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


Two: A Walk Through the Yards


In many an American community the old depot would be the beginning and end of railway preservation. Not so in Rockhill Furnace. Opposite the station spread a compact yard of some six tracks. Off to the right, a trim eight-bay roundhouse and a hand-operated turntable slumbered in the early-morning haze. Behind it all sprawled a long complex of wood-frame buildings: the famous EBT shops. This was Rockhill Furnace yards, the operating heart of the East Broad Top Railroad. For students of industrial history Rockhill Furnace is holy ground, for these tracks, buildings and facilities constitute the most complete nineteenth-century industrial workplace surviving in the United States today. 


Shrouded in fog, the yard seemed hardly changed from the turn of the last century. Long cuts of coal hoppers still stood on the drill tracks, waiting to be made up into trains for the mines. On the roundhouse lead a string of clerestory-roofed coaches stood ready to protect the railroad's passenger schedules. Off by themselves next to the shops, a boxcar and a pair of wooden combines awaited either repairs or new assignments. The entire complex seemed to be slumbering, awaiting only the arrival of the morning shift to begin a new day's work.


Closer examination dispelled the illusion. Rust coated the rails, and many winters had come and gone since the coal cars had last turned a wheel. Frozen journals and rusted car bodies were the rule; in a few extreme cases, entire trees had grow up straight through holes in the hopper-car floors. Yet all was not decay. Here and there a few tracks still showed the burnish of regular use. The shop buildings, though weatherbeaten, were manifestly intact. And in among the rows of decayed hoppers were a handful of vintage freight and passenger cars in an exquisite state of preservation.


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EBT boxcar #170,
a classic of the
American freight
car builders' art.

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Combines #14
and #15 slumber
beside the foundry.

On a track adjoining the old car shops I found wood-sheathed boxcar #170. With its wooden siding, iron turnbuckles, and tall handbrake wheel, #170 was a library of American standard freight-car-building practice as preached by the Master Car Builders at the turn of the last century. On an adjoining track stood a pair of wooden combines, equally fine examples of the passenger carbuilder's art. Refugees from the famed Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn, America's only narrow-gauge urban commuter railroad, the combines were picked up by the EBT at fire-sale prices in the 1916. Relocated to Pennsylvania, they put in years of further service trailing trains of coal cars as they rumbled from Mount Union back to the mines. Hidden away inside the car shop were further treasures: a flat car converted to a tanker by the simple expedient of bolting a 6000-gallon reservoir onto the bed; a homemade outside-framed steel boxcar; and a pair of the ubiquitous steel coal hoppers, gleaming in their original glossy black livery. 



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All materials, images, text and presentation copyright 1999 Erik Gray Ledbetter.  See Terms of Use.