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FEBT 16th Annual Reunion - 1998

16th Fall Spectacular and FEBT Reunion a Success

By Deane Mellander
As published in the Timber Transfer Fall 1998. ed.

What threatened to be a gray, chilly weekend turned into perfect October weather for FEBT's 16th annual Reunion, held as always in conjuction with the East Broad Top's traditional Fall Spectacular. For those of us who came up Friday, the weather people kept saying that the rain and gloom would be exiting by the end of the day, and the weekend should be nice. Instead, it was more of the same as members assembled at the Lion's Hall on Saturday morning. However, the clouds started to thin by mid-morning, and by noon the sun was winning the day. There was hint of fall color on the hillsides, somewhat subdued by the drought that hit the mid-Atlantic area in mid-summer.

Friday evening featured the annual meeting of FEBT. The Board members in attendance recounted the past year's activities, including progress on the new trucks for Combine 16, the Robertsdale Post Office restoration, and an update on the Timber Transfer. Prime topic of discussion was the proposed revisions to the Articles of Incorporation, the legal instrument that establishes FEBT under Virginia state corporate law. The Board of Directors had previously approved amendments to the By-laws in preparation for action on the new Articles. After discussion, the revised Articles were approved by a large majority, including ballots from members who were unable to attend the meeting.

Pete and Jane Clarke had registration well in hand. There were over 120 preregistered, and more signed up during the day. Ably assisted by the John Snyder and the Bailey family, packets were handed out along with mementos of the occasion. Bill Grant designed a striking T-shirt in dark green with orange lettering, and featuring an end view of his scale plans for Combine 16. Travel coffee mugs, also in green with the FEBT logo were also available. Extras of the T-shirts and mugs will be available through the Company Store while supplies last.

Bob King had the Company Store set up and ready for business. Bill Wade from B.T.S. was also in attendance. He had available Sn3 EBT car kits, the Three Springs depot kit in S and O scales, and a mock-up of the forth-coming Orbisonia depot in O scale, a truly impressive structure in 1/4 inch scale.

The EBT had all four operable locomotives in steam. This, despite the fact that No. 15 had blown a flue the previous weekend. Herculean efforts by the shop staff over the week got her back in action for the Spectacular. Repair of the roundhouse roof, where one of the smokejacks had caught fire earlier in the year, were well under way. The featured train this year was the Shade Gap Picnic train, consisting of all the open flat cars, plus a combine and caboose. This train commemorated the Grand Army of the Republic picnic specials to Shade Gap that were a fixture on the railroad for over 30 years. The passenger train and freight train also operated. Double-headers were featured on a number of trains as well. The visitor count this year did not seem to come up to the last couple of years. This was likely due first to the dubious nature of the weather outlook early Saturday, and the fact that more and more activities in the region are being scheduled on the Columbus Day weekend.

All of the operations on the railroad appeared to operate without a hitch. The schedule ran a bit late as Saturday wore on, but this is not unusual. EBT President Joe Kovalchick, along with son Nathan, led the commemorative whistle salute at noon on Saturday.

The reconstruction of U.S. 522 north of Orbisonia has actually afforded an easier, safer means of photographing the trains lineside. With the new wider shoulders, and in some instances graded areas left from realigning the highway, there was ample space to park off the travel lanes. This project is approaching completion. The next phase, expect within the next couple of years, will be improvements south of Orbisonia through Blacklog Narrows. As noted in the previous TT, this road project will likely obliterate the sites of the Winchester and original Rockhill iron furnaces. These sites are undergoing archeological investigation now to document them before the bulldozers arrive.

The two night trains on Saturday were well-attended. They arrived back in plenty of time for members to attend the evening program at the Lion's Hall, including contest awards and the auction.

The auction featured books, papers, and other items donated to FEBT. When all was said and done, the Restoration Fund was over $1,100.00 richer.

Sunday was Robertsdale day. Coffee and donuts were served at the depot, and members had an opportunity to inspect the progress on the rehabilitation of the Post Office building. There were tours to the mine sites, the Rockhill Furnace area, and the "Thousand Steps" up the side of Jacks's Mountain to the Harbison-Walker quarries west of Mt. Union. The old furnace sites in the Blacklog Narrows were also available for view, with Paul Heberling available to answer questions. Another excellent Reunion.

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