EBT: Steam Along the Aughwick


1. Tuscarora Morning 6. Climbing McMullins Summit
2. A Walk Through the Yards 7. Across the Deep Fill
3. At the Roundhouse 8. Colgate Grove
4. Coaling Up 9. Afternoon Run
5. Readying the Consist


One: Tuscarora Morning


The Appalachian Mountains lay across central Pennsylvania like folds in a blanket: smooth, even ridges 1000 feet high and hundreds of miles long. It was through a pass in one of these ridges, Blacklog Mountain, that I was driving on a humid August morning in 1998. Ages ago, Blacklog Creek had cut down through this ridge as quickly as it had been raised up, and the resulting defile forms a natural highway from the Tuscarora and Shade valleys into that of Great Aughwick Creek beyond. As I passed through the defile, I could see beneith the brush the hidden strata of the mountain laid bare on either hand, including some substantial rockfalls of limestone. It was limestone, iron ore and above all coal which had brought the East Broad Top railroad to these mountains in 1872, and now it was the East Broad Top which brought me here.


At length the valley walls opened up to disclose the playing fields and frame houses of Orbisonia Township. Located near the confluence of Blacklog Creek and the Great Aughwick, Orbisonia has long served as a natural consolidation and transshipment point for the mineral, timber and agricultural wealth of the region. Mining and timbering's decline have hit Orbisonia hard, however, and now the town has the worried look of a place with too many hands and not enough work. A quick ramble down the main street brought me to the township's one stop light; there, a sign told me to turn left to find the steam trains.


Heading away from the center of town, the side road dropped quickly into the flood plain of the Blacklog. A low bridge carried me up and over the flood control dikes and the creek itself and into Orbisonia's sister township of Rockhill Furnace on the far bank. Just beyond the bridge, seven tracks of narrow-gauge rails fanned out across the asphalt. Beyond them, hard by the highway on the right-hand side, stood a two-story wood frame depot, its plain facade relieved by a long trackside verandah and a classic agent's bay. A sign on the canopy proclaimed this to be Orbisonia Station, the offices and general headquarters of the East Broad Top Railroad. I had found the last narrow-gauge coal road.



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