Ticket to Preservation

East Broad Top Railroad Creates Fund
to Stabilize Leaning Blacksmith Shop

As it celebrates the 50th anniversary of its reopening, the East Broad Top Railroad is making it easy for fans to contribute to a preservation fund whose first project will be making critical structural repairs to the blacksmith shop, a highly visible component of the railroad's historic shops complex.

The railroad is selling special $50 "Tickets to Preservation" and setting the money aside in a dedicated account. The goal of the "$50 for the 50th" campaign is to raise $50,000 by selling 1,000 of the tickets this year. The tickets are available at the EBT station, by mail, or by phone. Tickets are tax-deductable!

The first use of the money will be to hire a contractor to straighten and stabilize the blacksmith shop. The all-volunteer Friends of the East Broad Top will then repair rotted walls and doors, fix windows, seal the roof, and clean up the interior so that the building can be included on tours of the historic site. Each ticket will entitle the bearer to a tour of the blacksmith shop with a railroad tour guide as soon as the repairs are complete. Money left over after the blacksmith shop is repaired will go to other important preservation projects at the railroad.

The blacksmith shop, like the famous tower in Pisa, leans noticeably to one side-it's been sinking for decades into the soft soil beneath the railroad's Rockhill Furnace yard, which was once farmland. The structure dates to the turn of the last century, but its builders apparently never expected that it would still be standing over 100 years later.

In conjunction with the railroad's nearby foundry, where the railroad could cast parts in either iron or brass, the blacksmith shop was an important part of the EBT shops complex: It was where metal parts were heated and shaped as necessary. The blacksmith shop is dominated by forges, anvils, and a huge steam-powered hammer for pounding hot metal into the desired shape. Key components of the railroad's 200-plus coal-carrying hopper cars were fabricated there.

It was a longtime member of the Friends of the East Broad Top, Dave Richards, who located a contractor willing to do the necessary structural work. The contractor works chiefly on barns, to which the blacksmith shop bears a strong structural resemblance.

This season the Friends of the East Broad Top are also making roof and wall repairs to the main shops building, restoring a passenger car built in the 1880s, completing work on a museum complex in Robertsdale, Pa., and undertaking other projects. The Friends work closely with the East Broad Top Railroad Preservation Association, which took over operation of the railroad last year from its owners, the Kovalchick family of Indiana, Pa.

Chartered in 1856, the 33-mile long East Broad Top ran its first trains in 1873. For much of its life it primarily hauled clean-burning Broad Top Mountain coal from the mines around Robertsdale to Mount Union, Pa., where some of the coal fed brick plants and the rest was shipped out to customers elsewhere via the Pennsylvania Railroad. The railroad closed in 1956, but reopened in August 1960 to run steam-powered passenger trains for visitors. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964, it is the last surviving narrow-gauge railroad east of the Rocky Mountains, with its rails three feet apart instead of the standard 4' 8".

The 50th anniversary season continues every weekend through the end of October. The EBT will also run several days' worth of Santa Trains after Thanksgiving. For schedule details visit the railroad's Web site at ebtrr.com.

To purchase a "Ticket for Preservation," visit the station in Rockhill Furnace, Pa.; call (814)-447-3011; or send a check to East Broad Top Railroad Preservation Association, P.O. Box 158, Rockhill Furnace, Pa. 17249.

(Editors: For more information or to set up interviews, call David Brightbill, the EBT office manager, at (814)-447-3011 or office@ebtrr.com)

East Broad Top Railroad Preservation Association P.O. Box 158, Rockhill Furnace, Pa. 17249