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

Friends Gather to Celebrate 20 Years of FEBT
"Overcast and gloomy" described only the weather

by Hank Inman
Richmond, VA
photos as noted

Originally published in the Timber Transfer, Vol. 19, No. 2, Fall 2002

#16 on display
FEBT members ride past EBT #16, on static display during the Fall Event.
William Blomgren photo

The night before it was dark and stormy. Then it rained. There was fog. It occasionally stormed. At times it only drizzled. The rest of the time it was just wet. On October 12 and 13, 2002, the weather pervaded both conversations and experience at the Twentieth Fall Reunion of Friends of the East Broad Top. Nevertheless, 126 FEBT members, with their families and guests, ignored the gloom to enjoy another annual celebration at the East Broad Top Railroad. And there was plenty to do.

Early Saturday morning activity centered on the Orbisionia Lions Hall where reunion registrar Patricia Coleman and her assistants set up and handled the registration table for the 2002 Fall Reunion. Elsewhere in the hall, contest chairman Robert Beebe and Dennis McCoy registered entries and organized the model and photo contests. Nearby auctioneer Craig Williams and John Snyder recorded and kept track of items donated for sale at the Saturday night auction. While all this was going on, Fall Reunion registrants and members of the public wandered by the FEBT Company Store sales tables and examined merchandise offered by three other vendors. Allen Landis had copies of the 1917 Interstate Commerce Commission right-of way maps and track profiles for the East Broad Top Railroad for sale, and Jim Garts and Dennis Masters offered assortments of EBT and railway memorabilia for sale at their separate tables. Bill Blomgren set his laptop computer up at one table, using it to show video clips of FEBT volunteers assisting Railways to Yesterday members in trackwork projects during the summer.

M-1 gas–electric
EBT historian and Rockhill Work Group coordinator Lee Rainey pauses in front of the roundhouse before leading his shop tour through the rest of the historic Rockhill shop complex.
William Adams photo

At midmorning the FEBT information tent had been erected near the EBT roundhouse parking lot. Throughout the day FEBT volunteers provided information about the EBT and FEBT to visitors. At the information booth, FEBT restoration fund treasurer Nancy Jacqmin displayed a sample of the art reproduction of John H. Coker's original painting, Afternoon Call, which we are providing to donors who contribute $50 or more during the second year of our fund raising campaign. The FEBT information tent also served as the meeting place for Lee Rainey's guided walking tour through the EBT Rockhill Furnace shops. Lee, who coordinated the 2002 FEBT work sessions at Rockhill Furnace, used his one-hour tour to demonstrate the work performed this year by FEBT volunteers and to emphasize opportunities for work in future years.

Later that morning, and again on Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon, FEBT members and Fall Reunion participants could take advantage of another special treat. FEBT members Christopher Coleman and Richard Keller organized and hosted, with assistance from a number of other volunteers, a FEBT open house in the EBT car shops. In 2002 the Rockhill Furnace work group repaired windows in the east wall and the doors at the north end of this building. During the FEBT open house, visitors could "tour" the inside of the car shop, view the work accomplished, and examine the two East Broad Top Railroad passenger cars FEBT purchased in July. EBT combination passenger–baggage car no. 18 and baggage–express car no. 29 retained the protective covers from their trip from Colorado back to the EBT, but visitors could still tell what all the excitement of last summer had been about—and get some idea of the extensive work that will be required to restore the two passenger cars. Rich Keller had assembled a display board to illustrate past and future work on FEBT's "other" passenger car, EBT combination passenger&38211;baggage car no. 16. In another display, Chris Coleman illustrated the work performed by the FEBT Rockhill Furnace work group. William Adams set up a TV to show video of nos. 18 and 29's return to Orbisonia.

