By Hank Inman, President
Friends of the East Broad Top
As we start the final year of our fund-raising campaign there is both good and not-so-good news to report. First the good news: With the contributions you and other donors provided last year we have been able to continue our restoration work. Indeed, we have been able to begin delayed work on two major restoration projects. We have started the final phase of our rehabilitation of our principal museum building and resumed work on our reproduction passenger car trucks—part of a restoration project that dates from FEBT’s early years.
With the accumulated donations we received during this campaign, in 2007 we were able to make the major commitments of funds needed to advance long-anticipated work on these projects. The contracted work now in progress at the old Robertsdale post office exceeds $50,000.00 in cost, while our present commitment to contracted work on our reproduction truck project is $40,000.00. The not-so-good news is that these obligations, together with the funds needed to complete these projects and support our other ongoing restoration initiatives, will require more resources that we currently have available.
To fully fund our 2008 restoration program budget we need to realize approximately $40,000.00 from donations during the coming year. Why are we facing this imperative? First, the start of work on two major restoration projects, combined with the financial demands of our other restoration work, has created a surge in the expenditures necessary to continue our progress. Second, the donations we obtained during the sixth year of our campaign fell short of those we hoped to receive. These combined circumstances give additional urgency to this final year of our campaign.
To deal with the uncertainty we face, our board of directors has for the first time adopted a conditional restoration budget for the coming year. Instead of allocating the full resources needed for anticipated work at Robertsdale and Rockhill Furnace, FEBT directors have allocated reduced funding for only the first half of 2008. Depending on the donations you and other supporters of our restoration program provide, we will then either authorize additional funding or scale back planned restoration work, depending on the actual resources we have in our hands by mid-2008. Is $40,000.00 an unrealistic goal? This would not have presented us a problem during the first five years of our campaign, but we will be forced to address difficult choices if this year’s contributions follow last year’s example.
The contributions we receive during this year of our campaign will be used—together with funds now in hand—to pay for the expected costs of our restoration program during the coming year. In 2008 we plan to complete our rehabilitation of the old Robertsdale post office, continue our restoration work at Rockhill Furnace, conclude our documentation of the Coles Station water tank, finish the present stage of work on our reproduction truck project, and continue work on museum displays and collections. We will also complete our repayment of the low-interest loan we received in 1998 for the first phase of our work on the old Robertsdale post office. More information about these projects can be found in the following pages.
Because of your past generosity we have the funds on hand to continue the work planned next year at Rockhill Furnace, Coles Station, and Robertsdale, together with contracted work to be performed by the Strasburg Rail Road. However, I emphasize again that the funds now on hand are not sufficient to pay for all the work we hope to accomplish in 2008.
This means that more than ever we rely on the financial support that you and other friends of the East Broad Top Railroad provide to us. Please send your tax-deductible donation to the following address:
FEBT Restoration Fund Treasurer
513 Shady Avenue, No. 12
Pittsburgh PA 15206-4447
Contributors who make donations of $50.00 or more before August 31, 2008, may receive any one of the six authorized art reproductions we have produced for our fund-raising campaign. We remind every donor to tell us which art reproduction he or she wants.
As an alternative to one of our art reproductions, donors this year may choose to receive a raffle ticket for the original painting Leaving Robertsdale, Pennsylvania, which John H. Coker produced especially for FEBT. The drawing for this painting will be held on October 11, 2008, during our 2008 fall reunion, and the winner will not have to be present to win. Note that the $10.00 value of the raffle ticket is not eligible for treatment as a tax-deductible charitable donation to FEBT.
Raffle tickets will also be sold during 2008 FEBT events and before the drawing occurs. Information about how to purchase raffle tickets will be published several times during 2008 and placed on the FEBT web site. Please do not send payments for the purchase of raffle tickets to our restoration fund treasurer, who will have only enough raffle tickets on hand only to fulfill requests she receives from restoration campaign donors.
