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RyPN Briefs November 4, 2007
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FEBT Rockhill Restoration: 2006 Year in Review

Friends of the East Broad Top Rockhill Furnace crew made great progress in 2006. Many projects were brought to completion and many more began or moved along.

For those unfamiliar with the East Broad Top Railroad, it is America's oldest surviving narrow gauge railroad, and the only original narrow gauge surviving east of the Rocky Mountains. Built in 1872-74 the EBT's primary business was hauling coal from the remote Broad Top coal field to the Pennsylvania Railroad at Mount Union. The EBT closed in 1956 due to declining coal demand, but five of the original 33 miles of track reopened in 1960 as a tourist operation. The infrastructure of the railroad was never removed and it remains the most complete and original historic railroad site in North America.

The Friends of the East Broad Top, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the East Broad Top Railroad National Historic Landmark. FEBT's efforts take on many facets, only one of which being the direct restoration work detailed here. For more information stop by at our website at www.febt.org.

Rockhill Furnace has historically been the operational center for the East Broad Top, containing the repair shops, dispatching, locomotive facilities, and management. The FEBT crew has been working since 2002 to restore the facilities there. Work is performed on structures, rolling stock, track, and other facilities.

Below is a summary of our projects we have pursued in 2006 in Rockhill Furnace.

The June 2006 crew and "Big Jim" the speeder.

Boiler House
The Boiler House is the location of the two water tube coal boilers that powered all facilities in Rockhill Furnace during the railroads common carrier days. Work on this building began in 2003 and has made constant progress since. The focus in 2006 was the completion of the Coal Bin, a shorter addition on the north side of the building where the coal supply for the boilers was stored. The old coal bin was badly rotted and much of it was rebuilt from scratch in 2005. In 2006 the siding and trim on the north and east walls of the Coal Bin were completed. The location of the coal conveyor that fed the bin was made into a door disguised as being boarded over as it has been for many years. Also siding repair and priming were done on the bridge between the coal bin and Foundry. Both were then painted. The west side of the Coal Bin was completely resided with reproduction clapboard and primed.

With the Coal bin in good order, attention was turned back to the Boiler House. The center of the north wall is held up by a "floating post" that was supported by truss rods to the other posts. During the Coal Bin reconstruction a temporary post was installed under the trussed post with shims holding them tight. In order to give the appearance of a serviceable coal bin, yet actually use the coal bin for storage, a much taller permanent post was installed on the coal bin side of the trussed post, and they were bolted together with threaded rod. This allowed the crew to reinstall the coal boards across the opening which would have regulated the flow of coal out of the bin. Behind the coal boards, a plywood wall was installed, with the plywood painted black. This will enable coal to be placed in the gap and appear as though the coal bin is full of coal. At the top of the north wall, the rotted soffits were removed for later replacement and the soffit cavity cleared of decades of debris. During the last session of the year the north side was resided and window sashes removed for rebuilding.

Four of the six sashes in the east wall of the Boiler House were removed for repair when that wall was rebuilt last year. The four sashes, now fully repaired, were reinstalled in the east wall. Some temporary siding was installed on the Foundry building across the alleyway from the Coal Bin.

In 2007 the Coal Bin and north side of the Boiler House will be completed. The structural work will shift to the Foundry building, which is connected to the Coal Bin.

A permanent support post had just been installed between the coal bin and Boiler House.

Hopper #802
The last of the body steel was installed in the spring of 2006. It was anticipated that #802 would enter service in early 2006 after the correct trucks were swapped back to this car.

While unused #802 sat on a spare set of cast Vulcan trucks. However, in it's operating days this car was equipped with arch-bar trucks equipped with extra bars to which pushing wings could be attached to spread the dumped material. The Vulcan trucks did not fit the car and would require heavy modification to fit. The original Arch-bar trucks had been heavily modified to fit under the never finished Aughwick coach. But an identical and unmodified set were under one of the Aughwick's sister cars (this one known only as Carowinds #7). It was decided to swap the identical trucks to #802.

However, when the first of the proper trucks for the car were retrieved, it was found to be too badly damaged to be used as-is. The top bolster plate and center bearing plate were both found to have numerous cracks, too many to be repaired. Most of the work done on #802 in 2006 was the complete rebuilding of the south truck of the car. New, stronger versions of both cracked pieces were fabricated and installed on the car. Specific points of corrosion were addressed and every part of the truck was thoroughly cleaned, primed and painted. The bearings, brake rigging and journals all were thoroughly addressed. In order for the car to be able to accommodate the spreading wings, the original trucks under the Aughwick had to be disassembled and specific hardware swapped to the trucks under #802. By the end of the year the truck was not only fully repaired but was of a stronger design than the original. As parts were made for the south trucks, identical pieces were made for the anticipated rebuilding of the north truck. Unfortunately, when the north truck was being removed, it was found to have even more serious problems, including a major crack in the cast bolster. Fortunately, Aughwick's other sister also was currently riding on EBT arch-bar trucks. One of these was found to be in rebuildable condition and will be the truck rebuild project for 2007.

