Friends of the East Broad Top
A nonprofit society dedicated to the preservation and restoration
of the East Broad Top Railroad National Historic Landmark
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14th Reunion Logo

14th Annual Reunion a Success

by Deane Mellander
photos as noted

Originally published in the Timber Transfer, Vol. 13, No. 2, Fall 1996

Doubleheaded northbound
Nos. 12 and 14 are double-headed on a north-bound passenger train approaching the bridge at McMullen summit.
Deane Mellander photo

Over 160 Friends gathered once again in Orbisonia for the annual Reunion. Three days of near-perfect weather highlighted the activities. The event got off to a start with the Annual Meeting, held Friday evening in the Lion's Hall. Here members of the Board of Directors reviewed the past year's events.

Chairman Hank Inman reported on the progress of the restoration of the Old Post Office in Robertsdale. Much work has been done there this year, and it is expected that the major structural work needed to make the building habitable will be accomplished over the next 12 months. Hank Inman also reported for Dave Bucher on the progress with the replica trucks for Combine 16. Virtually all the parts are now done with the exception of the journal boxes. It is expected that the boxes will be completed before the end of the year and the original trucks borrowed from the Tweetsie Railroad can be returned. All that is left is to locate suitable wheel and axle sets, and then make the journal bearings to match.

Vagel Keller, Vice President for Member Services, reported on plans to restructure the membership year to make it more consistent. The preferred method will be to regularize the dues year to an annual basis, while regularizing the publication schedule of the Timber Transfer so that members will receive four issues within their dues year. The Board will be finalizing details and reporting to members within the next couple of months.

President Deane Mellander reported on general administrative matters, noting that the organization was on a good financial footing approaching the major dues-receiving period. He also reported that the reprint of the book EAST BROAD TOP by Lee Rainey and Frank Kyper had been recently received and will be available for sale. Funds were borrowed from the Life Member Account to help pay for the printing costs, and those funds will be repaid out of sale proceeds. Other profits will go to the Company Store account and to the Restoration Fund.

Mike Kandolf, Company Store Manager, reported that he has been working with Funaro & Camerlengo to revise the HO Coach kit. The revisions would include a roof with hollow clerestory and detail parts from Dave Hoffman.

Rockhill Furnace roundhouse
A working roundhouse always has a certain magic. Nightfall only increases that sense of wonder as the sounds, sights and smells all blend into a remarkable cacophony.
Deane Mellander photo

On Saturday morning, things got right off to a busy start. Mike Kandolf and Craig Williams were kept busy at the Company Store tables. The reprint of the Rainey/Kyper book appeared to be a big seller. Gary Altschuler, Mike Mitzelfeld, and Dana Maranto also had lots of goodies to peruse. Folks from the Cincinnati area were there to promote the 1997 National Narrow Gauge Convention in the Queen City. The convention will be held in mid-August and FEBT expects to have a significant presence at this major event.

After a mid-day pause so everyone could enjoy the weather and all the train activity, the Lion's Hall re-opened so folks could view the contest models and cast their ballots. Some folks elected to partake of the 3:00 sitting for dinner so they could make the late afternoon trains and/or the night train. The rest assembled at the Fire Hall at 5:00 for our evening repast. Featured was a talk by Martin Brown, who heads up the new East Broad Top Development Committee. He spoke on current preservation efforts (see related story). Then it was off to the night train, which ran in two sections again this year.

EBT Robertsdale Station
Vagel Keller, at right in vest, prepares to lead a group of members on a tour of the Robertsdale-Woodvale mining area during open house at the Robertsdale depot during the FEBT 14th Annual Reunion.
Deane Mellander photo

The evening program featured an auction of materials donated for the occasion. Mike Swinnerton presided in his usual inimitable style. When all the bidding was done, FEBT had netted $284.00 which will go into the Restoration Fund. Thanks to Gary Altschuler and Mike Mitzelfeld for their generous donations. In addition, President Deane Mellander "passed the hat". Phil Padgett originally instituted this a few years ago as a means of supporting the railroad by making a large buy of tickets. These in turn are used to help FEBT promote the railroad through its tour packets. This year we collected $275.00, which was used to purchase 30 tickets. The remainder will go into the Restoration Fund.