In 2007 FEBT at last started the final phase of our rehabilitation of the old Robertsdale post office. After we resolved a last-minute glitch related to the required building permit, Rex A. Smith, our general contractor, and FEBT member Charles A. Wootton, our electrical contractor, began contracted work on the post office in October. The work we have engaged them to perform includes relocating a ventilation duct, repairing plaster on the inside faces of the block walls, converting the first-floor rear addition to a new public bathroom, completing all plumbing, and installing all electrical wiring and lighting. Our contractors will also fill in the air-conditioner opening in the north wall with matching concrete block, construct sidewalks on the east and north sides of the building, and install an emergency second-floor escape ladder. We also plan to obtain custom-fabricated wood doors for the exterior and, perhaps, to replace missing interior doors. As of the end of November, our general contractor has completed the concrete and masonry work, installed insulation under the grand floor, and started work on the plumbing and ventilation duct. Our electrical contractor expects to have the rough wiring ready for inspection by the end of December.
Our plans call for FEBT volunteers to handle the bulk of the remaining work, which includes inserting additional insulation, finishing the partition walls and ceilings, cleaning and reinstalling the building’s wood wainscoting and trim, and all painting. We hope to complete as much of this work as possible in 2008, but our progress will depend how quickly the contracted work proceeds and the FEBT volunteers available. Some work, like installing the first-floor metal ceiling, requires time and skill, and may not be finished by the end of the coming year. All work is based on plans and specifications developed by historical architect John R. Bowie and meets the US Secretary of Interior’s standards for rehabilitation of historic structures. When work is completed, the old post office will become our primary museum building at Robertsdale, providing space for exhibits, our museum shop, and work on our collections.
Our total financial commitment for the contracted work now underway is $55,368.00, of which $23,863.50 has so far been paid. This does not include the cost of additional contracted work (the alarm system, new doors, door hardware, and locks) nor the cost of metal ceiling panels and other materials to be used for the work performed by FEBT volunteers. In addition to carrying forward funds to meet our obligation for the unpaid portion of the current work under contract, our directors have authorized an additional $12,000.00 for work on the post office during the first half of 2008. FEBT directors will authorize additional funds for work in the second half of 2008, based on available restoration funds, in March and June 2008.
While our primary focus in Robertsdale has been completing work on the old post office, we also continue to make progress on other projects intended to enhance operation of the FEBT Museum and availability of our collections.
First, we have initiated work on creating a digital archive of images from our collections of historic photographs of the East Broad Top Railroad. This project is beginning with black-and-white negatives in our Vince Ryan-Jack Alexander, Hugh G. Boutell, and Robert F. Collins collections. FEBT assistant vice president Vagel C. Keller and digital archive coordinator William L. Adams will inventory each collection, compose a finding guide, and create scanned digital images from all photographic negatives and prints. In July our directors established a budget of $1,000.00 for this work, which includes a 2007 grant of $600.00 we received from the Amherst Railway Society The resulting digital images will not only be used at our museum; eventually these images can be made available offsite to FEBT members and others interested in the EBT and incorporated into the FEBT web site.
Second, work is now underway on new display panels for our museum. Based on designs created by FEBT director William L. Adams, these panels incorporate photographic and graphic images, artifacts from our collections, audio, models, and captions to communicate the history and heritage of the EBT to museum visitors. An initial budget of $1,000.00 covers the cost of three of these 4 x 8-foot panels, which will allow us to evaluate the impact of the new displays before we construct additional panels. Visitors to our museum at our 2007 fall open house could inspect the first panel, which was temporarily on display in the former EBT Robertsdale station. All panels will be installed on the ground floor of the old post office when our work there is completed.
Finally, in addition to our annual repairs to the metal roof of the Robertsdale station building, in 2007 our volunteers cleaned and reorganized the building’s baggage room. We installed cabinets and constructed four heavy-duty mobile storage units to better use the space available in this room. Among other virtues, all FEBT Company Store reserve inventory is now stored in the station baggage room, eliminating our previous need for rented storage space. The total cost for the materials used for these improvements was $1,191.01.
Of course work on our digital archive and display panels will continue in 2008, as will repairs and maintenance in the station. Additional improvements to the station building itself—which could include work on the building’s doors and locks—will depend on restoration funds available in the second half of 2008. In the meantime, our 2008 restoration budget includes $500.00 for station maintenance and carries forward the unspent portions of our 2007 allocations to the archive and display projects.
In 2007 our restoration work at the East Broad Top Railroad’s Rockhill Furnace shop and yard complex continued to advance, and FEBT vice president R. Lee Rainey indicates that our volunteers will build on this progress in work planned for 2008.
