You are currently viewing Historic East Broad Top Railroad Embarks on Ambitious Expansion Project Reviving Track Unused Since 1956

Historic East Broad Top Railroad Embarks on Ambitious Expansion Project Reviving Track Unused Since 1956

Rockhill Furnace, PA – The East Broad Top Railroad’s monumental expansion effort reached a significant milestone today as track work commenced on a segment of the EBT’s historic mainline that has been out of service since 1956. EBT Foundation (EBTF) officials and Friends of the East Broad Top (FEBT) volunteers gathered one mile south of the railroad’s headquarters to celebrate the completion of the first section of track installation, officially marking the farthest any work has occurred in that direction since the railroad ceased freight operations 68 years ago.

“We’re breaking new ground today in many ways,” said railroad General Manager Brad Esposito. “From this point forward, we’re doing something that many dreamed of but never thought possible, which is both physically restoring tracks that have sat dormant for over six decades while also reviving more of the East Broad Top’s storied history than ever before.” 

The East Broad Top operated as a primarily coal-hauling railroad from 1874 until its closure in 1956 along a 33-mile mainline. In 1960, 4.5 miles of that original line were reopened under new ownership, offering train excursions over that excursion route while the rest of the line lay dormant, reclaimed by nature. Seasonal steam-powered train rides continued until 2011 when the railroad once again ceased operation. In 2020, the non-profit EBT Foundation acquired approximately 28 miles of the original line, announcing plans to revive train service along the former excursion route and extend operations over sections of the mainline that have sat unused since 1956. Steam-powered excursions resumed in 2023 along the existing route, with expansion efforts now underway.

This phase of expansion aims to extend the railroad’s operating mainline nine miles south of Rockhill Furnace to the quaint boroughs of Three Springs and Saltillo. This tenacious project will include clearing decades of brush and tree overgrowth, repairing bridges, laying new track, and reactivating road crossings. Funding sources range from the State of Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) for major infrastructure projects to private donations for prep work and material acquisition. The Friends of the East Broad Top, the EBT Foundation’s sister non-profit that assists in restoring and interpreting the East Broad Top, has dedicated a significant portion of their annual fundraising campaign over the past several years to kickstarting the railroad’s expansion phase. Much of the labor for the effort will be a joint effort of EBTF employees and FEBT volunteers, alongside contractors for specialized projects like bridge repair. 

The FEBT boasts more than 2,100 supporters around the world and plays a crucial role in partnering with the Foundation in raising funds and providing labor for hands-on projects. During today’s celebration, they announced reaching their 2024 fundraising goal of $220,000 early. From this, $40,000 was initially set aside for track restoration. However, with several months still to go in their campaign, they’ve committed any additional funds to accelerate track expansion efforts.

“Through generous donations and countless volunteer hours, the Friends consistently exhibit unwavering support for expanding EBT operations,” said FEBT President Andy Van Scyoc. “The partnership between the EBTF and the FEBT continues to strengthen and bear more fruit each year. Our members are unified in ensuring continued progress on rebuilding the EBT mainline.” 

When complete, the railroad plans to expand its current excursion schedule to include regular train rides over the route and align schedules with new and existing community-oriented special events like carnivals, sports games, and more. While there is no precise timeline for service to resume, EBT Foundation officials have been working with local municipalities to prepare for the railroad’s arrival. 

“Historically, the EBT was the lifeblood of the communities along its corridor,” says Esposito, “and as we continue to grow and expand our operation, it’s our mission to ensure the railroad continues to foster economic growth through heritage tourism while also protecting the historical character of the EBT Corridor that makes it a great place to live and a great place to visit.” 

To join the “March South” as a volunteer or contribute to the FEBT Annual Campaign, visit febt.org. The East Broad Top’s summer schedule of train rides, guided tours, and special events begins on May 3rd. Visit eastbroadtop.com for tickets, schedules, and fares.