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

2006 Spring Exploration
Tunnels, Joller and Mt. Union among the destinations

by Chris Coleman
Columbus OH
photos as noted

Originally published in the Timber Transfer, Vol. 23, No. 1, Summer 2006

Right-of-Way
The track from Cooks to the south portal of Wrays Hill lies underneath numerous fallen trees.
Chris Coleman photo

March 25th and 26th, 2006, the FEBT "Early Birds" headed into the woods for the 10th Annual FEBT Spring Exploration. Over 40 attendees gathered for the event at The Rockhill Trolley Museum store in Rockhill Furnace and enjoyed lunch by RTM volunteers Larry Freeman and Doug Weidman (also FEBT members). Larry also helps out by providing meals to the FEBT Rockhill Restoration Crews.

The weather was unusually cooperative this year and the rain generally held off all weekend. For those who wished to attend, breakfast was served at the Rockhill Trolley Museum. After a brief talk on safety and a preview of the day's tour, the group mounted up arid headed to Sideling Hill Tunnel.

The first hike of the day was to the south portal of Wrav's Hill Tunnel. The short hike warmed up the early birds for hikes to come. At the tunnel, the group took many photos and heard the tales of the tunnel doors and their operation.

Next stop was Joller at the top of the Coles Valley branch. The group visited the locations of the upper mine entrance, mule barn, later tipple, lower mine entrance and upper and lower EBT grades.

Sideling Hill Tunnel
The group assembles at the south end of Sideling Hill tunnel, which is the shorter of the two tunnels between Saltillo and Robertsdale.
Pete Clarke photo

This year something different was tried for lunch. A box lunch provided by Larry and Doug was enjoyed by all at the usual jump off point for the Rocky Ridge hike. With either turkey or ham sandwiches, boiled eggs, beef jerky, cookie, chips, fruit cup and pudding, the meal was plenty enough for all.

The long hike of the day was back to Rocky Ridge. The hurricanes of recent years left more tree falls for the early birds to climb over or around. Hurricane damage was visible in some spots along the hike, though none were severe. Special note was taken at Wray's Hill, where numerous artifacts were found of this once important coal mining location. Discoveries included mine rail and a mine car wheel. The hikers also stopped along the way to inspect the EBT's masonry work on the several dry-fit retaining walls built along Trough Creek. At Rocky Ridge several attendees braved Trough Creek to visit the remains of the Rocky Ridge Station and the portal of Wray's Hill tunnel.

Dinner Saturday evening was pizza from Pizza Star II, served at the FEBT old Robertsdale Post office. Snacks and desserts were served there also, courtesy of Patty Coleman. Slides and 8mm films were shown for the evening program.

Sunday, the group started the day with a hearty breakfast at RTM and headed to Mount Union for a full day of touring. The tour was an extended version of the one usually given during the Fall Reunion, covering far more of the yard, and many sites that there is not time to visit in the fall. Three full hours of exploration were spent in the yard and still not every site could be seen. Just after noon the tour officially came to an end and the attendees dispersed to lunch and then the trip home.

Many thanks to my special wife and constant helper Patty, to Larry Freeman and Doug Weidman for their great help with meals, and to Hank Inman for his continued support of this event. After eight years of organizing this event, I have decided to pass the mantle to others to continue this FEBT tradition and so will not be organizing the Spring Exploration for 2007. Please monitor the FEBT newsletter for plans for next year's exploration.

Trough Creek retaining walls
Just south of Rocky Ridge, the EBT's track parallels Trough Creek. Tour leader Chris Coleman (center, with black bag) points out the dry-stacked stone retaining wall that separates the roadbed from the creek.
Pete Clarke photo
Rocky Ridge Station Ruins
This pile of rubble is all that remains of the two-story Rocky Ridge depot that sat just south of the south portal of Wrays Hill Tunnel. At one time, the Rocky Ridge branch left here, and proceeded up the side of Wrays Hill north to Jacobs to access the coal mines along the way.
Chris Coleman photo
Wray's Hill Tunnel Collapse
Chris Coleman peers up from the collapsed portion of the south portal of Wrays Hill tunnel.
Pete Clarke photo
Kimmel Spring Switch
Chris Coleman points out a spring frog on a switch at Kimmel. The frog was sprung so that cars rolling through would have a smoother trip over the switch.
Pete Clarke photo
Mt Union Enginehouse
The doors to the Mt. Union enginehouse opened to reveal its two inhabitants: EBT 0-6-0 #3, and the Mt. Union Connecting RR's not-yet-serviceable Plymouth diesel. The third rail going into the enginehouse on the right ends at the door, so the only track that could be occupied by a narrow gauge locomotive would have been the left track.
Pete Clarke photo
Mr. Union Yard
One of the first generation of steel hoppers still sits in the Mt. Union yards. It’s identifiable by the rounded side ribs, as opposed to the "L" braces used by the EBT shops.
Pete Clarke photo
Dougherty Tramway R-O-W
From the grounds surrounding the Rocky Ridge depot, the remains of the old Dougherty tramway that served one of the local coal mines can be seen (running across the photo, roughly through the center)
Chris Coleman photo
 



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