In 2007 perhaps the most impressive work involved repairs FEBT volunteers made to the structural framework of the EBT’s foundry building. Several of the heavy posts and beams supporting the southwest corner of this building had deteriorated, complicated by the weight of the overhead steel transverse crane above the furnace charging floor. Our volunteers constructed a separate frame to support the crane; this frame was then raised using heavy-duty jacks. New wood posts and beams could then be safely inserted to replace the damaged elements of the foundry’s framework. Further repairs were made to the foundry’s upper exterior walls. Our continuing work on the exterior walls and windows of the main shop building advanced significantly, as our volunteers completed work on the west and south walls of the boiler shop wing and adjacent shop toilet building. Meanwhile FEBT volunteers repaired the foundation beams and floor supports in the small garage (near the sand house); this building’s milled wood siding and trim will be repaired in 2008.
In 2007 FEBT volunteers continued clearing brush and overgrowth around the yard and operating tracks. This task should be easier in the future with the heavy-duty chain and pole saws we purchased this year. Our volunteers also repaired tracks near the turntable and our paint shop restoration facility. Some FEBT volunteers started work on a particularly messy project, repairing the EBT’s badly deteriorated wood cribbing along the east bank of Jordan Creek to stem erosion on this side of the EBT yard.
Our rehabilitation of EBT steel hopper car no. 802 continues. After repairing the steel bolsters of the car’s archbar trucks, FEBT volunteers discovered that the steel bolsters on the car’s body also required significant repairs. The completion of our rehabilitation of hopper car no. 802 is now anticipated in 2008. The conversion of EBT steel box car no. 168 into a rider car with a wheelchair lift also moved forward. FEBT volunteers installed a new roof, repaired the steel and wood underframe, and made the necessary cuts and repairs to the car’s steel ends and sides. Repairs to the wood floor, installation of the wheelchair lift, additional mechanical work, and paint are incorporated in our 2008 work schedule.
The 2008 budget proposed for our restoration program at Rockhill Furnace totals $16,649.70. This includes $6,369.50 for the purchase of tools and equipment and $1,000.00 for improvements to the FEBT restoration facility; the remainder represents the cost of materials and supplies needed for our various projects. Given the uncertainty of restoration funding available next year, our directors allocated $13,000.00 to Rockhill Furnace restoration work during the first half of 2008. Supplemental funding for work in the second half of the year will depend on the restoration donations we have on hand in June.
Our documentation of the East Broad Top Railroad’s last surviving enclosed water tank at Coles Station is nearing completion. According to historical architect John R. Bowie, draft copies of the five sheets of measured drawings he is preparing will be in our hands for review at the end of 2007. After making any necessary corrections, John will provide the final inked drawings, large-format black-and-white photographic negatives, photo captions, and field notes for the Coles Station water tank to FEBT. After making copies for our own collections, we will in turn transmit the original drawings, photographic negatives, and other project materials to the US National Park Service. Eventually this Coles Station water tank documentation will deposited with other Historic American Engineering Record materials held by the Library of Congress, like the similar documentation of the railroad’s station building at Saltillo which we transmitted to the National Park Service in 2006.
Located on an isolated segment of the EBT’s right-of-way between Robertsdale and Rockhill Furnace, the water tank at Coles Station dates from 1919, when it was constructed to replace an earlier water tank at this location. The tank structure consists of an elevated round wood tub-style tank supported by heavy wood joists on framed wood bents. The tank and its supporting frame-work are enclosed in a two-story wood-frame building. A one-story annex extending from the rear wall formerly housed a belt-driven pump and its gasoline engine. Water from a nearby spring was pumped from a cistern under the annex to the tank, where train crews could use a counterweighted spout to deliver water to the tenders of the EBT’s steam locomotives. The building is currently in fair structural condition, although one supporting beam has suffered some deterioration.
Work on the documentation project started in October 2005, when John R. Bowie made his first visit to the Coles Station site. Since then John has visited the site again several more times—most recently in September 2007—to make further measurements, supervise the large-format photography, and fill in additional details for his measured drawings of the water tank. In 2005 and 2006 FEBT obtained three grants totaling $5,000.00 from the Society for Industrial Archeology and Amherst Railway Society to support our documentation of the EBT’s Coles Station water tank. Together these three grants cover almost half of the expected cost of this project. The major project expense is the $11,050.00 cost of John R. Bowie’s architectural services, which will be paid from the grant and restoration funds already on hand. An additional $250.00 has been allocated to this project in our 2008 restoration budget to cover the costs of project administrative expenses and copies of project materials for our collections and to provide to the two granting organizations.
