This year marks the return of the FEBT 'Early Bird' Exploration, which will trace remnants of the Rockhill Iron and Coal Company’s iron furnace and mines. The East Broad Top Railroad was originally constructed to serve the iron company’s iron furnaces in Rockhill Furnace, and RI&C used the railroad to transport the iron ore, coal, and limestone needed for furnace operations. FEBT member Richard F. Wickett will organize and lead tours exploring Rockhill Furnace, Blacklog Creek valley, and Shade Valley on Thursday and Friday, April 9-10.
On Thursday the walking tour will focus on the remains of the iron furnaces and coke ovens in Rockhill Furnace and traces of the iron mines and tramway in the north end of the Blacklog Creek valley. (Rich conducted a shortened version of this tour during our 2008 fall reunion.) On Friday the driving and walking tour will explore remains of the iron mines and railroad right of way northeast of Shade Gap. Obviously there will be plenty of hiking involved, and spring exploration participants should plan accordingly.
No formal registration is required for this year's 'Early Bird' Exploration. FEBT members who wish to participate should simply meet Rich Wickett in Rockhill Furnace, on Iron Street behind the EBT station, at 9 am, both mornings. In addition to keeping up with the tour, participants will be responsible for their own transportation and food.
The investors who in 1871 and 1872 organized RI&C and the EBT were committed to exploiting iron ore deposits in the Orbisonia vicinity as well as coal mined on the east side of Broad Top Mountain. Several charcoal iron furnaces had operated sporadically near Orbisonia since the early nineteenth century. In 1876 production started at the much larger RI&C iron facility in Rockhill Furnace. The new furnaces had two stacks, used coke produced from Broad Top coal, and could produce 40 to 50 tons of pig iron a day.
At first RI&C used iron ore mined along Blacklog Creek, the same iron ore deposits exploited by the earlier charcoal furnaces. The iron company used a private tramway to transport ore from these mines to its furnaces. In the mid-1880s RI&C leased rights to additional iron ore further to the south, near Shade Gap and Neelyton, and in Shade Valley, north of Shade Gap. In 1884 the RI&C tramway was incorporated into the right of way of the Shade Gap Railroad, which had been projected south to a connection at Burnt Cabins to William H. Vanderbilt’s never-completed South Pennsylvania Railroad. Tracks were pushed further north in Shade Valley to new RI&C iron ore mines in several stages, until reaching the Nancy mine in 1890. The EBT handled all train operations on these tracks, whether owned by the Shade Gap Railroad or RI&C. In 1908, after iron production at Rockhill Furnace ended, the EBT purchased the portions of the Shade Gap right of way owned by RI&C; in 1913 the Shade Gap Railroad was formally merged into the EBT. By that time the rails had been removed from the Shade Valley line, leaving the tracks to Shade Gap and Neelyton (to which tracks from Shade Gap had been extended in 1908) to constitute the railroad‘s Shade Gap branch.
Permission to visit private property and the weather may obviously affect tour arrangements. For additional details about our 2009 'Early Bird' Exploration, please consult the FEBT web site as we get closer to the actual dates of the tour, or contact Richard F. Wickett at (814) 834-1709 (evenings).
In addition to our Early Bird Exploration in April, the following FEBT events are scheduled during the coming year. Our plans are somewhat tentative at this stage, in part because of uncertainties about 2009 operations of the East Broad Top Railroad.
On Saturday and Sunday, June 6-7, we will hold our 2009 Summer Celebration at the East Broad Top Railroad and the FEBT Museum in Robertsdale. Look for more information in the next FEBT Newsletter.
On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 10-11, we will hold our 27th FEBT Fall Reunion. An announcement of our plans for this special weekend will be mailed to all FEBT members at the end of August.
Current information about all FEBT-sponsored events is regularly posted on the FEBT web site. FEBT members interested in planning and participating in our 2009 events should contact FEBT outreach coordinator Dennis R. Straub at firstname.lastname@example.org or (717) 249-4239.