At the same time as the truck work was going on, the two west doors for the car were rebuilt and installed. Also, the original spreading wings were disassembled and rebuilt with repaired steel and all new hardwood. The hopper body received a finish coat of paint and lettering in time for the annual Fall Spectacular.

The final piece of interior sheet metal is test fitted to Hopper #802.

Generator Room
The generator room is a small lean to off of the Boiler House that contained the 32 Volt DC generator that provided electrical power to the shops, offices and part of the town. The structure received a completely new roof in 2003, and has since had its windows and siding repaired and been completely repainted. In early 2006, interior restoration of the room began with the installation of a reproduction tongue and groove ceiling. Although further work was not done in 2006 for lack of sufficient volunteers, work has continued in 2007.

Ceiling boards are installed in the Generator Room.

Boiler Shop

The Boiler Shop was so named because it was the location of most of the sheet metal forming machines and equipment.

Preliminary work was done on this building in 2005, mostly consisting of power washing, priming and painting the lowest and most weathered part of the west wall. Work in earnest began in the spring of 2006 as the ground level windows on the west wall were all unboarded, repaired, primed and glazed. By the end of the year five of the eight lower windows had received significant work.

Because of the location of the west wall against the turntable track, work can only progress there before and after the EBT's operating season.

Putty is applied to newly installed glass on the Boiler Shop west wall.

Combine #14
Combine #14 was constructed sometime in the 1880's and served on the Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad until being purchased by the EBT in 1916, along with #15 and #8. The EBT converted the car from a smoker to a combine shortly after purchasing it.

#14 has seen constant service since then. When not in service as a passenger car, the EBT used it as a caboose as well. #14 operated in the first tourist train in 1960 and has continued to serve since.

Alas, the years have taken a toll on #14. The car's structure had developed a pronounced bow and twist. Also the roof was in bad shape allowing leakage into the car. The siding also needed replaced.

At the end of the 2005 season, the EBT spotted #14 at the FEBT Restoration Shop for work to begin. A thorough photographic and measured documentation was made of the car prior to any work being done. Work then began by removing all the siding from the car to expose the structure.

The many layers of roof coatings were removed down to the wood. All interior furnishings including seats and lights were labeled and removed from the car to a storage location. The flooring and subfloor was then removed from both ends of the car to reveal the inner workings of the car bolsters. Also the passenger end platform was disassembled and removed to uncover the structural issues there. The car was jacked up and set on cribbing to remove the weight from the bolsters and begin straightening out the body.

Several problems were found with the car. The most important issue was that when the EBT cut baggage doors into the car many years ago, it weakened the structure of the car. There was sufficient strength for the car to be safe, but with wear and tear it greatly accelerated the structural issues. Also a major concern was the failure of two truss rods in the car bolsters. There was also significant rot in specific sections of the sills, particularly near the baggage doors.

Because the needed work was found to be much more substantial than was anticipated, most of the work on the car during the later part of 2006 involved exploratory disassembly, planning the restoration, and acquiring needed supplies.

As #14 has remained in the Paint Shop since it's initial disassembly, accelerated work was done to complete the restoration pad outside the Paint Shop so that other rolling stock work could progress at the same time. Also, as it was clear that the work on #14 would take several years to complete, it was decided to direct volunteer labor toward the conversion of a boxcar into a rider car to replace #14's capacity during its restoration.

Work continues with the removal of rotted or damaged wood sections in the roof of Combine #14.

Restoration Pad
During a week-long marathon session, a small crew completely prepped, built forms, installed rebar and rail and poured foundations and slab for a new restoration pad outside the south side of the Paint Shop, serving as the FEBT Restoration Shop. The pad replaces a disintegrated pad that used to exist at the location. The new pad was poured up to the rail head to allow easy movement of equipment and supplies. It also has extra rails set for the later addition of an rolling gantry for heavy lifting. The pad also features drainage lines, air lines and conduit for later installation of electrical service.

Also, new reproduction gutter and downspout was installed on the east wall to replace the badly corroded original. The new downspout has helped to alleviate flooding outside the main door to the shop.

Pouring of the first section of the restoration pad begins. Several truckloads would be needed.

Machine Shop
The bulk of the work on this building's north and west walls was completed from 2004-2005. Work continued in 2006 with the last of the northeast gable and upper window being primed and painted. The steam vent pipe was primed and painted and the roof eave rebuilt around it. The large air reservoir tank was scraped, primed and painted. Substantial repairs were made to the belt enclosure that relayed power down to a trench and to the Blacksmith's Shop.

The last of the windows on the west wall was puttied. The upper window received finished paint. A few items remain to be done here in 2007.

Painting of the siding on the Machine Shop north wall nears completion.

Roof Canyon
The "Canyon" is a low spot in the roof between the Car Shop and Locomotive Shop which was a major and regular roof leak problem. This issue was resolved in 2004 with the construction of a false upper roof and application of a rolled rubber roof. The roofing material was only temporarily installed at that time and the permanent installation was accomplished in 2006.