In 2007 our board of directors authorized the resumption of work on our reproduction passenger-car trucks, which are based on the original wood-beam trucks from former East Broad Top Railroad coach no. 5. In 1990 FEBT leased the original trucks from EBT coach no. 5 from the Tweetsie Railroad, which now owns and operates this passenger car (on more modern replacement trucks) at Blowing Rock, North Carolina. In our lease agreement with the Tweetsie Railroad, FEBT committed to rehabilitate the original passenger trucks and return them in operating condition. Work on our reproduction passenger-car trucks has obviously taken far longer than we had hoped. Thus, rather than delay our return of the original trucks from EBT coach no. 5 any further, we have commissioned the shops of the Strasburg Rail Road Company to reassemble the leased trucks, fabricating new wood frames and other components required to meet our obligation to the Tweetsie Railroad. Coordinating this project for us is Stephen W. Jacobs, one of our directors and a professional engineer.
FEBT’s reproduction passenger trucks are intended for the restoration of former EBT passenger-baggage car no. 16, with the goal of returning this historic wood passenger car to operating service at the EBT. The car’s body is now stored under cover at the New Jersey Museum of Transportation. We are currently discussing with the New Jersey museum the status of EBT combine no. 16, which was the subject of a 99-year lease executed by FEBT and NJMT in 1988. Changing circumstances at both the EBT, where in 2002 FEBT resumed onsite restoration work, and at NJMT led us to suspend work on the reproduction truck project in 2003 while we resolved the future of combine no. 16 with our friends in New Jersey. The reproduction truck parts we have acquired, including four new wheel-and-axle assemblies purchased with financial support from a National Railway Historical Society grant, are stored at Strasburg, Pennsylvania.
While our immediate goal is the return of the rehabilitated original passenger-car trucks to the Tweetsie Railroad in 2008, we are also taking this opportunity to have the Strasburg Rail Road examine all components we previously obtained for the reproduction trucks. Any additional machine work required on these components will be performed, and any additional truck parts needed to assemble the two reproduction trucks will be fabricated while the original trucks are still at hand. We can then easily proceed with the assembly of the reproduction trucks as soon as we believe it makes sense to do so, basing this decision on the progress on our discussions with NJMT and the restoration funds we have available.
Our directors have currently committed $40,000.00 to work on this project; funds allocated to the truck project that remain at the end of 2007 will be carried forward to pay for work performed in 2008.
In early 2008 Friends of the East Broad Top will have passed a significant milestone. For the first time in ten years FEBT will be debt-free, as we will have completed our repayment of the loan we incurred for the first phase of our rehabilitation of the old Robertsdale post office and repaid the last of the funds temporarily borrowed from our life member account for the transportation costs of returning the two former East Broad Top Railroad passenger cars we purchased in 2002 to Rockhill Furnace.
As of November 2007, FEBT has made 115 of 120 monthly payments of $192.13 each to the Allegheny Heritage Development Corporation toward repayment of the $20,000 low-interest loan we received for the first phase of our rehabilitation of the old Robertsdale post office. The annual interest rate for this loan is three percent. The total amount we have so far repaid includes $19,041.39 in principal and $3,167.41 in interest. Thus the balance of the loan remaining is $958.61. (This does not include, of course, the additional interest due.) During the 2008 calendar year we are scheduled to make the final four loan payments totaling $772.69; of this amount $767.89 represents the repayment of principal and $4.80 the payment of interest. FEBT will make he final payment for this loan in April 2008.
In 2002 our directors authorized borrowing $10,000.00 from the FEBT life member (contingency or reserve) account to cover part of the cost of purchasing and transporting East Broad Top Railroad passenger cars nos. 18 and 29 "back home" to the EBT. Our directors took this action because the donations we had received for the return of these passenger cars fell short of the actual resources required.
In August 2004 our directors agreed that, starting that year, $2,500.00 of the contributions we receive each year to support our restoration and development programs will be used to "repay" these borrowed funds, until the entire $10,000.00 has been returned to the FEBT life member account. So far $7,500.00 has been repaid, and the last $2,500.00 will be repaid in December 2007 from the donations to our fund-raising campaign already on hand. Thus at the end of this year the entire amount borrowed from the FEBT life member account will have been returned to it.