View of a Line 40 Years after Closure; Abandoned but not Lifted.
Pennsylvania’s East Broad Top is among the most fascinating railways in the eastern United States. Largely built in the 1870s to tap coal fields in the Broad Top region, it was constructed to the three-foot gauge standard and remained that way until closed to traffic in 1956.
A short segment at Orbisonia operated steam excursions from 1960 until 2011, but the remaining portions of the railroad have sat derelict in the mountains since it closed as a common carrier. Although unused, much of the track remained in place. Especially interesting were the tunnels at Sideling Hill and Wray’s Hill.
In September 1996, Thomas M. Hoover and I made a project of exploring EBT’s disused lines and facilities. I also made several trips to photograph the railroad’s excursions.
East Broad Top’s Baldwin-built Mikado 15 works northward from Orbisonia, Pennsylvania in September 1996. This is another of my favorite railway images, I’ve used it in several books and it was among those I displayed in my Silver & Steel exhibit in November 2008. It captures the first excursion over the line in several days, and the engine is working rusted rail, which adds to the timeless aura of a bucolic scene. EBT is fantastic; the soft yet clear sounds of the locomotive exhaust coupled with a distant mournful whistle followed by a whiff of coal smoke will send you back to a simpler day.
East Broad Top is a treasure, a railway frozen in time. The railway was a relic of another era when it ceased common carrier operations in 1956. Resuscitated by the scrapper that took title to it in the mid-1950s, today it is among America’s most authentic historic railways. I’ve made hundreds of photographs on the line over the years. However, due to difficulties beyond my understanding, the line didn’t operate its regular excursions last year. I wonder; might it re-open this year? Even without a locomotive under steam, EBT remains a compelling subject.
See my book Baldwin Locomotives for a host of classic Baldwin photographs and detailed information on East Broad Top’s Mikados among many other engines.