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

2001 Reunion
FEBT gathers for its 19th year

by Hank Inman
Richmond, VA
photos as noted

Originally published in the Timber Transfer, Vol. 18, No. 2, Fall 2001

On October 6 and 7, 2001, 132 members of Friends of the East Broad Top and fans of the East Broad Top Railroad registered to participate in the activities of FEBT’s nineteenth Fall Reunion. They, together with their families and guests, experienced an enjoyable - but more somber than usual - two days of trains, tours and friendship at the annual event that marks the founding of FEBT and celebrates the continued survival of the EBT.

The focus of activity on the first day of the 2001 Fall Reunion was the Orbisonia Lions hall. Here Fall Reunion registrar Pat Downs and the FEBT volunteers who assisted her set up and handled on-site registration. Here Fall Reunion contest chairman Bob Beebe and Dennis McCoy organized the display and voting for our annual contest for models and photographs of the EBT-with many more entries than in the past several years. Here Fall Reunion participants and other visitors perused the display tables for the FEBT Company Store and three other vendors: Bill Wade of BTS had three tables of his EBT kits and other modeling supplies for sale, Jim Carts sold photos of the EBT and other railroad memorabilia, and Allen Landis displayed his sets of 1917 EBT maps and elevation profiles assembled for the Interstate Commerce Commission's Bureau of Valuation. Here FEBT members could sit, stand, and talk in comfort.

Rockhill shops yard tour
Chris Coleman leads a tour through the EBT’s Rockhill Furnace shop complex.
Bill Adams photo

But this year FEBT offered other enticements at the EBT and Robertsdale. As in past years, FEBT set up our information tent near the roundhouse at the EBT. There volunteers distributed information about our organization and activities to members of the public attending the EBT’s 2001 Fall Spectacular. The same tent partly sheltered restoration fund treasurer Nancy Jacqmin from the strong winds as she displayed one of our reproductions of Ted Rose’s Mount Union Train, answered questions about our fund-raising campaign, and collected donations to it. Adjacent to the Orbisonia station building, FEBT members Mallory Ferrell and Deane Mellander, assisted by Thomas Diehl, signed copies of their EBT books for both FEBT members and the general public at another FEBT tent. By arrangement with the EBT, FEBT sold copies of Colorful East Broad Top and East Broad Top: Slim Gauge Survivor to customers who needed a copy of these books for Mal or Deane, to autograph. Between 2 and 4 pm FEBT webmaster Chris Coleman led a walking tour around the Rockhill Furnace yard and shops complex.

This year the FEBT Museum in Robertsdale was again open on Saturday afternoon, from 1 to 4 pm.

After a full day of trains, buying and selling, tours and just plain conversation, most Fall Reunion participants were ready for the full buffet supper provided by the ladies Auxiliary in the Orbisonia-Rockhill Fire Company hall. As has become our custom, the Fall Reunion dinner provided the occasion to recognize FEBT members for their contributions as volunteers during 2001. Also customary is FEBT secretary John Snyder’s annual report concerning our EBT “new rider” ticket program - one of the components of our broader commitment to educating the public about the EBT - and his solicitation of donations to support this effort. This year John received over $500 in contributions.

The immanent departure of the EBT’s annual night trains caused many diners to decamp quickly from the fire-hall, but others made their way more slowly back to the Lions hall. There Bob Beebe began the announcement of the winners of the model and photo contests.

A few Fall Reunion registrants stayed at the railroad after the return of the two night trains to participate in a night photo shoot organized by Railfan & Railroad editor Steven Barry, but most FEBT members and their guests returned to the Lions hall for the auction.

Attention there turned to the huge array of items donated for auction this year. Notable items included one of our reproductions of Mount Union Train, framed and signed by artist Ted Rose (contributed by the FEBT fundraising campaign), a collection of nine unbuilt White Ground Models HO kits of EBT buildings and other modeling supplies donated by John and Audrey Meenegham, an autographed copy of The Rio Grande Southern Story (Vol. IX) donated by Bob Richardson, an autographed first edition copy of Tweetsie Country donated by author Mallory Ferrell, a video tape featuring original film shot at the EBT’s 1978, 1979, and 1981 winter spectaculars donated by Gene Milgram and five BTS kits in HO, S, and O scales for buildings and rolling stock contributed by Bill Wade. Other donors of items to the 2001 auction included John Armstrong, Robert Bowden, Jim Garts, Allen Landis, Dennis Masters, Robert Streharsky, Shawn Stauffer, Kevin Strong, and Charles Wootton. In fact, the items up for auction this year were so abundant that auctioneer Craig Williams called on Shawn Stauffer and Michael Swinnerton for assistance, and the auction, which started shortly before 9 pm, lasted almost to midnight.

Rockhill shops yard tour
Mike Swinnerton lent his usual wit and wisdom to this year's annual auction.
Kevin Strong photo

Thanks to Craig, his assistants, and our donors, the 2001 auction raised $1,130.50 to support our restoration and development programs.

On Sunday morning Fall Reunion registrants and the general public, were invited to attend the 2001 Fall Open house at the FEBT Museum, organized by Nancy Jacqmin. From 9am to 2pm visitors could walk through our two Robertsdale buildings, inspect the progress we had made since the previous year, examine the exhibits, make purchases at our museum shop, and enjoy donuts, coffee, and other refreshments. Vagel Keller’s annual tour of the mine and railroad sites in “greater Robertsdale” commenced at 10am - as is his wont. Vagel made certain that those who accompanied him on this year's tour got their money’s worth!

Meanwhile, back at the EBT, FEBT volunteers again distributed information and answered inquiries at our information booth. Early Sunday afternoon Mal, Deane and Tom provided visitors to the EBT yet another chance to purchase autographed copies of Colorful East Broad Top and Slim Gauge Survivor. In mid afternoon Bill Adams, one of the members of William Grant’s documentation team, served as an onsite guide to the EBT’s station building in Saltillo. Bill escorted visitors on a tour around the exterior of the building and answered questions about this FEBT project.

As on the day before, on Sunday FEBT Fall Reunion participants could enjoy the EBT’s full schedule of trains. In the late afternoon, as the last of the EBT’s trains returned from Colgate Grove, our volunteers helped us fold our tents and steal away - at least as far as Robertsdale - where the equipment and material from the 2001 Fall Reunion needed to be transported.

Because of the aftereffects of September 11 and the resulting uncertainties of travel, attendance at this year’s event was approximately 20% lower than in recent years (the surprise may have been that it was not even lower).

In addition to the FEBT volunteers already mentioned above, we thank Wayne Baldwin, Dana Bowden, Robert Bowden, David Bucher, John Drury, Fran Godwin, Max Godwin, Bob Goldby, Christopher Goldby, Walter Goldby, Frederick Heide, Gail Heitmann, John Heitmann, Bill Landis, Doug Langdon, Henry Oberding, Robert Reffner, Dennis Straub, Susie Weart, Walter Weart and Wade Woodcock for helping us make FEBT’s nineteenth Fall Reunion a successful and memorable occasion. We also thank Larry Williams, who allowed us to use an impression from the station stamp from the EBT’s Rocky Ridge station, which he owns, as the basis for the, 2001 Fall Reunion commemorative button.

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