The crew permanently applies the roofing to the new roof in the 'Roof Canyon'.

A bit off-site project that started in early 2004 was the restoration of EBT motorcar M-3. Built from Maxwell and Nash parts, but mostly homebuilt, the M-3 was the inspection vehicle of choice short of a passenger car. Built in 1924 and rebuilt in 1928, the car operated until the end of common carrier operations. It was operated for a short time in the early 1960's until it stopped running.

The extensiveness of the rebuild of this vehicle is too extensive to detail here as it would fill an entire volume. Sufficient to say that every last piece of the vehicle was disassembled and rebuilt, down to the last nut and screw. The results are incredible as this drab old car has been transformed into a reliable running showpiece. The car arrived back at the EBT for the celebration of Community Appreciation Day in August. Prior to it's arrival, the M-3's shed, used for speeder cars in recent years, received some track and switch repairs so as to be in gauge and reliable.

The car ran several demonstration runs in August and during subsequent months. A few bugs were worked out and the car operated extremely well.

The M-3 and the people who brought her back to life.

FEBT Handcar
This last original EBT handcar has been in storage for several years because of worn out bearings and some cracked frame sections. In 2006 four brand new bearings were machined for and installed in the car's bearing blocks. Also, all the cracked or broken wood components were replaced with identical hardwood. A few small things remain to be done to the car in 2007.

Babbit material is machined to the proper size to fit the handcar bearing blocks.

Flatcar #108
An unexpected job for 2006 was the restoration of flatcar #108. This flatcar was known as the infamous "Tree Flatcar", the car on the coal dock track with trees growing through it. The car was removed from the track during the spring. #108 was the best guess of the original number based on the rust patterns. The EBT crew power washed, primed and painted the car. The FEBT crew worked to plane down lumber, cut and notch it as needed and installed it on the car. The previous experience of redecking flatcar 119 gave valuable experience that was put to work on this car. During the course of the weekend the entire car was redecked, hold down strapping installed and all hardware cleaned, painted and reinstalled. #108 is now the only restored flatcar in its original configuration (not converted to passenger use.) The car was ready for service in time for the Fall Spectacular and operated in the photo freight train.

One by one the new timbers are installed on the support timbers on Flatcar #108.

The largest track project of the year was tie installation in the Turntable lead. The lead extends from the main at the coal dock, through the shops complex, and to the turntable.

Also, the two leads from the three way stub switch to the Car Shop south end were repaired with dozens of new ties installed. This work also enabled the Hopper #802 crew to begin swapping trucks to place the proper trucks under the hopper.

In May FEBT acquired a used standard gauge tie inserter. During the June session the inserter was repaired and additional frame and wheel mounts were added to it so that it could be used on either size track. By the end of the June session the inserter was in use on the Car Shop lead. The number of ties a crew could insert manually in a day's work, the inserter increased five times over.

The new tie inserter goes to work Sunday of the June session.

Paint Shop
Now serving as the FEBT Restoration Shop, the process of repair and reinstallation of the window sashes in the west wall continued throughout the year. This included the sealing, priming and painting of all the window frames.

The finish coat of paint is applied on a Paint Shop sash.

Glass Crew
Our dedicated glass crew continued the endless task of removing used glass from frames, cleaning it and cutting it size for installation in the shops. Hundreds of panes were made ready in 2006.

Volunteers remove aluminum frames from donated storm windows in preparation for cleaning and cutting the glass. This glass will find its way into many of the shops windows.

FEBT Speeder
In 2005 FEBT acquired an original EBT speeder from a collector. "Big Jim" as it was named during it's EBT days was repaired and brought back into operation. The speeder has been helpful through the year for transporting track materials to the FEBT track crew.

As there will be less track work in 2007, the speeder will be down for some additional repairs to increase it's reliability.

Electrical work is performed on "Big Jim".

During the spring, the EBT crew worked to redeck the turntable and install new railings. In conjunction with this work, an FEBT crew completely scraped and painted the steel turntable bridge and the new railing.

Restoration volunteers work to remove loose paint prior to painting the turntable.

Other Projects
Early in the year several sheets of metal roofing had been blown loose by the notorious spring windstorms in the Aughwick Valley. A crew reattached these sheets.

Early in the summer a crew removed the old rotted steps into the inspection pit and constructed and installed new pressure treated steps. The EBT locomotive crew was immediately appreciative of the improvement.

Coach #8 gets its lettering touched up.

Work Days in 2007
There is lots of work to do in 2007 and we have great need for more volunteers. The amount of restoration we accomplish is directly proportional to the number of volunteers who attend. Consider joining us and helping to save America's most historic railroad.

  • January 6-7
  • February 3-4
  • March 3-4
  • March 31-April 2
  • May 5-6
  • June 2-3
  • June 23-24
  • July 21-22
  • August 18-19
  • September 15-16
  • November 10-11 (NOTE: REVISED DATE)

To learn more visit our website at www.febt.org.