Rust and Dust #14221

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The Story

With special permission, I was able to photograph an old steam locomotive in the roundhouse at the East Broad Top Railroad. This is EBT #18, a Mikado-type locomotive with a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement. When she was built and delivered in 1920, #18 was the last and largest steam locomotive the narrow gauge East Broad Top acquired, not to mention the last.

The East Broad Top Railroad has six narrow gauge steam locomotives in the roundhouse at Rockhill Yard, just outside Orbisonia PA. All of them date from the early 1900s and were the workhorses of the daily railroad operations hauling coal, gannister, iron, timber, and people. Those are all the things that built America through the prime time of Pennsylvania’s industrial heyday of resource extraction.

Using just natural window light and a wide-angle lens set for long exposure, I was able to get a pretty good portrait of this very dusty steam locomotive in the roundhouse berth. She had a worn patina given by time, having been sitting for quite a while. Here sits East Broad Top #18 with its exhaust stack under the smokejack roof vent above as do all the locomotives stored there. A simple piece of plywood covers the stack to keep any rainwater out. Above, new roofing boards can be seen, evidence of the preservation work done by the all-volunteer caretaking group Friends of the East Broad Top. One of #18’s five sisters sits behind at the next window with the smokebox door open.

As of this writing, these old steam locomotives in the roundhouse have been housed inactive under roof for some years since the last short summer tourist trips were run in 2011. Even then, only a few locomotives were used but not #18 because her size and weight would have been too hard on the old track. Actually, the old locomotive has been sitting since 1956 when the East Broad Top stopped running.

Now under the management of a new preservation non-profit group in 2020 called the EBT Foundation, the railroad is being refurbished to run again in tourist operations WIth grant money coming in, even more of the old mainline will be restored to run again and future plans can be seen on their website.

A true throwback in time, the East Broad Top Railroad is a strong tie directly back to Pennsylvania’s industrial past. The thirty-three mainline miles of this little narrow gauge railroad are still in place and the operational state charter still stands. All the maintenance and shop facilities are still there at Rockhill and intact too. Soon the standstill will be over. It is hoped to restore all the locomotives over time, then these narrow steam gauge engines will have fires lit that will bring them back to life.

At the other end of things in the roundhouse, see the locomotive tender picture In The Roundhouse #14109. It’s an interesting view taken through the man door leading into the building from the outside.

On the same visit, I made an outdoor panorama of this roundhouse called Stillness In The Roundhouse #14193. The big doors were rolled open and I shot from the weathered wooden deck of the creaky manual turntable. That image shows the tops of the aforementioned smokejacks just above the roofline and the back end of the tenders with their red numbers.

For more information about all things about this little railroad, see the East Broad Top RR’s official website.

Location: East Broad Top’s roundhouse at Rockhill Yard, Orbisonia, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. Picture and story © Andrew Dierks

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