• The East Broad Top

  • General discussion related to all railroad clubs, museums, tourist and scenic lines. Generally this covers museums with static displays, museums that operate excursions, scenic lines that have museums, and so on. Check out the Tourist Railway Association (TRAIN) for more information.
General discussion related to all railroad clubs, museums, tourist and scenic lines. Generally this covers museums with static displays, museums that operate excursions, scenic lines that have museums, and so on. Check out the Tourist Railway Association (TRAIN) for more information.

Moderators: Miketherailfan, rob216

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  by n2qhvRMLI
 
Hello EBT fans,

I suggested the RR.Net might provide a specific page for East Broad Top discussions and bang! Here it is!

As a recent new member of "Friends of the EBT", I hope this site may become a meeting and greeting place for other members and folks interested in the East Broad Top. In the old RR.Net, I would scan the PRR page for comments, although they would get buried, postings were there.

Now we have a home inside the greater Forum, I look forward reading and posting here. Please join in.

de Don, N2QHV

EBT

  by kevikens
 
I have not been out there for several years. Did they ever straighten out the financial problems with that line ? The last I heard the state of Pa. was going to offer matching funds. Did that happen ?

  by wess
 
I,m not a member but what is frustrating about this line is yes the posts are usually in a different forum, and they always seem to be hangin on the bleeding edge. What I,d like to know sometime would be: Do they have dreams of extending beyond the existing limits of operation? Maybe focusing on the line between Orbisonia-Mt Union?

  by n2qhvRMLI
 
The Kovalchick family still owns and operates the East Broad Top Railroad. To my knowledge there has not been any state or federal funding provided for the EBT.

Much restoration work has progressed over the past few years in cooperation with volunteers from the "Friends of the East Broad Top." Please visit their website at http://www.febt.org/ for the latest activities planned for 2004.

Another website that brings the railroad into perspective is http://spikesys.com/EBT/

The Mount Union Connecting Railroad continues improvements at the Mount Union end of the route.

de Don, n2qhvRMLI

  by jayrmli
 
While I don't know the specifics of what happened, there was a funding package by the State of Pennsylvania a couple of years ago that would have rehabilitated the shops, engines, etc. There was also talk of extending the line to Mount Union.

This, however, would have involved the Kovalchiks to transfer ownership to the state. For whatever reason, they declined this option and the funding disappeared.

If anyone has more specifics, I'd love to know as well.

Jay

  by creeker
 
It has something to do with other property that was sold with the railroad. I think wells that provide water for one of the towns in the area. The only reason that the line is run is because in the deal if the railroad ever stopped being a railroad or had a section removed the family would lose the the other properties. Thats why when ever somethin hs to be done that needs the line temp. removed it is put back in good as new. Ill do a little more resurch on this for you guys. A friend of mine explained the hole thing to me but i cant remember all of it.

-Eric

EBT

  by fireflite
 
The EBT is indeed alive and well. They run on weedends May through early October. There was an article about the EBT in a recent issue of Classic Trains magazine. I'm looking around to find which one it was. Mr Kovalchick made a number of attempts to turn over all or some of the railroad, particularly the huge shop buildings, to a non-profit that would be partially funded by the state. It never worked out, and some people assumed it was Mr. K's fault, but it ain't true. Turns out each time Mr K and his crew thought they had a reasonable arrangement worked out, the state bureaucrats started adding miles of red tape, insisting that he spend tens of thousands of dollars on this and that before the state would accept the deal. His company simply couldn't afford to invest big money on something they were going to give away.

Anyway, the good news is the operation is improving every year. In addition to having their own museum in the EBT depot in Roberstdale, the FEBT is involved in a number of projects at Rockhill Furnace. They helped rebuild and reopen a track in the yard and finished restoring a caboose last year. They have also been repairing walls, roofs and windows on the shop buildings. Two former EBT passenger cars were purchased at auction in Colorado and returned to Rockhill. Mr. K has agreed to lease the old paint shop building to the FEBT for use as a restoration shop, in return for repairs to the building itself.