At the end of January FEBT members were mailed the fall 2007 and winter 2008 issues of The Timber Transfer (volume 24 nos. 2 and 3). The post office started to deliver this mailing, which includes our 2007 financial statement and an insert from the FEBT Company Store, in mid-February. Editor Kevin C. Strong tells us that he hopes to get the next two issues, to be mailed together, in our printer’s hands by May. FEBT members who experience problems with missing or damaged issues of The Timber Transfer should contact Peter A. Clarke at the FEBT membership office:
FEBT Membership Office
c/o Peter A. Clarke
10428 Carlyn Ridge Road
Damascus, MD 20872
For more information contact
Lee Rainey at
(814) 867–7878 (home),
(814) 404–3968 (cell), or
subject to change at short notice due to
weather or availability of volunteers
For more information contact Hank Inman at (804) 353–0817 or Vagel Keller at (412) 441–7881 or email@example.com
FEBT director Stephen W. Jacobs reports that the Strasburg Rail Road has completed fabrication of the remaining components needed to assemble our reproduction wood-beam passenger trucks. Machinists at Strasburg have also successfully reworked the new truck journal boxes supplied by one of our earlier contractors. In addition to the remachined journal boxes and other parts needed for our trucks—reproductions of the original trucks from East Broad Top Railroad coach no. 5—we have also obtained parts required to repair the original trucks we leased to serve as a basis for this project. (Our 1990 agreement with the Tweetsie Railroad, the current owner of coach no. 5, calls for us to restore the leased trucks to operating condition before we return them.) Our two reproduction trucks are intended for use under former EBT baggage-passenger combine no. 16, now stored at the New Jersey Museum of Transportation, which we hope to bring back to the EBT.
Based on assessments provided by Steve, who coordinators our work on this project, and Linn W. Moedinger and Kelly Anderson at the Strasburg Rail Road, who FEBT engaged to perform the contracted work on the trucks, the FEBT executive committee has authorized the additional work needed to assemble the two reproduction trucks and one original truck. The two reproduction trucks will use the four wheel-and-axle assemblies we obtained several years ago, funded in part by a grant from the National Railway Historical Society. The truck assembled for the Tweetsie Railroad will use two existing wheel-and-axle assembles from the leased trucks. FEBT will return the assembled original truck and components for the second original truck to North Carolina after work on three trucks is completed.
We currently anticipate that the additional cost of contracted work necessary to assemble the two reproduction trucks will be approximately $10,000 more than the funds previously allocated to this project. Steve notes that having FEBT volunteers disassemble the original Tweetsie truck and install the brake rigging on the reproduction trucks after all other work is completed will reduce our expenditures on the truck project. Thus if all goes according to plan, we should finally conclude our long-standing obligation to the Tweetsie Railroad this year.
FEBT vice president R. Lee Rainey reports that although winter weather forced cancellation of the January work session, the February work session at Rockhill Furnace was one of our most productive. Lee notes that work advanced on three major projects: First, our volunteers reattached metal roof panels loosened by winter winds on the open storage shed. Inside the main shops, we installed the new main roof truss, which will allow us to remove the "temporary" braces installed twenty years ago to support the building’s roof. Finally, FEBT volunteers "squared" EBT combine no. 14’s wood frame and started to prepare the car’s side framing for installation of plywood reinforcement, which will be hidden behind the new exterior wood sheathing.
According to Lee, tasks planned for future work sessions this year include completing our rehabilitation of the small garage, more work on combine no. 14, continuing our repairs to the exterior of the main shop complex, and track repairs so that steam locomotives will have a second track to access the Rockhill Furnace turntable.
Work on the interior of the old Robertsdale post office has advanced significantly during our December and January work sessions, FEBT president Henry F. Inman reports. All wood tongue-and-groove ceilings have been installed, leaving only the metal ceiling planned for the two main first-floor rooms to complete. Most of the wallboard has been installed on the partition walls of the second floor; this task should be completed at our February and March work sessions. At that time our volunteers will also install the remaining insulation under the upper floor, start work on the first-floor partition walls, and continue trim work and painting as other work permits.
According to Hank, who coordinates our restoration work in Robertsdale, within the next several months our general contractor should be able to complete his work on the tile floor for the public toilet, the cabinets in the second-floor-break room, the hot-water heater, and all plumbing, and fixtures. Later this year we should be able to install the grid for the metal ceiling and start work on the wood wainscoting. FEBT volunteers have installed most wiring for building’s the alarm system, so our alarm contractor will be able to install the alarm system components when all other work has been completed.
Historical architect John R. Bowie, our contractor on this project, indicates that he has not yet completed his final revisions to the five sheets of measured drawings for the EBT’s enclosed water tank at Coles Station, although he hopes to accomplish this work within the next few months. After making any copies needed for our own use, FEBT will then transmit these drawings, large-format photographs, and field notes to the US National Park Service, where this material will join other EBT Historic American Engineering Record documentation.
In the mean time, John has submitted a proposal for a presentation based on his work for FEBT at Saltillo and Coles Station for the national convention of the Society for Industrial Archeology, which will be held in Pittsburgh in May. Our documentation of the Coles Station water tank has been funded in part by a $3,000 grant FEBT received from the Society for Industrial Archeology.
FEBT director William L. Adams informs us that most work on the second of three new display panels for the FEBT Museum was completed in October. Visitors to Robertsdale during the 2008 Fall Reunion could inspect the two panels so far completed. Graphic artwork and other materials needed to finish the third panel have been obtained, and work on this panel should be completed in 2009.
Lee Rainey indicates that 42 FEBT volunteers contributed a total of 3,126 hours of work at Rockhill Furnace last year. According to Hank Inman, 21 FEBT volunteers contributed 633 hours of labor at Robertsdale in 2008. Lee and Hank encourage interested FEBT members to join our restoration work at Rockhill Furnace and Robertsdale, noting that there is always plenty to do. Prospective volunteers should consult the restoration page of this website and the schedule of 2009 work sessions planned at both locations for contact information.
Several FEBT members are assisting our outreach campaign by distributing information about the East Broad Top Railroad and FEBT at recent or upcoming train shows. In January FEBT member James A. Vliet distributed FEBT and EBT information at the 19th Annual Winter Train Show and Exhibition in Freeport, New York. Later that month Jim, with help from FEBT members John J. Cipar and Russell B. Norris, Jr., successfully organized our display at the Amherst Railway Society’s Railroad Hobby Show in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Jim will set up his FEBT display at the Spring Thaw Train Meet in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on February 21-22. FEBT members interested in helping Jim can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (516) 771-1038 (home).
On March 14 FEBT members John Cameron and Dennis R. Straub plan to distribute FEBT and EBT information at the Harrisburg Railroad Show and Collectors Market, sponsored by the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, at the L.W. Abel Union Hall in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. FEBT members interested in helping Dennis and John can contact Dennis at the e-mail address or telephone number given below. On May 9 FEBT members Christopher and Patricia Coleman plan to set up their usual FEBT display table at the Buckeye Railroad and Model Train Show and Sale at the Ohio State Exposition Center in Columbus, Ohio.
This summer the National Model Railroad Association’s 2009 National Train Show will be held in Hartford, Connecticut, on July 10-12. FEBT members in that area interested in the possibility of setting up a FEBT display table at this train show (held in conjunction with the NMRA’s national convention) should contact FEBT outreach coordinator Dennis Straub, whose telephone number and e-mail address are given below, so that we can reserve space at this event.
FEBT has not yet reserved space at the 2009 National Narrow Gauge Convention, which will be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on September 16-19. FEBT members who plan to attend this convention and are interested in helping us with a display table should contact Dennis Straub as soon as possible, so we can make the necessary arrangements.
We are always happy to provide literature and information about the EBT and FEBT to FEBT members for distribution at train shows, conventions, and other events. Interested FEBT members should contact:
Dennis R. Straub
722 Alexander Spring Rd
Carlisle PA 17013
Telephone: (717) 249–4239
providing as much advance notice as possible.
Friends of the East Broad Top continues to work with the East Broad Top Railroad to provide guided tours at the EBT conducted by FEBT volunteers during some of the railroad’s regular operating weekends. Our volunteers offer visitors to the railroad tours inside the shops and around the Rockhill Furnace yard complex, similar to the guided tours FEBT volunteers provide to the public during special events. The goal of these tours is to encourage a better understanding of the railroad’s history and to foster greater public appreciation for the EBT as a historic resource.
Last year FEBT members Lawrence Biemiller and John Cameron handled most of our tours at the EBT. FEBT members interested in joining us as 2009 EBT tour guides should contact:
Dennis R. Straub
722 Alexander Spring Rd
Carlisle PA 17013
Telephone: (717) 249–4239
Although intended for public visitors rather than FEBT members, we hope to post the 2009 schedule of weekends on which tours on the FEBT web site www.febt.org.
In a drawing held on October 11, 2008, Friends of the East Broad Top gave away the original painting Leaving Robertsdale, Pennsylvania, during our 26th Fall Reunion. FEBT member Robert W. Grzywacs of New Haven, Connecticut, won the painting when his raffle ticket, which he had obtained with a donation to FEBT's restoration fund-raising campaign, was drawn by FEBT director Robert R. Farquharson. Noted railroad artist and FEBT member John H. Coker created Leaving Robertsdale especially for FEBT in 2004; reproductions of this painting were used to thank donors during the fourth and final years of our restoration fund-raising campaign. The income we received from the sale of raffle tickets for this drawing will be used to support our restoration program.
The drawing for Leaving Robertsdale was just one highlight of the 2008 FEBT Fall Reunion. The 103 registered participants at our October reunion were able to visit our restoration facility in the East Broad Top Railroad's paint shop; take guided walking tours devoted to EBT operations in Mount Union, coal mining in Robertsdale, and iron production in Rockhill Furnace; and enjoy our annual model and photo contests. A spirited auction at the October reunion generated over $1,000 for our restoration program and almost $400 for our education fund. Activity at the FEBT Company Store sales table more than doubled compared to recent years, and many visitors came to Robertsdale for the 2008 fall open house at the FEBT Museum.
EBT general manager Stanley G. Hall reports that the railroad enjoyed success on both days of the 2008 Columbus Day holiday weekend, noting that train ridership on Sunday was stronger than in many recent years. Blessed by good weather, all trains ran as scheduled, and the tours conducted by FEBT volunteers inside the EBT’s shops and roundhouse again proved popular.
Look for more extensive coverage of the 2008 FEBT Fall Reunion and East Broad Top Railroad Fall Spectacular in an upcoming issue of The Timber Transfer.
There is good news to report about East Broad Top Railroad operations in 2009. EBT general manager Stanley G. Hall advises us that, based on current plans, the railroad's operating schedule this year should be the same as in recent years. EBT trains will run Saturdays and Sundays only, starting on June 6 and continuing through October 25. The train schedule each day will also be the same, with trains leaving Orbisonia Station at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm. EBT 2-8-2 locomotive no. 15 will again handle steam-powered trains this year. Arrangements for 2009 special events are still unsettled; the railroad will provide more information about these events later this year.
For up-to-date information about train tickets, schedules, and group rates, please contact the railroad directly at the following address:
East Broad Top Railroad
PO Box 158
Rockhill Furnace, PA 17249
Telephone: (814) 447-3011
FAX: (814) 447-3256
In 2009 the FEBT Museum will be open on the first and third weekends of each month, May through October. Regular museum operating hours are 10 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and 1 to 5 pm on Sundays; the museum will be open special hours during 2009 FEBT and EBT events. FEBT assistant vice president Vagel C. Keller, who coordinates our museum operations, reminds FEBT members that volunteers interested in helping us at Robertsdale are always needed. If you think you would like to join us there, contact Vagel at:
Vagel C. Keller
FEBT Assistant Vice President, Museum Operations
PO Box 5130
Pittsburgh PA 15260-0130
Telephone: (412) 441–7881
In the second half of 2008 various donors contributed several items for our museum collections and to support various FEBT activities. We take this opportunity to thank these individuals here for their recent gifts to FEBT.
In June FEBT member William E. Grant, Jr., donated a new Hydronic-Silicone 1,500-watt baseboard heating unit for installation in the public toilet of the old Robertsdale post office. That month FEBT Richard F. Wickett also donated a used commercial-grade shop vacuum for use at Rockhill Furnace.
In July FEBT received a copy of "The Life and Times of John H. Miller" from FEBT member Stephen A. Runkle, who assembled this material about the principal coal operator at Joller. This item has been added to our museum collection.
In October FEBT member Deane E. Mellander donated 200 color photographic prints used by the printer to make the color separations for his 1995 book East Broad Top: Slim Gauge Survivor. Our current plan is to offer these photos, authenticated by Deane, for sale later this year. In October FEBT also received a collection of John T. Derr’s EBT photographic negatives from FEBT member Richard F. Wickett. This material will be held with other photographic materials in our museum collections. That month Kenda Sovero donated to FEBT a cast-iron stove believed to have come from an East Broad Top Railroad building. We are storing the stove in Rockhill Furnace while we evaluate how best to use it.
Finally, in December Magdalena Bugajska donated a used Pentium-4 computer with 15-inch monitor to FEBT for our digital archive project.
FEBT members are requested to vote to elect four persons to the nine-member board of directors of Friends of the East Broad Top, Inc., using the ballot included with this newsletter. All FEBT members holding regular, family, sustaining, associate, life, senior, and student memberships are eligible to vote in this election. The directors chosen by FEBT members in this election will serve two-year terms of office.
The nominating committee for this election cycle consisted of FEBT secretary Robert R. Farquharson (chairman), FEBT member William E. Grant, Jr., and FEBT Company Store manager Richard M. Ullery. The chairman of the committee received the names of eight potential nominees, including three incumbent directors holding seats up for election. The three incumbent directors and three of the other five potential candidates confirmed to the nominating committee their interest in serving as directors of Friends of the East Broad Top, and the nominating committee has placed their names on the official ballot.
Each candidate was asked for a written statement of 100 words or less summarizing his or her past and present contributions to FEBT and indicating what he or she would do if elected. These responses are reproduced below (minimally edited), in the randomized order in which the candidates' names appear on the official ballot. An asterisk (*) denotes an incumbent director running for reelection.
I have been a member of FEBT for as long as I have known of the organization, and I have attended as many of its functions as time permitted. I have participated in reunion activities and modeling contests, and frequently familiarize other railfans with both the EBT and FEBT. I have assisted in securing materials for our reunion auctions and historic EBT artifacts for our collections. I have had a part in the recruitment of approximately 100 new members in the past several years and would continue to place emphasis on this effort. I would expect to use my skills and experience to further the interest and public awareness of both the EBT and FEBT.
Since joining FEBT in 1987 I have served as secretary, as membership ombudsman, as volunteer coordinator for events, and most recently as assistant vice president for museum operations. Otherwise, my focus has been on adding to our historical knowledge of the EBT. Aside from the well-known walking tours in Robertsdale every fall, I inaugurated the popular "early bird" explorations, published numerous historical articles in The Timber Transfer, and contributed my extensive research files on the EBT to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. If elected I would work to speed progress on the old post office and other projects in Robertsdale.
I have served on the board for the past four years. Since 2000 I have contributed articles to The Timber Transfer, helped staff FEBT events and train-show booths, worked on the digital archives project and Robertsdale exhibits, and worked with the Company Store on new products. I helped with the Saltillo station and Coles Station tank house documentation, and have been a regular volunteer and crew leader in Rockhill Furnace since 2002. I will continue to support FEBT's restoration work in both Rockhill Furnace and Robertsdale, continue work on the photographic collection, and continue work on the museum exhibits for Robertsdale.
I have served as a FEBT director and officer since 1993 and as president since 1997. Currently I also coordinate our restoration work at Robertsdale and our Coles Station water tank documentation project. I am committed to working on the challenges we face, which include (1) continuing our efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of FEBT operations; (2) building on the successes of our restoration program; (3) expanding our outreach initiatives; (4) further developing our museum and collections; (5) securing the necessary funds to maintain our progress on these activities; and (6) working with the owner of the EBT to insure its future.
I have been involved with FEBT since 1997, volunteering for the summer celebration and fall reunion, giving roundhouse and shop tours, and volunteering for a number of years at the FEBT Museum in Robertsdale. Also I have volunteered at the Rockhill Furnace restoration crew since 2002, working on caboose no. 28 and coach no. 8's roof, remodeling the paint shop, priming and painting most of the buildings, and replacing broken glass in all the buildings on the grounds. I am the crew chief for the glass crew, providing all glass for the buildings in the Rockhill Furnace shop complex. I would work with the other board members to help provide a clear and positive vision for FEBT now and in the future, through dedication and hard work.
I have been a FEBT volunteer tour guide in Rockhill Furnace for the past two years—on average, I’ve been there every other weekend during the operating season. I’ve enjoyed talking to visitors and working closely with the EBT's employees. I’ve also tried, without too much success, to help the railroad get more publicity. The coming year could be a pivotal one for the East Broad Top, and I look forward to lending a hand to the railroad and FEBT however I can—by helping to improve communications, by helping to set priorities that make sense, and by continuing to give tours. I'd also like to encourage the railroad and FEBT to do more outreach—for instance, by attending tourist-railroad-industry meetings and connecting with preservation organizations.
We are pleased that former EBT brakeman and retired Huntingdon County commissioner Lee R. Wilson has again agreed to serve as election judge. All 2009 election ballots must be mailed to FEBT Directors Election, c/o Lee R. Wilson, Election Judge, 10642 Wilson Road, Three Springs PA 17264. Only ballots received by March 30, 2009, will be counted.
FEBT restoration fund treasurer Nancy E. Jacqmin reports that we received a surge of donations at the end of 2008, as our seven-year fund-raising campaign concluded. In October, November, and December, the donations FEBT received totaled almost $30,000. This total includes donations mailed to us at the end of December, but which the post office did not deliver to us until the first week of January. A complete summary of the donations we received and how we used them will appear in a future issue of The Timber Transfer.
Nancy indicates that over $20,000 of the contributions she received arrived after December 11! This last-minute generosity means that fulfilling requests for art reproductions has been delayed for some donors. FEBT volunteers prepare all art reproductions for mailing at our Robertsdale museum, and during the winter these volunteers are usually available only one weekend each month. We thank all of you who answered our final appeal for contributions, and we appreciate your patience while we catch up with matters at our end.
Although the formal fund-raising campaign we started in 2001 has now ended, the need for financial support for our restoration program has not. As we noted in the December FEBT Newsletter, our directors have allocated funding for current restoration projects only through June, leaving the restoration budget for the remainder of 2009 to be determined. Despite the donations we received at the end of 2008, the financial resources available for the second half of this year remain uncertain. For this reason we ask you to continue your support for our restoration efforts; please send restoration donations to this address:
FEBT Restoration Fund Treasurer
513 Shady Avenue, No. 12
Pittsburgh PA 15206-4447
Please note that with the December 31, 2008, conclusion of our fund-raising campaign, the art reproductions we formerly offered to donors are no longer available. Before destroying our last supplies of art reproductions, we will replace missing or damaged art reproductions previously mailed to qualifying contributors who contact us about these problems.