M-1 gas–electric
Gleaming brightly in the rare outbreak of sunshine over the weekend, the restored windows of the car shop stand in testament to the hard work of the FEBT's Rockhill Work Group.
Pat Coleman photo

In addition to a reprise of the car shop open house, Saturday afternoon offered two other attractions. In Robertsdale, FEBT assistant vice president Vagel Keller opened the FEBT Museum so that Fall Reunion registrants who were unable to attend the Sunday open house could still visit our museum. In the middle of the afternoon Chris Coleman conducted a walking tour of the EBT Mount Union yard. While the focus of the tour was the historical development of the yard and its operations, tour participants could also observe ongoing improvements to the track made by the Mount Union Connecting Railway.

Back at the Lions Hall voting for the contests proceeded, and visitors had another opportunity to examine the items displayed on the sales tables of the FEBT Company Store and other vendors.

After a day of watching and riding the EBT's trains and enjoying Fall Reunion activities, what was next? For most Fall Reunion participants it was the buffet supper at the Orbisonia-Rockhill Fire Hall, prepared by the volunteer fire department's ladies auxiliary. In addition to plenty of filling food, the Fall Reunion dinner provided the occasion to salute and thank the FEBT members who worked as volunteers in 2002. Vagel Keller recognized the volunteers who helped operate the FEBT Museum, Lee Rainey thanked the volunteers who worked as members of our Rockhill Furnace restoration work group, and FEBT president Hank Inman recognized the many other FEBT members who contributed time and effort to the Robertsdale work group, to the FEBT education program, and to our other business operations. Hank also announced three special awards for volunteer service presented by the FEBT board of directors to FEBT members James Mersereau and Ted Rose, for their contributions to the first year of our current fund-raising campaign, and to FEBT member Lee Rainey, to recognize his work organizing and supervising the first FEBT Fall Reunion in 1983. FEBT secretary John Snyder provided a brief summary for our "new rider" EBT ticket program, and he received almost $400 in donations from those attending the dinner to support this initiative in 2003.

Car Shop tour
Chris Coleman talks to the tour group about the FEBT's recent acquisitions, EBT baggage-express #29 (shown) and combine #18 during a tour of the railroad’s shops.
Pat Coleman photo

After dinner and–for most Fall Reunion participants–a ride on the EBT's special night trains, it was time to return to the Lions Hall, where Bob Beebe announced awards for the model and photograph contests. Then Craig Williams, with assistance from John Snyder, Shawn Stauffer, and Michael Swinnerton, transformed the Lions Hall to an auction arena. For over three hours the items donated to FEBT were offered for sale, including one of our John R. Coker art reproductions of Afternoon Call, autographed by the artist and framed; an autographed copy of Crossroads of Commerce—The Pennsylvania Railroad Art of Griff Teller donated by Dan Cupper: G-Scale track and equipment donated by the family of the late FEBT member E.R. Taylor; several BTS model kits donated by Bill Wade (who was unable to attend this year's reunion); and many other modeling items, books, and pieces of EBT and railroad memorabilia.

Thanks to William Adams, William Blomgren, Rick Case, Peter Clarke, Walter Dennison (Dennison's Trackside Hobbies), the FEBT Company Store, Jim Garts, Robert Harris, Richard Keller, Allen Landis, Dennis Masters, Dennis McCoy, Gene Milgram, Bill Payne, Matthew Potosky, Jim Rothermel, Shawn Stauffer, Michael Swinnerton, Pat Taylor, and Ken Vandevoort, who contributed the other items sold at our 2002 auction. Through their generosity, Craig and his assistants raised $1,327.85 to support FEBT's restoration and development programs.

On Sunday morning the place to be was the FEBT Museum in Robertsdale, where Nancy Jacqmin organized and supervised our annual open house. Between 9 am and 2 pm visitors could enjoy various refreshments while viewing the exhibits and displays in our two museum buildings.