The Rockhill Trolley Museum is located next door to the EBT shops, and runs on the former EBT Shade Gap branch. A couple years ago they opened a major line extention and completed a new car shop.

Last I heard a new short line called the Mount Union Connecting Railroad was rebuilding trackage in the EBT yard in Mount Union, PA, where the EBT interchanged with the PRR (now NS). The line will serve an industrial park south of town. Anybody know if the MUCR is up and running yet?

Tom

  by harmon44
 
I was down there this past weekend. There was work activity in the old Mt. Union yard. Did not have time to explore or ask questions. Trolley museum had some activity, a couple of members doing spring things. Very nice allowed acces for some pictures. EBT itself was quiet.
  by ebtrr
 
Last I was up at Mount Union (April, I think) the MTC had restarted trackwork south of MU and was nearly to the PA 103 grade crossing. with servicable track.

Last I heard the repairs on their locomotive's engine were nearing completion. I have not actually seen it since October, though, so I can not confirm.

  by Red Arrow Fan
 
This week on Comcast On Demand (in the PCN section), there's an hour-long show about the East Broad Top. Their GM takes you on a tour of the shops, and a ride on the train.
  by Pacobell73
 
Ok, now for the dumbest question of the century:
- approx 33 miles of intact narrow gauge mainline
- 5 miles in service
- expansion...hmmm

I know the East Broad Top suffers from chronic money shortages and every couple of years, we hear about how "this might be EBT's last year."

Now, some other points:
- it is registered as a National Historic Landmark
- it is considered the most intact narrow gauge railroad in the country, beating out the great Durango and Silverton
- it is the only active narrow gauge RR east of the Mississippi.
- it still has most of its original rolling stock
- it is, essentially, a one-of-a-kind

And after nearly 50 years of tourist operation, it still only operates on 5 of its 33 miles of intact trackage.

Why in the world has this rolling museum never had the ability to expand and resurrect its out-of-service trackage? The Adirondack Scenic has been gradually restoring their longer main line, with regular state assistance. Steamtown had loads of funding to make it a reality.

And East Broad Top continues to struggle? Why has no one gotten the state to give it dedicated funding like Adirondack Scenic? Why has the EBT not made it a goal each year to slowly but surely restore its trackage? Why hasn't the Commonwealth worked to make EBT the east's answer to the Durango and Silverton. 50 year original freight cars, rotting away.

EBT is not your average tourist railroad by any means. What am I missing here? I would tbink the Commonwealth would aim to make EBT its othe crown jewel, next to the RR Museum of PA and Steamtown.

Thoughts, please.
  by polybalt
 
EBT is not your average tourist railroad by any means. What am I missing here? I would tbink the Commonwealth would aim to make EBT its othe crown jewel, next to the RR Museum of PA and Steamtown.
The difference with EBT is that is privately owned by an individual and subject to his whims. Steamtown and RRMP are public agencies. Regardless of the National Register status the EBT owner could scrap the whole place tomorrow without approval from anyone. In fact the owner is a scrap dealer! He obviously hasn't extended the ride because he doesn't want to.

It is unlikely the Commonwealth, or any public agency using taxpayer dollars would put any money into EBT without getting a committment to continue operations, which they are not able to get. There is a active group of dedicated volunteers called the Friends of the East Broad Top that raise money and add lots of sweat equity to try to save the whole place from deferred maintenance. I think they have a work session this weekend. Why not head up there and see what they are up to?

There are many that share your concern about the fragile situation at EBT and there have been efforts to acquire the railroad to assure its continued existence. None have succeeded so far.

BTW, five miles is a perfect length for a tourist railroad from a business point-of-view. Adding (and maintaining) additional miles will not result in enough additional revenue to pay the added costs. Remember that Strasburg is probably the most successful tourist railway in the country, across the street from RRMP. Their line is barely three miles long. The concensus in the business is that typical visitors are happiest with a ride less than 1 hour long.

