Reunion Time on the Railroad
FEBT hosts 18th annual get-together
by Hank Inman
photos as noted
Originally published in the
Timber Transfer, Vol. 17, No. 2, Fall 2000
Over 150 FEBT members, families, and guests joined in the festivities of the 18th Friends of the East Broad Top Fall Reunion on Saturday and Sunday, October 7 and 8. The annual event included all the traditional activities, like the Saturday reunion dinner, Saturday night auction, Sunday-morning open house at the FEBT Museum in Robertsdale and EBT-related walking and driving tours, but with a few new wrinkles thrown into the mix.
Fall Reunion activities actually started on Friday, as many FEBT members arrived in Rockhill Furnace early to absorb the ambiance created by the East Broad Top Railroad's preparations for the 2000 Fall Spectacular weekend. That evening, more than 50 FEBT members joined directors and officers for an informal pizza buffet and the annual business meeting at the Orbisonia Lions Hall. The short meeting permitted early Fall Reunion participants to socialize, not to mention get first crack at the items the FEBT Company Store and other vendors had on display in the Lions Hall.
On Saturday morning the FEBT members who had not picked up registration materials the night before were able to do so at the Fall Reunion registration table set up and supervised by on-site registration coordinator Patricia Downs. For the rest of the morning, both registered reunion participants and the general public browsed and shopped at the vendor displays in the Orbisonia Lions Hall, including those by BTS, Michael Mitzelfeld, and Alien Landis. At the FEBT Restoration Program table, David Bucher, who is coordinating our restoration of EBT combination passenger-baggage car #16, displayed one of the new journal boxes fabricated for the combine's reproduction trucks. The Lions Hall closed at noon to allow everyone to head to the railroad. The room reopened later in the afternoon, and FEBT members were invited to come and cast their ballots in the annual model contest, run by Robert Bailey.
Back at the railroad, Reunion volunteer coordinator Vagel Keller set up the FEBT information tent where FEBT volunteers were on hand throughout the weekend with literature about the railroad and FEBT. There was also a bulletin board so people could look for changes in scheduled FEBT activities.
With help from Christopher Coleman, George Cook, Vagel Keller, and Ronald Pearson, FEBT offered three walking and driving tours during the 2000 Fall Reunion. On Saturday afternoon, Chris guided a walking tour around the EBT's Mount Union yard, including a visit to the two stall concrete-block engine-house which, by arrangement with the Mount Union Connecting Railway, was open for the FEBT tour.
On Sunday morning Vagel, with assistance from Ron Pearson, led his yearly walking tour around the extant surface remains of Robertsdale's mines.
On Sunday afternoon a smaller group of Fall Reunion diehards assembled at Neelyton for George Cook's combined driving and walking tour of the right-of-way surveyed by the East Broad Top Railroad in 1883-1884 for an extension from Rockhill Furnace through Shade Gap and Neelyton to a proposed connection with William H. Vanderbilt's South Pennsylvania Railroad near Burnt Cabins. While track was finally laid to Neelyton in 1909, the remaining EBT right-of-way to Burnt Cabins remained vacant. George's tour visited several accessible points along this right-of-way between Neelyton and Burnt Cabins, with side visits to remains of the South Penn's right-of-way.
Saturday evening brought the annual awards dinner. The Orbisonia - Rockhill Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary provided all we could eat (and more!) at the ORFD Hall in Orbisonia. Vagel Keller served as master of ceremonies during a brief awards and announcements program. Deane Mellander received a special award for his many cumulative contributions to FEBT as an officer and staff volunteer, and FEBT president Henry F. Inman recognized the many volunteers whose efforts made 2000 a successful year for FEBT. John Snyder, FEBT secretary and manager of the Company Store, concluded the after-dinner festivities by conducting our annual "pass-the-hat" collection of donations to support our EBT "New Riders" Education Program. This yearly solicitation of contributions, used to purchase train tickets from the EBT, began with a suggestion from long time FEBT member Gary Altschuler, who died in September. This year John raised a record $541.00 in donations.
Gary' absence became apparent after the return of the EBT's night trains and the presentation of the contest awards, when Craig Williams took up Gary's place at the auctioneer’s podium. With the generosity of the donors, as well as the bidders, Craig surpassed the $1,000.00 threshold Gary established in recent years for FEBT Restoration Fund income generated from proceeds. The items attracting major interest at this year’s auction were a mint condition BTS S-scale Orbisonia station kit donated by Michael Mitzelfeld, and the latest volume of the Rio Grande Southern Story donated by Robert Richardson. William Adams, Donald Garts, Allen Landis, Bill Lane, Gene Milgram, and Bill Wade of BTS were among the FEBT members who donated the other items sold at the 2000 Fall Reunion auction.
Robert Hart brought the evenings scheduled activities at the Orbisonia Lions Hall to a close by showing vintage EBT film.
The Sunday morning open house at the FEBT Museum in Robertsdale attracted a steady stream of visitors - both FEBT members and interested members of the public. Nancy Jacqmin organized and supervised the details of the open house in the former EBT Robertsdale station, while Vagel Keller, this time wearing his coordinator-of-museum-operations hat, assembled an attractive display of EBT artifacts from the museum collection in the first-floor exhibit area of the old post office. After our Robertsdale activities ended on Sunday afternoon, Fall Reunion participants enjoyed the warmth and sunshine to explore the East Broad Top Railroad, visit the Broad Top Area Coal Miners Historical Society Museum in Robertsdale or the Rockhill Trolley Museum in Rockhill Furnace, or ride one more EBT train before starting the journey home.
We are grateful to the FEBT members who contributed to making this event a success. When the contributions of all these FEBT members are taken into account, there's just one more question about the 2000 FEBT Fall Reunion we need to ask: What should we expect at the 2001 Fall Reunion?