By Hank Inman, President
Friends of the East Broad Top
Last weekend I made brief visits to Rockhill Furnace and Robertsdale. Although it was not a scheduled work weekend at either location, FEBT volunteers were hard at work at both sites. At Rockhill Furnace the focus was on applying the handrails and finish paint to East Broad Top Railroad boxcar no. 168, now converted for tourist train service, so it can be operated on the railroad's fall spectacular trains. In Robertsdale we were filling nail holes and applying a second coat of finish paint to several of the ceilings we installed earlier this year. At first glance the materials our volunteers were using—primarily paint—appear relatively inexpensive. However, our work this past weekend at both Robertsdale and Rockhill Furnace in fact represents the continuation of significant investments we have made, with your support, since our fund-raising campaign began in 2001.
The work on steel boxcar no. 168 is taking place on the concrete work pad adjacent to the car restoration facility we established in the EBT's brick paint shop building. This work area, together with the repairs and improvements we made to the paint shop building itself, were paid for with the contributions you and other donors have provided to us. Our work on the ceilings at Robertsdale is just one step in the final phase of our rehabilitation of the old post office building for museum use. Here the significant costs for work performed by our contractors and for the materials used by our volunteers are underwritten by the donations we have received during the past seven years. Thus without the financial support you and hundreds of others have contributed to us, the work our volunteers performed last weekend, like all the work we have accomplished since 2001, would have been impossible.
We have extended the final deadline for our current fundraising campaign to December 31, 2008. We have done this for two reasons. First, we want to accommodate requests from donors seeking one or more of the art reproductions available as part of our current fund-raising effort. Second, we realize that we need to obtain additional funds to complete two major projects now underway and to support the restoration work we hope to undertake at Rockhill Furnace next year.
To complete our rehabilitation of the old Robertsdale post office, where we will move our principal museum operations, we still need to have new wood doors fabricated and installed with the necessary locks and hardware to replace the salvage doors we installed ten years ago. We also need to obtain the pressed metal ceiling we intend to install in the two main rooms on the first floor of the building. It now seems likely that we will need additional funds to complete assembly of our reproduction wood-beam passenger-car trucks, in addition to our present commitment to refurbish and return the original trucks from former EBT coach no. 5, which we leased from the Tweetsie Railroad to serve as patterns for this project. The funds now available to allocate to these projects and for restoration work next year at Rockhill Furnace are extremely limited. Thus without additional resources our directors will be forced to make difficult decisions when they authorize the 2009 budget for our restoration program.
The contributions we receive during the final three months of our campaign will determine what work we will be able to accomplish and what work we may have to defer. Given the present economic uncertainties, we need to allocate our restoration funds carefully to make sure we do not overextend ourselves in the financial commitments we make to our restoration program.
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 us at 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 December 31, 2008, may still 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.
Because of your past generosity we have purchased and returned two historic EBT wood passenger cars and a work motorcar to Rockhill Furnace. We have documented the EBT's station building at Saltillo and water tank at Coles Station for the US National Park Service's Historic American Engineering Record. We have repaired, stabilized, and painted the main shop building, foundry, electrical shop, sand house, boiler house, coal bin, small garage, and two hand-car sheds at Rockhill Furnace. We have restored an EBT caboose, rehabilitated a steel hopper car and a steel flat car, and converted a steel boxcar for tourist train service. We have assisted the EBT with its successful repairs to 2-8-2 locomotive no. 15. We have helped repair track in the Rockhill Furnace yard, cleared away brush, and stabilized erosion from an adjacent creek. In Robertsdale we are nearing the completion of our work on the old post office, we have improved museum operations in the former EBT station, and added to our museum collections. With your financial support we have achieved far more than any of us imagined was possible in 2001. Thank you.
Since October 2007 we have continued our progress on all of the major restoration projects now underway, Here's a brief summary of where they now stand. as of September 2008.
This year our restoration volunteers at Rockhill Furnace have focused their energy on four main projects. Inside the main shop building our volunteers are repairing the wood trusses supporting the roof at the north end of the building. This involves cutting heavy wood timbers to replace the deteriorated parts of the trusses, jacking up the trusses to fit the replacement timbers, and then inserting the new timbers and gusset plates—all at about fifteen feet above the ground. Outside our paint and window crew has extended their work to the southwest side of the machine shop. Here our volunteers are repairing damaged window sashes while priming and applying red paint to the shop building's exterior walls.