The real experts in getting people ( with kids) to pay for a train ride are the people who license that little blue tank engine. They demand that the train ride be exacty 20 minutes long.

All that being said, wouldn't it be wonderful if someone won $200M in the lottery, managed to talk the EBT owner into selling, and opened more of the line!
  by Pacobell73
 
polybalt wrote:The difference with EBT is that is privately owned by an individual and subject to his whims. In fact the owner is a scrap dealer! It is unlikely the Commonwealth, or any public agency using taxpayer dollars would put any money into EBT without getting a committment to continue operations, which they are not able to get.
This is true. EBT is still owned by Kovalchick Salvage.

I am not trying to pound on the Kovalchick family. But after what I have read, it appears that Kovalchick Salvage is on something of a power trip, in that they know the fragile gold mine they are sitting on, and simply refuse to sell it to any public agency or railfan organization. I am having visions of Gerard Turco, the land developer who made NJT's life living hell for the Lackawanna Cut-Off. In fact, the state issued a $40 million state bond for acquiring abandoned rail rights-of-way, which was then approved by the voters. Then, NJDOT subsequently initiated condemnation proceedings against the corporations that Turco set up in New Jersey for the Cut-Off.

I think PA should offer to purchase the line from the Kovalchick family. If they refuse, then do what what NJT did to Conrail's River LINE - purchase it (for $67.5 million). Then select an operator. I am sure there is a great deal of legal issues I am skipping here, but I cannot image one family who bought the EBT for scrap in 1956 to not want to at least work with the towns of Orbisonia and Rockhill Furnace to rehab more of the line.

Yes, I know about the the Friends of the East Broad Top that raise money and add lots of sweat equity to try to save the whole place from deferred maintenance. Has this group (with the aid of the state) tried to obtain rights to the line?
polybalt wrote:Five miles is a perfect length for a tourist railroad from a business point-of-view. Adding (and maintaining) additional miles will not result in enough additional revenue to pay the added costs. Remember that Strasburg is probably the most successful tourist railway in the country, across the street from RRMP. Their line is barely three miles long. The concensus in the business is that typical visitors are happiest with a ride less than 1 hour long.
You are indeed right: five miles is the perfect length for a good tourist railroad from a business point-of-view. Strasburg, Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern - all very successful. But there are also examples like Conway Scenic, with excursions of varying duration.

Plus, the EBT is not your average heritage railway. It has its original rolling stock, it's the only narrow gauge line left in the East, and complete intact (I could go with all its unique-ness) By no means should only 5 miles be restored because it is the accepted standard in the Heritage RR business.
polybalt wrote:The real experts in getting people ( with kids) to pay for a train ride are the people who license that little blue tank engine. They demand that the train ride be exacty 20 minutes long.
Thomas the Tank Engine is absolutely perfect for EBT. The very look and feel of EBT is straight out of an episode of the television show.
  by Stmtrolleyguy
 
One of the problems with ressurecting more of the line might be that its narrow gauge. If the state chips in money to restore standard gauge track, there's always the possibility that the line could be used for freight or passenger service in the future. With narrow gauge, that pretty much limits the line to whatever they can haul point-point (not interchange.) If the state can't benefit from it, they might not want to throw in money towards it.

I thought that their ride was a good length. They've got a pretty nice park at the end of the line where the trains turn around, and you can get off the train, stretch, and walk up and see the locomotive up close for a little while.

What I might be interested in seeing is a short track extension out past their yard where they could go a half mile or so for rides on the speeders or their motorcar. Add in a little more variety to what they have to offer. (A second-trip-same-day ticket would also be a cool idea with a discount for a second ride :-D )

I would enjoy it if they could expand their line, but right now with the economy, I'd say that if they got a large sum of money dumped in their laps, I'd work towards making sure they will have a working steam locomotive well into the future (maybe getting another one certified and runable just in case) first, then worry about expanding their track later. Once you loose the steam engine, a lot of the fun drains away too.
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