What is the East Broad Top Railroad
The East Broad Top Railroad is one of the few places left in North America where you still can see an authentic, steam-powered narrow-gauge railroad — virtually intact, operating on its original right-of-way with its original equipment. The East Broad Top was originally chartered in 1856 making it one of the oldest narrow gauge railroads in the United States. The line was built in the 1870s around the same time as it's better known western counterpart, the Denver & Rio Grande. The mainline was completed from Mt Union PA to Rockhill Furnace in August of 1873 and extended to Robertsdale PA by November, 1874. With a mainline 33 miles long and (at its height) over 70 total miles of track, the EBT ran for over 80 years, hauling coal, iron ore, ganister rock, and lumber from the mountains of south-central Pennsylvania.
The railroad was generally profitable from the late 1800s up to the 1940s, affording it the opportunity of upgrading and modernizing its infrastructure to a much greater degree than other narrow gauge railroads. Development of a full set of shops at Rockhill allowed the railroad to embark on a program of building over two hundred steel cars for hauling the semi-bituminous coal from the mines on the east side of Broad Top Mountain to the interchange with the Pennsylvania Railroad at Mount Union. Further improvements included the acquisition of high-powered steam locomotives and a modern coal-cleaning plant at Mount Union.
Near the end of operations, coal accounted for 90% of the railroads revenues, and as the bottom dropped out of the coal market in the early 1950s as customers converted to oil and gas, the railroad's revenues steadily dropped. Passenger service ended on the EBT in 1954 with the closing of the last Rockhill Coal Company underground mine south of Robertsdale. The line closed as a coal hauler on April 14, 1956 and was sold, lock, stock and barrel, to Kovalchick Salvage Corporation of Indiana PA.
But then something almost miraculous happened. The railroad was not scrapped. Rather it sat dormant for four years until the Kovalchick family began limited tourist operations in conjunction with Orbisonia and Rockhill Furnace's bicentennial celebrations in 1960. And it is still running! Thanks to the Kovalchicks, the EBT still survives, the last original narrow-gauge railroad operating east of the Rocky Mountains.
Today the EBT remains authentic, down to its last detail. It provides a faithful portrait of narrow-gauge railroading from the first half of the 20th century, complete with original EBT locomotives, rolling stock, depots, shops, and round-house. From June to October, tourist train service is provided on a five-mile segment of the original mainline each weekend. Scedules and fares may be found by consulting the East Broad Top Railroad web site.
Please note the FEBT is NOT affiliated with the East Broad Top Railroad.)
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Getting to the East Broad Top
The East Broad Top Railroad is located west of US 522 in Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania, 18 miles north of Fort Littleton (exit 13) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76). Rockhill Furnace is just west of Orbisonia PA. Driving time to the EBT from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington DC is approximately three to four hours.