Other restoration volunteers have tackled the small garage near the sand house. New supports have been installed for the building's floor, and the walls and roof framing have been repaired to stabilize the building. More recently our volunteers applied new roofing and started work on repairs to the garage's doors, exterior wood sheathing, and trim.
Much of our effort this past year has been devoted to completing the conversion of East Broad Top Railroad steel boxcar no. 168 to serve as a passenger rider car. This required stripping the car down to its metal framework; altering the car's floor, sides, and roof; repairing the trucks and running gear; installing new end platforms, safety railings, and a wheelchair lift; and applying filler, primer, finish paint, and new stenciled lettering.
Contracted work on the old Robertsdale post office started last October. Our general contractor constructed a new concrete foundation for the reconstructed rear addition, a new concrete sidewalk and pads for the building's air conditioners, fuel tanks, and emergency escape ladder. He next completed the masonry work for the reconstructed addition; the rock-faced concrete block removed to create the new interior doorway into the addition was used to restore an air-conditioner opening cut into the building's north wall many years ago. A new roof and trim completed the exterior of the reconstructed addition, which becomes the handicapped-accessible public washroom. New insulation was installed beneath the main floor, new plumbing roughed in, and repairs to the original plaster on the interior faces of the post office's block walls have been completed. Last month our contractor installed the emergency ladder from the building's second floor. Meanwhile our electrical contractor installed the rough electrical wiring and telephone cables.
We have started to run the necessary wiring for the alarm system ourselves, so our alarm contractor can mount the sensors and other components of the system after all other work on the building has been completed. The rest of the contracted work, which involves installing the final plumbing and fixtures, the tile floor in the public washroom, and the remaining electrical wiring and lighting, should be finished this winter.
Meanwhile our volunteers have primed and painted tongue-and-groove wood ceiling, much of which has been installed. The wood trim on the reconstructed addition has been primed and painted. Our volunteers have installed more interior insulation. We have started finishing the interior walls and trim, priming and painting as this work progresses.
In early 2008 historical architect John R. Bowie completed preliminary work on five sheets of measured drawings for the EBT's last remaining water tank. In June FEBT member and architect William E. Grant, Jr., spent several hours at the Coles Station site, checking the draft measured drawings against the actual water tank. We have forwarded Bill's comments to John, who plans to finish revisions to his drawings by the end of the year. He will then deliver the final drawings, large-format photographs, photo captions, and field notes to FEBT. After making copies for our own collections, we will transmit this material to the US National Park Service, where it will join other Historic American Engineering Record documentation of the EBT in the Library of Congress.
This summer our Rockhill Furnace restoration volunteers also visited Coles Station to make several repairs to the water tank.
In 2008 shop workers at the Strasburg Rail Road started contracted work on two wood-beam reproduction passenger trucks—a project which FEBT began twenty years ago. The two new trucks are intended for use under EBT baggage-passenger car no, 16, which is now stored at the New Jersey Museum of Transportation. To serve as patterns for the reproduction passenger trucks, FEBT leased two original trucks from former EBT coach no. 5, owned by the Tweetsie Railroad, which we agreed to refurbish and return in operating condition.
Over the intervening years we have obtained most of the major components for the reproduction trucks, including wheel-and-axle assemblies. In 2007 our directors agreed to engage the Strasburg Rail Road to perform the work needed for us to return the leased original trucks to the Tweetsie Railroad and to manufacture all remaining parts needed to assemble our reproduction trucks. This work is now in progress, with FEBT member Stephen W. Jacobs, a professional engineer, as project coordinator. If our resources permit, we plan to have the Strasburg Rail Road assemble the two reproduction trucks. We have confirmed arrangements for the return of the original trucks to North Carolina, thus at last fulfilling our longstanding obligation to the Tweetsie Railroad.
It's only natural that the major restoration projects FEBT has undertaken since the 2001 start of our fund-raising campaign receives most of the attention, but our volunteers have successfully tackled many smaller projects along the way. For example, in 2007 we used our Rockhill Furnace car restoration facility to refurbish our historic East Broad Top Railroad handcar. The repairs to the handcar included fabricating and installing a new wheel bearing, replacing damaged frame timbers and deck boards, and fitting a new wood handle to the car's pump mechanism. The handcar returned to Robertsdale for display at the FEBT Museum after these repairs were completed. Here it is shown with FEBT assistant vice president Vagel C. Keller, who coordinates our museum operations.