ties replaced among other trackwork.
Perhaps even more important than the physical things that were improved, 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 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 the 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 they say, they’re about preserving a time capsule like no other, which the East Broad Top truly is.
Location: Orbisonia, Rockhill Furnace, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.
Up Next: Ready To Run #15273