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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East Broad Top Opens Longer Season for 1996
FEBT Members Gather to mark Railroad's Opening with Spring Event

by Phil Padgett
Photos as noted

Originally published in the Timber Transfer, Vol. 12, No. 4, Spring 1996
(Early incarnations of the Celebration were known as the Gatherning. –webmaster.)

M-7 at Colgate Grove
With a diesel on the point, the first train of the East Broad Top Railroad's 1996 season pauses at Colgate Grove before returning to Orbisonia. The diesel is one of several acquired by the EBT from the Algoma Steel Company in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada. Their role is to serve as back-up to the EBT's steam locomotives. To see one in service is a rare event.
FEBT photo

ORBISONIA, PA: Saturday, June 1, the East Broad Top Railroad began its 1996 season that will extend through October 20. About 40 members of Friends of the EBT were on hand to celebrate the railroad's opening day with the independent, nonprofit historical society's Spring Event. The railroad's crew had to respond to multiple equipment challenges, but they rose to the test and, by the end of the first day, had things in hand. The EBT had settled into a smooth routine by Sunday, June 2.

East Broad Top 2-8-2 Mikado No.15 would have had the honor of pulling the first train, Saturday, but only got as far as the turntable lead. Over the ash pit, a mechanical problem was found and Fifteen had to be taken back to the roundhouse. While steam was raised in Mikado No.12, the Sault Ste. Marie diesel was assigned to take the 11:00 a.m. train to Colgate Grove. Since the diesel is operated only as back-up to the steam locomotives, this provided a rare opportunity to either ride behind or chase a diesel hauled passenger train on the EBT.

With No.12 still raising steam, the diesel was assigned again to take out the 1:00 p.m. train. Unfortunately, that run did not get much past the bridge over Blacklog Creek. The train stopped within sight of the station and then slowly backed home.

The copper brushes were burning out on one of the diesel's traction motors. Although the train could have continued to Colgate Grove on the remaining motor, the prudent decision was to return. The brushes are replaceable because the manufacturer still supports these motors.

Rockhill Furnace Coal Dock
Open day was an opportunity to see how the railroad faired through the punishing winter of 1995-96. The only damage apparent is the collapse of the corrugated metal shed that covers the unloading track atop the coal dock in Orbisonia yard.
FEBT photo

No.12 made the final run for Saturday, again filling the Aughwick Valley with the sights and sounds of steam railroading. Twelve also covered the schedule for all three trains in Sunday's flawless operation.

With 40 members of Friends of the EBT on hand for their Spring Event, the railroad could not have had a more sympathetic audience on a difficult first day. Instinctive believers that challenges to schedules only can lead more railroading, the fans savored the unexpected chance to experience the diesel in operation, the M-5 switcher shunting cold equipment and, at one point, steam locomotive No.17 being pulled out into the sunlight. For the EBT's hard-working crew, however, these were vignettes of narrow gauge railroading that they happily would have skipped.

Several comments overheard in the parking lot did provide anecdotal input for those who think about marketing the EBT, and ponder the question of what the general public really wants. They come to ride behind steam and notice its absence. One eight-year old held her uncomplaining father over for a second ride on Sunday because she, "wanted to ride behind steam!"

Supplementing the action on the railroad, participants in FEBT's Spring Event enjoyed a tour of the East Broad Top's historic shop complex led by General Manager Stanley Hall on Saturday. They also took care of society business with two meetings.

President's award winner
Membership Chair Ruth keller received a well-deserved President's Award for her serice during which Firends of the EBT has enjoyed significant growth in membership.
FEBT photo

FEBT President Deane Mellander and Vice President, Communication, Phil Padgett hosted a short meeting to discuss the white paper FEBT was preparing to respond to the consultant-generated management plan for a restored EBT presented last October. This was an opportunity to listen to and incorporate member views into FEBT's position (see page 10. For the FEBT paper).

Later, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., FEBT's Board of Directors met under the big pine tree behind the roundhouse. Applying new procedures to expedite discussion of old business, the meeting was very productive in the number of issues addressed and decisions taken within a set time. The Board approved creation of standing Audit and Nominating Committees, both of which are further steps in the maturing of FEBT's governance.

The Board also reviewed the situation with the Robertsdale Company Store, which is threatened by imminent demolition, and determined further steps to be taken to try to alleviate that crisis (see the related story on page 7).

The Board meeting was attended by a number of members present for the Spring Event. All of FEBT's scheduled Board meetings are open to the members.

#12 to the rescue!
No. 12 to the rescue! Steamed to replace the No. 15, the smallest of the EBT's 2-8-2 Mikados picked up the last train of the day on Saturday's schedule and covered all of the schedule on Sunday. No. 12 was built for the East Broad Top by Baldwin Locomotive Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in December 1911. An immediate operating success for the mountain coal hauler, No. 12 was followed by five more 2-8-2's, the last being delivered in 1920.
FEBT photo

Sunday morning, the Spring Event continued with coffee, juice, and doughnuts at Robertsdale Station. The Spring Event was organized by Bob Wolny who handled registration, provided special name tags, and arranged for the Shop tour. Reggie Arford, Hank Inman, Rich Keller, and Ruth Keller pitched in to help Bob.

Bob Wolny also is organizing FEBT's Annual Reunion to coincide with the railroad's Fall Spectacular, October 12 and 13. Bob needs volunteers for the Reunion now. Drop a line to Robert Wolny, 1750 West 14th Street, Erie, PA 16505.


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