The East Broad Top Railroad - Then & Now


Loco No. 14 Black and White
It is hard to believe this photo was not taken at least 50 years ago! #14 is about to depart Orbisonia station with the second train of the 2002 operating season.

The East Broad Top Railroad was a narrow gauge (3') railroad built between 1872 and 1874 to connect the coal mines of Broad Top Mountain in the area of Robertsdale to the Pennsylvania Railroad Mainline in Mount Union, then called Drake's Ferry. The railroad also serviced the Rockhill Ironworks and two of the three largest silica brick factories in the United States, both located in Mount Union! The number of narrow gauge railroads in the east was quite remarkable, but the fact that the EBT outlasted them all, not to mention the standard gauge Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain RR, is even more incredible. The last coal train operated in April 1956 when the railroad was purchased by the Kovalchick Salvage Company. At this point in time, the East Broad Top was the last original narrow gauge railroad east of the Rockies! In 1960, the twin hamlets of Rockhill and Orbisonia asked Nick Kovalchick to operate a train as part of their bicentennial celebration. THE RAILROAD HAS BEEN OPERATING AS A TOURIST RAILROAD EVER SINCE on a five mile stretch of mainline! We cannot forget to mention that in the early tourist era, the Rockhill Trolley Museum opened, and continues to operate on the EBT's Shade Gap Branch. Nick Kovalchick passed on in 1975, but his son Joe and family have remarkably kept the railroad alive.

So what still remains intact 150 years after the railroad's conception? 33 miles of mainline trackage, including two tunnels, a beautiful 200+ foot concrete arch bridge, and a number of steel girder bridges, many structures including stations, water tanks, and section houses, and seven steam locomotives. Four of these 0-8-0 steam locomotives operated in 2001, #12, #14, #15, and #17. #16 and #18 are stored inoperable in the Rockhill roundhouse with the other four. #3, a standard gauge 0-6-0 switcher is stored in the Mount Union enginehouse. Another standard gauge 0-6-0 switcher, #6, was sold to the Whitewater Valley Railroad of Indiana. Understand that in the near future, we will be celebrating the 100th birthday of these locomotives! All were built by the mighty Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, PA, starting with #12 in 1911. Also intact are over 200 steel hopper cars built right in the Rockhill Shops and a collection of rolling stock, including coaches, cabooses, and other assorted freight cars, such as a tank car, box cars, and flat cars. Even more remarkable is the fully operational motorcar M-1, which still contains its original Brill Engine from the 1920s. This "Doodlebug" is the only one left of its kind. It too was assembled in the Rockhill shops. This shop complex is probably the only turn-of-the-century railroad shop intact in North America. Think of it this way. They were being used right up until 1956 when the doors were locked. Take a tour now and see them just like they were! The author of this site finds this simply amazing.

The future of this unique and amazing treasure is quite uncertain. The Kovalchick family has done far more than should be expected, and it is time for someone else to step up. We thank them and all of the railroad's employees who, over the years, have put countless hours into saving this truly historic marvel. The Friends of the East Broad Top, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the railroad, has been incredible recently, refurbishing and obtaining former EBT rolling stock, restoring several key structures on the railroad, and working on other projects. Our hopes and prayers are with the railroad and its future.


The East Broad Top Railroad & Coal Company (North to South):
Special Features (also planned for this page):
Loco No. 14 at Colgate Grove
#14 glistens in the spring sunlight at Colgate Grove on opening day, June 1, 2002.

The new and official...

EBT Link Logo

Spike Systems EBT Link Logo

FEBT Link Logo

RTY Logo
RTY Logo used with permission.

Back to the Local History Page

Return to the GSMRRClub Homepage

For more information, feel free to contact us!
Info@GSMRRClub.org

These pages were last updated on March 12, 2006.
Secretary and Webmaster Robert J. Savino authors most of the EBT pages.
Major contributions by GSMRRC Web Developer Anthony R. Tofani.
Additional photo contributions by Treasurer Robert E. Savino.

Contact Vice President and Webmaster Robert J. Savino:
Webmaster@GSMRRClub.org

This site is presented by the Garden State Model Railway Club, Incorporated. This page and all other pages and files within this site not explicitly Copyrighted are Copyrighted ©2002-2006 Robert J. Savino. They may not be distributed without explicit permission. All rights are reserved. More information is available at our Homepage.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional