In August, for the first time since 1956, the stationary steam engine in the East Broad Top Railroad’s Rockhill Furnace shop complex ran, turning the engine’s eight-foot flywheel and the linked shaft-and-belt power distribution system. This test run, using compressed air rather than steam from the out-of-service boilers, will be repeated for the public during the railroad’s 2009 Fall Spectacular.
While notable in itself, the operation of the shop steam engine is the unplanned culmination of eight years of effort by FEBT volunteers working on this corner of the EBT’s historic shop complex. FEBT members Jim Bacon, of Ohio, and Dave Richards, of New York, who share a professional interest in machine-shop operations, coordinated this work.
Our restoration work here began simply enough. The exterior brick wall next to the shop boilers was in danger of collapsing. Jim Bacon, working with a local retired mason, supervised our repairs to this wall. Jim then organized our reconstruction of the wood upper wall, which in turn allowed our volunteers to repair the rafters and roof above the boilers.
The following year Jim and our volunteers addressed the adjacent coal storage bin. The original bin had disintegrated; it was removed and the new bin constructed in its place.
Our volunteers next tackled structural problems at the foundry, just north of the shop boiler house. Here the rot had attacked the wood posts and beams supporting the building’s upper materials-handling floor and overhead crane. Jim and Dave Richards designed an exterior wood frame, which allowed us to temporarily lift and support the upper portion of the building. This permitted us to replace the deteriorated posts and beams and repair the exterior walls of the foundry.
Repairs to the damaged wood roof supports and framing above the stationary steam engine started last year. Jim, Dave, and our volunteers installed new supporting posts that permitted them to jack up a damaged main roof truss. Relieved of its load, portions of the truss were replaced and other repairs completed. A new laminated wood beam was fabricated and inserted to support the roof framework above the steam engine. These repairs allowed the "temporary" wood cribbing installed many years ago to prevent the collapse of the roof at this location to be removed, providing better access and a less obstructed view of the steam engine.
With the encouragement of EBT general manger Stanley G. Hall, this year Dave Richards cleaned and refurbished the governor from the shop steam engine. Attaching a compressed-air line and some additional tinkering then restored the shop engine to operating condition. Plans call for occasional limited demonstrations of the stationary steam engine, but who knows what the future might bring?
The stationary steam engine in the East Broad Top Railroad’s Rockhill Furnace shop was installed in 1882. The engine was part of an extensive enlargement and rebuilding of the railroad’s shop facilities, launched the previous year. The goal of these improvements was to reduce the expense of relying on the Baldwin Locomotive Works and the Pennsylvania railroad’s Altoona shops to maintain the EBT’s steam locomotives. In its final configuration, the shop engine not only operated shop machinery through a shaft-and-belt power system, it also ran an electrical generator and air compressor.
This summer our Rockhill Furnace restoration volunteers turned their attention to the concrete coal bunker at the south end of the EBT’s Rockhill Furnace yard, which was used to supply coal to the railroad’s steam locomotives. So far our efforts have focused on removing refuse from the ground-level storage area and installing replacements for the deteriorated wood doors.
This summer we completed work on our reproduction passenger trucks. The Strasburg Rail Road performed machine-work and assembled our two wood-frame trucks, which are reproductions of original trucks from former East Broad Top Railroad coach no. 5. The new trucks are intended for the restoration of EBT combine no. 16, now stored at the New Jersey Museum of Transportation. In October FEBT will return the leased original trucks from coach no. 5 to the Tweetsie Railroad, the coach’s present owner.
Although the formal fund-raising campaign we started in 2001 ended last December, the need for financial support for our restoration program has not. Our 2009 restoration budget is $79,605.62, including present commitments and allocations to current projects. This budget will be adjusted up or down to reflect the actual funds available during the second half of 2009. Donations from individuals provide the primary financial support for our restoration program. Please help us by sending your tax-deductible donation to this address:
FEBT Restoration Fund Treasurer
513 Shady Avenue, No. 12
Pittsburgh PA 15206-4447
All donors will receive written acknowledgements for contributions to our restoration fund.