The East Broad Top Railroad celebrates 150 years of history and regional impact
Historic railroad reflects on over a century of history and prepares for a bright future
Rockhill Furnace, April 18, 2022 — The East Broad Top Railroad is celebrating 150 years since the railroad’s ground-breaking ceremony in 1872 and full operation in 1874. From the Industrial Revolution to the first automobile and the turn of the millennium, the East Broad Top Railroad has witnessed 150 years of American history as the oldest narrow-gauge railroad in the United States. A National Historic Landmark since 1964, the railroad is a well-preserved, inside look into American industrialism from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries.
“The East Broad Top Railroad is a national treasure that has been recognized as one of the best-preserved 1900-era industrial sites anywhere in the country. It’s a time capsule that immerses visitors from around the world in the sights and sounds of work and travel more than a century ago,” longtime historian, author, and member of Friends of the East Broad Top, Dr. Lee Rainey said.
After nearly 50 years of carrying tourists, followed by an indefinite closure, the East Broad Top Railroad was purchased in 2020 from the Kovalchick family by The EBT Foundation and kickstarted a massive restoration effort to bring the railroad back to life. This effort was also supported by the Friends of the East Broad Top, a partnering nonprofit organization that coordinates donations and restoration work sessions. Together, these organizations have begun to restore the railroad through unprecedented preservation efforts with renewed passion and
To honor the railroad’s 150th year, the EBT Foundation planned a variety of events throughout this special season that will attract visitors from all over the tri-state area to the railroad’s home in Rockhill Furnace, PA. These events will include holiday celebrations, living history exhibitions, family events, photography sessions and more.
Aside from special events, the railroad has daily offerings to explore. During the regular season, passengers can choose to experience train rides from open-air cars or the caboose. Passengers depart from the station to enjoy a one-hour round trip ride through the scenic central Pennsylvania countryside. Beyond just train rides, the East Broad Top also offers tours of the historic buildings, facilities, machines and tools. Tours take visitors to the Freight Office, the roundhouse and the machine shops for an immersive look at what locomotive maintenance consisted of in the 1940s. In addition to train rides, the railroad also partners with the Rockhill Trolley Museum to offer passengers the ability to take an electric streetcar ride during their visit.
“The EBT Foundation is both fortunate and proud to be part of the 150th anniversary of this railroad, which is loved by so many people in so many ways. That the opportunity, and the people, came together two years ago to put us in this position was a combination of preparation and luck: preparation in that so many of us have spent our careers developing the diverse skills represented among the EBT family, which of course revolves around the FEBT and others; and luck in that it came together in a manner that aligned with the interests of the Kovalchick family in passing the torch,” the EBT Foundation Chairman of the Board Henry Posner said.
He added, “I do not think that it is presumptuous to say that if Nick Kovalchick was with us today — and make no mistake, he is with us through his family and in spirit — he would be both shocked and proud.”
The East Broad Top is not only preserving a historical legacy but also leaving a positive impact on the local economy and community culture. After agriculture, tourism is already the second-highest source of economic activity in the area, attracting thousands of tourists each year and creating skilled jobs. As a key amenity, the railroad’s impact is not limited to Huntingdon County but is also attracting visitors to the other notable railroad attractions and the natural amenities the region has to offer.
Partnerships are key in these endeavors, and the East Broad Top Railroad is no exception. Today, partnerships with the Rockhill Trolley Museum, the Friends of the East Broad Top, the Allegheny Ridge Corporation, Raystown Lake Visitors Bureau and more are critical to the success of this extensive preservation and the railroad’s rebirth.
“While most museums are collections of things that have been accumulated from all over, what we’re preserving and maintaining today is the same fabric of what was started here 150 years ago this year,” East Broad Top Railroad’s General Manager Brad Esposito said. “The fact that we can continue to tell the story of the railroad, the mines and the local communities in such an original and complete way is truly remarkable. We are looking forward to another landmark year for the East Broad Top Railroad, especially with a number of substantial milestones in our
restoration effort coming to completion in the near future.”
To learn more about the East Broad Top Railroad and its 150 years of industrial history, visit https://bit.ly/150-Years-EBTRR.