Another annual tradition is the walking tour of the Robertsdale mines organized by Vagel Keller. Vagel's running commentary put the Robertsdale "company square" of station, post office, coal company office building, and company store site in context with the remains of the mine structures on the southern outskirts of town. Ron Pearson, whose articles on the mines served by the EBT have graced the pages of the Timber Transfer, provided the technical details of how those mines functioned. Ron's in-depth knowledge of the mines, gained through many hours of research and exploration in the Robertsdale area and his own collection of contemporary texts, helped the trekkers understand what the sites looked like and how they operated.

M-1 gas–electric
East Broad Top explorer and venerable tour guide George Cook (2nd from left) leads a small band of adventurers along the accessible first half mile of the old Booher branch of the EBT. This 2.36 mile long branch was built in l890 to serve a small mine.
William Adams photo

In years past each annual mine tour adds something new, and this year was no exception. As usual the tour began with an overview of the company square, then proceeded in a counter-clockwise fashion to visit Rockhill No. 1, the fan house, the site of the mule barn, Rockhill No. 5, and the sites of the water tank and engine house. But this year, Vagel and Ron led the group on a side trip to the site of Rockhill No. 3, which was abandoned in 1890 and its tram and tipple obliterated by the workings around the No. 5 tipple. Unbeknownst to Vagel and Ron, both had explored this area independently of each other in recent months, and this resulted in a comic opera of sorts. Marching up a jeep trail east of the No. 5 hoist house Vagel veered to the left, while Ron went right… each to his version of where the mine entrance had been. Heads were scratched. chins were rubbed, and once again the group left the woods with the promise of future things to be learned. Truth be told, Ron's No. 3 entrance is the generally accepted location, but there are rusting steel cables, man made land forms, and the remains of an apparent ventilation fan house further up the hill that beg several questions.

All good things must come to an end, and late on Sunday afternoon FEBT's Twentieth Fall Reunion concluded. FEBT volunteers struck the information tent, gathered up our information and supplies, cleaned up at the Lions Hall, and transported our equipment back to the FEBT Museum in Robertsdale. And despite the weather and reduced operations at the East Broad Top Railroad, everyone appeared to have a good time.

In addition to the event coordinators and volunteers mentioned above, we would like to thank the following individuals who spent some of their Fall Reunion weekend helping us. Assisting us set up and operate the registration table were William Adams, Ricky Case, Jane Clarke, Peter Clarke, Fran Godwin, Max Godwin, Jan Gelding, Richard W. Gelding, Frederick Heide, Stephen Jacobs, Henry Oberding, Cathy Ott, Ann Stroth, Peter Stroth, and Benjamin Sullivan. Helping us at the car shops open house were Thomas Diehl, Jr., Bob Goldby, Jan Gelding, Richard W. Gelding, and Thomas Kozub. Helping at the FEBT Company Store sales table were Ricky Case, Ruth Kosowski, and Shawn Stauffer. Helping at the FEBT information booth were Jane Clarke, Peter Clarke, Frank Martindell, Gene Milgrarn, Henry Oberding, and Shawn Stauffer. Helping set up for and during the FEBT Museum open house were Jane Clarke, Peter Clarke, and Frederick Heide.

Now what's the plan for the 2003 Fall Reunion? [William Adams and Vagel Keller contributed to this report.]


2002 Reunion Contest Winners

Best in Show
2002 Contest winners
Model photos all by Bob Beebe
  Rockhill Mine #9 – Ron Pearson
  1st Stock Car #706 – Dave Bucher
2nd 2nd Generation Box Car – Dave Bucher
  1st Scale Test Car #30 "then" – William Adams
2nd Scale Test Car #30 “now” – William Adams
  1st Pump Station Building – Dave Bucher
2nd Brick Kilns – Dave Bucher
Photos – Color
  1st “Forgotton” – Stephen Jacobs
2nd “October Glory” – Phil Padgett
3rd “Climbing McMullin Summit” – Don Woshio
Photos – Black & White
  “The Time Machine” – Lauren Padgett

Copyright © 1999-2018 Friends of the East Broad Top, Inc. All rights reserved
EBT Train
Back to the FEBT Homepage