Twin Towers of Rockhill #14108

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The Story

A visual landmark above the small side-by-side towns of Rockhill Furnace and Orbisonia, these twin smokestacks rise from the East Broad Top’s railroad shop. Some old coal cars on nearby yard tracks rust away as a little bit of the March snow remains on the ground and the mountain behind. The entire EBT Railroad is an intact leftover from an earlier industrial age unlike any other and these railroad shop buildings are an important part of that legacy.

As with all railroad companies, the railroad shop took care of all manner of maintenance for the EBT Railroad. It was the mechanical heart of the little narrow gauge railroad containing nearly everything to keep it running day to day. If it could be fixed, made, or copied it was done here working in metal and wood by skilled local workers. In fact, they made nearly 300 steel hopper cars as seen in the picture. Even the steel to make these twin smokestacks were rolled into shape and riveted together in this machine shop.

All of the old early 1900s metal and woodworking machines are still inside this 1920s railroad shop, including the overhead line shaft that powered them with belt-driven leather. Two large coal furnaces made steam to power those belts and these iconic twin smokestacks above them let the smoke go into the sky. They’re inseparable from the East Broad Top landscape at Rockhill Furnace, just as are the station, yard tracks, and roundhouse. For that reason, these tall twin smokestacks are a defining visual feature there.

Inside, all the hand tools and workbenches remain just as they were on the last day of work in 1956. There are also brass and iron foundries and all the hand-carved wooden shapes for part-making sand molds too. All in all, this railroad shop from the turn of the last century is a complete 1920s industrial age time capsule. This rarity has always been worth saving and now it will be.

Today, after over a dormant decade of not running tourist trains at all, the East Broad Top is about to revive once again. A new non-profit organization called the EBT Foundation has been formed to restore, revitalize, and run the railroad which has already begun. You can also find out more by going to their website website. A companion organization called the Friends Of The East Broad Top will be working alongside the Foundation. Over many years, this all-volunteer group has been patching and fixing the very old wood shop buildings at Rockhill to keep them upright and viable, among other things.

As of 2023, these tall twin smokestacks were cut down by 20 feet for safety reasons, but they still stand iconic and high above the Rockhill Yard.

From another angle, here’s another picture called Still Standin’ #14194 at the Rockhill railroad shop that shows the smokestacks and the weathered shop buildings before restoration by the FEBT.

Location: Rockhill Furnace and Orbisonia, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. Picture and story © Andrew Dierks

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