Colgate Grove

Employees of the new East Broad Top Foundation are working on improvements to the railroad’s Colgate Grove picnic area in preparation for major improvements to the popular rural setting. The EBT has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Allegheny Foundation of Pittsburgh to support upcoming improvements at the grove.

Remember when East Broad Top Railroad patrons could board the powerful steam trains for an enjoyable ride and picnic lunch at Colgate Grove? Thanks to a $100,000 grant recently awarded the EBT by the prestigious Allegheny Foundation those “good ole days” will be returning.

The EBT Foundation announced this week that the legendary narrow-gauge railroad has been awarded a $100,000 grant which will be utilized for the rehabilitation of the Colgate Picnic Grove just south of Shirleysburg. Until its closing in 2011, the EBT utilized the picnic facility as a turnaround for its return trip to Rockhill while providing passengers the opportunity to get off the train and enjoy a lunch before returning to Orbisonia station on the next train.

“This grant is unusual because the Allegheny Foundation concentrates its giving to southwestern Pennsylvania,” observed Jane Sheffield, EBT Foundation board member and chair of its development committee. “That they were willing to stretch into central Pennsylvania to support this National Historic Landmark railroad in Huntingdon County is a terrific vote of confidence in the EBT Foundation and its plans for reopening the East Broad Top Railroad.”

Mirroring the sentiments of other foundation members, Sheffield added, “We hope this is the beginning of a great relationship between our two foundations.”

Adding to the announcement were appreciative remarks from EBT general manager Brad Esposito who explained that the Allegheny Foundation’s grant will provide the railroad with the opportunity to take much better advantage of Colgate Grove where the foundation envisions future music performances, food tastings, holiday events and much more.

Among other things, the rehabilitation of Colgate Grove will include construction of a new platform as well as plans for a new pavilion. “This grant will really help us expand what we can do in that area,” noted Esposito.

Established by Richard Mellon Scaife (1952-2014), the Allegheny Foundation focuses on historic preservation, civic development and education efforts, primarily in the southwestern part of Pennsylvania. Scaife is remembered as a distinguished Pittsburgh newspaper owner and philanthropist.

Located on the northern end of the EBT operating mainline, Colgate Grove served as a spur of the railroad, serving a clay pit at the top of nearby Sandy Ridge. When the EBT reopened as a tourist line to Colgate Grove in 1961, the railroad used the site as a turnaround with the old spur returning to service in a new form.

Dring the layover at the “grove,” EBT passengers could step down from the train and enjoy a lunch before returning to Rockhill on the next northbound excursion train.

When the new EBT Foundation acquired the 33-mile EBT corridor in Valentine’s Day February 2020, additional land around the grove was also secured with the purpose of preserving the area’s rural character.

The EBT is expected to reopen for public rides and tours of the railroad’s repair shops next month. Work continues on the restoration of two of the railroad’s mighty steam locomotives, numbers 16 and 14 in the railroad shops at Rockhill.

Ron can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

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