Friends of the East Broad Top
A nonprofit society dedicated to the preservation and restoration
of the East Broad Top Railroad National Historic Landmark
Things we do

Annual Spring Walk Draws Over 30 Members

By Deane Mellander
photos by the author

Originally published in The Timber Transfer, Vol 14, No 4, Spring 1998

April 25 marked the date for the FEBT annual spring walk. This event has grown from an informal gathering into a important event on the annual FEBT calendar. Considering the general El Nino weather patterns in the mid-Atlantic area this spring, we were very fortunate to have warm, sunny weather for our excursion.

Spring explorers
Participants in the 1998 Spring Walk pose before the remains of the Rocky Ridge depot on April 25.

Members began assembling at the depot in Robertsdale in mid-morning. Many had time to view the results of the restoration work that has been completed on the old Post Office building. FEBT President Hank Inman arranged for refreshments at the depot. At 12:30 we formed up into a caravan to limit the number of cars and headed for Rocky Ridge. Yours truly led the march, having subbed for Vagel Keller who had to forego the event due to an unanticipated conflict.

From the road, the walk in to Rocky Ridge is just a little under a mile. The track is in surprisingly good shape, considering the lack of maintenance for more than 40 years and the proximity to Great Trough Creek. One thing I had not noticed previously is the extensive dry stone walls that protect the stream bank in several places. There have been a number of large trees blown down across the right-of-way, which we had to climb over, under, or work our way around.

Inside the tunnel
A look inside the tunnel portal, showing the extensive material that has collapsed from the roof of the tunnel. Beyond the concrete lining, you can look up and see daylight. There are similar falls along the length of the tunnel to the east end, though you can still just barely see daylight from end to end.

The area around the depot site is remarkably open. It would appear that there has been some logging activity in the area and some vehicles have come in from the Rocky Ridge direction. Those who weren't faint of heart tip-toed across the EBT's bridge girders to reach the depot site and tunnel portal. After withstanding the elements for decades, the depot building has finally collapsed in a heap. It's a good thing we have had it documented. The tunnel portal itself seems to be in decent condition. However, the tunnel itself has suffered a number of serious rock falls over the years. You can still just barely see light through to the other end. However, this is a "very" dangerous place. You could also see the sky from inside beyond the concrete lining. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GO THROUGH THIS, OR THE SIDELING HILL, TUNNELS. In addition to the danger from collapse, the tunnels are a haven for our legless reptile friends. Water also collects inside, which could be fairly deep.

There were a few other artifacts to be found around the depot area. A line pole with two cross-arms still stands, as does the pole that supported the chain that opened the switch for the tunnel door. The right-of-way for the west leg of the wye was clearly evident, as was a bit of the fill for the east leg that led to the trestle across the creek. The trestle itself is long gone.

Silent sentinel
A silent sentinel. This pole once supported the switch that operated the automatic door on the east end of the tunnel during winter weather. At least here, the engineer could be certain that the door was open as he entered the tunnel, unlike at Sideling Hill, where the curve inside obstructed the view.

After returning to our caravan (and having to pause to fix a flat tire), we proceeded towards Rocky Ridge. Yours truly took what looked to be a short-cut, which unfortunately wound up ending in an old strip mine. We finally got turned around and back out on the right road. We revisited the site of the Jacob's post office, since several folks were not here last year (and the weather was considerably better this time). The foundation of the building is still evident, as are the roadbeds for the main track towards Evanston and the branch up to the Jacob's mine.

We returned to Robertsdale about 3:00. Chris Coleman was gracious enough to volunteer to take folks up to Mt. Union for a look around there. I would note that the new U.S. 522 bypass around Mt. Union will eventually give us a new perspective on viewing the yard area. The EBT will also get a brand new three-rail grade crossing out of this construction project. Since it appears that Kovalchick Salvage will acquire the spur from Conrail, this may be important if any rail customers come to the Riverside Industrial Park, or any of the current industries decide to utilize rail service.

Thanks to all who participated in this year's walk. Personal thanks for your patience and good humor, and I hope we will see even more of you next year.

 



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