East Broad Top Railroad back from the dead

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MARC Rider

Apr 5, 2011
When I was in Huntingdon last week, I noticed in the local paper that the East Broad Top Railroad was going to go back in service in 2021. I perked up when I saw that, as my wife and I last rode the line in 2010, the year before they stopped running the trains. We splurged for a ride in the first-class office car, which was something else. Alas, the steam engine wasn't running that day, so we were pulled by a diesel. And boy, it was a rough ride, even at our slow speed.

The EBTRR has the distinction of being the only preserved narrow gauge railroad in the east. There are a couple of museum 2-footers in Maine, but they're mostly reconstructed track. The EBTRR was kept running as a tourist line after the coal mines it served shut down in the 1950's. It was bought by a scrap dealer who decided to run it instead of scrapping it. Finally, even with the help of a non-profit volunteer group, the owner decided he couldn't make enough money running trains, so he put it up for sale and stopped running trains in 2011. He let the volunteer group stay on the premises and stabilize buildings and equipment. Now it seems that somebody set up a non-profit foundation and raised enough money to buy the property.

The foundation seems to have a bunch of railroad heavy-hitters on its board, so I think this is a for-real thing:

  • Henry Posner III is chairman of the Iowa Interstate Railroad and of the Railroad Development Corporation, of Pittsburgh. Initially, Mr. Posner will chair the EBT Foundation’s board.
  • Wick Moorman is former chairman and CEO of Norfolk Southern and former CEO of Amtrak. Mr. Moorman will be the foundation’s first president.
  • Bennett Levin is owner of the Juniata Terminal Company, of Philadelphia.
  • Brad Esposito is former assistant general manager of the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad, a Genesee & Wyoming, Inc., company, and a longtime member of the Friends of the East Broad Top. Mr. Esposito will be the East Broad Top’s general manager
  • David Brightbill is the longtime office manager of the East Broad Top Railroad and also a longtime volunteer at the Rockhill Trolley Museum. Mr. Brightbill will be the foundation’s treasurer and will continue as the railroad’s office manager.
  • Lawrence Biemiller is a former senior writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education and a member of the Friends of the East Broad Top board. Mr. Biemiller will be the foundation’s secretary.
  • Jane Sheffield is the executive director of the Allegheny Ridge Corporation, a regional-development agency based in Altoona.
I'm looking forward to going up there when they get things going again, especially if they can get the steam locomotives running with reliable regularity. It always seems that when I finally go visit a heritage railroad, the steam engines aren't running that day. :(
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