Finally, on Sunday a number of folks assembled in Robertdale to partake of coffee, tea, and donuts. New this year was the storage container behind the Post Office, which is being used to store materials for our restoration projects, getting them out of the way. Vagel Keller took a large group on an hour-long tour through the mine area. The handcar was also brought out for display.

Meanwhile, the sun continued to shine on the EBT. There was a good crowd again on Sunday, and lots of Friends partaking the sights and sounds. All in all, it was another Spectacular weekend for all.

Another Fine Spectacular on the EBT

By Deane Mellander

Originally published in the Timber Transfer, Vol. 13, No. 2, Fall 1996

The latest addition to the EBT's official roster is the M-7, which made its debut at the 1996 Fall Spectacular. Brilliant in red and green paint, with yellow trim, the M-7 will be used for maintenance work, and as emergency back-up power to the 4 servicable steam locomotives. Here, the freshly-painted unit poses with the M-1 at the Rockhill yard.
Deane Mellander photo

The sun shone down on the lightly dry-brushed fall colors in southern Huntingdon County for the East Broad Top's annual Fall Spectacular for 1996. President Joe Kovalchick, General Manager Stanley Hall, the staff and crews handled the event with a minimum of fuss. The "special" train this year was the "Shade Gap Picnic Train". This train of all open cars reflected the times when the Shade Gap Reunion Picnic produced big crowds on the railroad when the century was young. An additional flat car has been rehabilitated with open benches to add seating capacity.

All four engines were in steam again this year, and appeared to perform flawlessly. The only serious delays occured Saturday morning when an auto accident near Pogue required holding the Meadow Street crossing clear for the passage of emergency vehicles. This put the rest of the Saturday schedule about a half-hour behind.

It did not appear that the crowds were quite as large as the extraordinary numbers from last year, but by mid-afternoon on both days the folks were lined up behind the depot waiting to board. The Saturday night train ran in two sections again this year, and both trains were near capacity.

The Whistle Salute
On Saturday the EBT held its annual memorial "whistle-blow" to commemorate all those who had helped make the EBT a success, both in working day, and in its reincarnation under the Kovalchick family's tutelage. Mr. Kovalchick waves a flag from the deck of the M-7 to signal the start of the whistle salute.
Deane Mellander photo

On display in the Rockhill yard was the EBT's newest addition to the roster, the M-7. This is one of the four Algoma Steel diesels that Kovalchick Salvage acquired two years ago. The M-7 was stripped down to bare metal and repainted in an eye-catching red and green paint scheme. Final touches appeared to be down to the wire, since the crew was still bolting on the polished steel radiator grille on Friday afternoon. The M-7 has already been used this season for substitute power when one of the steam engines had a problem. It will also be used for maintenance of way work. With its power, it is capable of taking several car-loads of ballast out on the line. Given the recent flooding events in the area, this may be a necessary duty.

Operationally, the trains continued the procedure instituted last year of off-loading riders on the north leg of the wye, and then turning the train. That way there are no conflicts with the folks waiting on the platform to board the next train. This works well during the day. However, this editor suggests that they use the station platform to off-load the night trains. The area along the wye does not have good lighting, and on uneven ground the chances for injury increase. I was particularly sensitive to this, being hobbled with a cast on my foot all weekend.

All in all, it was another outstanding Fall Spectacular. A combination of great weather and professional operations made for a great experience. We look forward to next year.

EBT #14
The weather for the 1996 Fall Spectacular was ideal on both Saturday and Sunday. No. 14 basks in the sun while awaiting clearance to enter the tail of the Rockhill wye.
Deane Mellander photo
M-1 near Runk Road
Always a favorite with the fans, gas-electric car M-1 recreates her role with a load of passengers on the big fill south of Colgate Grove.
Deane Mellander photo
Loading passengers
Mr. Kovalchick aids in loading passengers as the crowds began wrapping around the Orbisonia depot on Saturday afternoon.
Deane Mellander photo

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