Wednesday, April 8, 2015

East Broad Top R.R. & Coal Co. | Steam Power

Last Saturday Donna and I hit the road before sunrise to join a DC Urban Exploration Meetup in central Pennsylvania. Our destination was the East Broad Top Rail Road & Coal Company. After only a couple of hours of shooting, the group went across the street for lunch at a B&B operated by a couple with long history with the rail road: The husband had worked his entire career with the RR, retiring as the Conductor when the RR ceased operations in 2011.

Between the Conductor and another RR employee I was able to glean some of the history of the East Broad Top or EBT as they called it. In the 1850's a iron blast furnace planned with a RR planned to haul coal for the iron furnaces. The coal was 22 miles from the site. It wasn't until the 1870's that the RR construction was begun. The iron furnace never came to fruition. However, the coal deposit was of very high quality and enterprise shifted focus to being a coal mining operation. Coal mining continued until 1956. The RR was sold to a scraper who did not scrap it.  From the 1960's until 2011 the EBT RR was a tourist attraction. Since then it has sat idle with the owner hoping to find a buyer. I was told $8 million is the asking price for the lot.

The RR was built to be a self sufficient operation, complete with machine shop, black smith shop and forge facilities to maintain the rolling stock. The owner related that there are very few steam RR's left in the US with these associated facilities still standing. The various buildings cover quite an area.

The EBT is from the era of Steam Power, so naturally, the service and repair facilities (partially shown above) were also steam powered. Note the smoke stacks from the large, twin boilers that powered the machine shop. If the tracks appear narrow, that is because they are: Three feet is the gauge of this RR. Standard today is four feet eight inches.

These boilers, nearly two stories tall, provided the steam to power the maintenance operations.

Babcock & Wilcox Co. had more than a few patents, judging by the fancy name plate. Even the name plates and badges from that era were made to last. Today's stickers that manufacturers slap on pale in comparison.

Even the gauges, one for each boiler, were made with artistic flair. I don't know if they measured pressure or temperature but the information they related to the operator must be vital due to the large, dinner plate size of them.

All of the machine shop machinery- lathes, drill presses, planers, etc. - were powered by this single cylinder steam engine. I believe the apparatus with the two balls are part of the speed control of the engine. The drive belt seen here transmits power to drive lines throughout the buildings in the ceiling. Belts connect the various machines from the drive lines, as was typical from this era. One can readily appreciate the convenience of electric motors we use today. The shops have large windows for natural light to work by. I'd think electricity was a added later. I didn't think to ask as electricity is taken for granted today. To step back in time, a time predating my grandparents,  at a place like this is always fascinating.

Much more to share in subsequent posts.


  1. Really neat images! I love remnants of years gone by like these.

  2. Thanks Howard! Places like this ring the nostalgia bell.

  3. Sure do....and the older we are the louder they ring!