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


Nine: Afternoon Run





I rode the EBT five more times that day, counting northbound and southbound journeys together. As I queued up for train after train, David took a liking for me and decided to interpret my all-day pass as the equivalent of an extra tariff for the special cars. Through his kindness, I made my second round trip to Colgate Grove perched on the high box seat of Caboose #28's cupola. From that superlative chair, I watched the locomotive's smoke drift away over the wide Aughwick valley while the sun tracked lower in the western sky. It was my first cupola ride ever, and its coming as it did—behind steam and on 3'-gauge metals—made it a memory to be cherished.


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The polished
splendour of the
private parlor car
Orbisonia, as
recorded by
William Adams.

To round out my EBT experience, David seated me in the polished splendor of the Orbisonia for the final afternoon run. Stretched out on a long wicker divan in the car's front compartment, my bag stowed overhead in an an elegant brass holder, I admired the passing scene with the hauteur of a nineteenth-century captain of industry. Rumor has it that President Grover Cleveland himself once patronized this very car on fishing trips to northwestern Pennsylvania. Whether the legend is true or not, to ride the Orbisonia is turn back the clock to the days when moguls and financiers traveled the rails in sumptuous private cars.


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Orbisonia's rear
platform, my perch
for the afternoon

For the return journey David invited me to join him on the Orbisonia's rear platform. Watching the ties flash by underfoot, we traded notes and thoughts on the EBT and railroading in general. A former bank loan officer, David had been caught up in the rounds of consolidations and layoffs which reshaped that industry in the 1980s and 1990s. Making a virtue of necessity, he relocated to Orbisonia and turned his avocation for railroading into his vocation by hiring out with the EBT. An enthusiast as well as a professional railroader, he wears a second hat as chairman of the Restoration Department at the Rockhill Trolley Museum, the volunteer group which operates a vintage trolley line along the EBT's former Shade Gap branch. As we rattled over the long fill, we admired again the excellence of the EBT's founding engineers and surveyors, and exclaimed over the foresight of President Robert S. Siebert, whose decision to rebuild and upgrade the line in the early 1900s extended its useful economic life just long enough for it to find a second career in preservation.


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A tired brakeman
and a tired

Shadows lay long over the Orbisonia Station platform as I stepped down from #20's brass-railed platform at the end of the run. David and the crew backed the consist into the roundhouse connector and tied it down for the coming week's slumber. Freed of her burden, #14 whispered past the silent shops and then pulled forward into the roundhouse lead. My parting glimpse of her was a long view down the lead track to the old sand tower, where the tired Mike and a tired brakeman could just be glimpsed framed between the shop buildings and the harp stand of an antiquated stub switch. Replete with a full day's memories of steam along the Aughwick, I headed for home. 



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