Following up on the Feb. 14 announcement that the historic East Broad Top Railroad will run again, members of the Huntingdon County History & Heritage Roundtable learned additional details Tuesday night about the popular steam railroad’s unfolding restoration.
Lawrence Biemiller, a board member of the new East Broad Top Foundation Inc., was on hand for the monthly roundtable session, held in the Huntingdon County Historical Society’s Exhibit Gallery in Huntingdon. Overseeing the informative session was roundtable president Lonnie Smith Jr. with numerous other area heritage representatives in attendance.
“There’s a lot of super exciting things happening at the EBT,” remarked Biemiller. “We have a long way to go, but the public reaction to the announcement has been overwhelming.”
As outlined at the Valentine’s Day public event at Rockhill, top officials of the new, nonprofit organization have several happenings scheduled for this year at the EBT including the use of the very popular M-1 gas-electric car, mixed passenger cars and “speeder” rides.
Among those events eyed for this year include a special open house set for June 16 that will include tours of the EBT site; the 60th anniversary celebration of the EBT’s 1960 return to service planned for the July 22-25 Orbisonia-Rockhill Homecoming, and much more.
But before complete EBT excursion operations can be launched—including the use of at least one of the EBT’s steam locomotives, hopefully in 2021—the new foundation, with assistance from the nonprofit Friends of the EBT, has to address rehabilitation of the trackage between Rockhill and Colgate Grove, in southern Huntingdon County.
Other upgrades at the EBT complex at Rockhill will focus on the installation of fire suppression equipment, work on some of the EBT rolling stock and continued stabilization work in several of the EBT structures, the EBT Foundation activist reported.
The organization also envisions some improvements at Colgate Grove to include special activities and extended seasonal operation, something that will come as good news to many tourists visiting the “Land of the Raystown.”
Regarding the return of steam operations in 2021, Biemiller stressed that the locomotive(s) must be stripped down, repaired and inspected to meet federal regulations that would permit operation for at least five years. Helping to fill the void until the one or more of the steam locomotives are up and running, the foundation will incorporate diesel trains and other popular tourist consists.
Asked about long-term EBT restoration, Biemiller remarked, “Nothing’s off the table, but we must focus on the Rockhill-to-Shirleysburg route; we want to be careful we don’t make promises we can’t keep and disappoint the EBT fans.”
Biemiller said that in addition to the FEBT and the Rockhill Trolley Museum, the foundation wants to work closely with numerous partners between Mount Union and Robertsdale and potential funding opportunities to tell the entire EBT story. He went on to say that since the Feb. 14 announcement, nearly 150 new members have joined the FEBT and expects to see a good turnout of volunteers over the next few years to assist with the EBT restoration project.
Turning to other agenda matters, roundtable activist Tami Hetrick reported the organization’s new website and historical guide is nearing completion and should be available for public use in the near future. But before that happens, a final review of an extensive data base must be finalized.
Present for the meeting was Sharon Anderson, formerly of Huntingdon, who briefly outlined the popular “Hometown Heroes” banner program which many area communities are active in. Anderson, representing Anderson Consulting of Horseheads, New York, spoke of Huntingdon’s second round of participation in the banner program.
Anderson spoke of pride of the banner program, saying, “We owe so much to our veterans, past and present, the banner program is a great way to honor our veterans.”
Jacob Gordon from Juniata College’s Beeghly Library briefly outlined plans for a Community Expo set for noon to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, at the college during which first-year college students can learn and be a part of community-based activities.
Gordon said that each of the two sessions will involve up to 20 students, adding, “This is a wonderful opportunity to both inform our students about the assets and needs in our community and to recruit students for projects in the upcoming years.”
Peter Liese of the Warriors Mark Area Historical Society invited history enthusiasts interested in America’s Lewis and Clark Expedition as it relates to Pennsylvania to attend a 2-4 p.m. March 22, presentation by Kenneth M. Healy Jr.
The event will take place in Brumbaugh Academic Center Alumni Hall at Juniata College. The event is being hosted by the roundtable in conjunction with the Warriors Mark Area Historical Society.
Much of Tuesday night’s meeting was devoted to reports from numerous heritage organization representatives in and around Huntingdon County as many museums prepare for the opening of the 2020 travel season.
The next meeting of the roundtable will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 24, at the Greenwood Furnace State Park.
Ron can be reached at email@example.com.