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East Broad Top by Lee Rainey
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East Broad Top (1982)

by Lee Rainey, Frank Kyper

Other authors: Robert W. Richardson (Foreword)

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NRHS (1) railroads (2) ZZZ (2)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lee Raineyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kyper, Frankmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Richardson, Robert W.Forewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Dedicated to the hundreds of employees of the East Broad Top Railroad and the Rockhill Coal companies who kept the wheels rolling, sometimes under adversity, for well over a century - and especially to C. Roy Wilburn, Cap Sellers, Steve Painter, Jim Galbraith and Eli Corrie, without whose assistance this story would not be as complete and interesting.
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The Pennsylvania counties of Bedford, Huntingdon and Fulton lie about midway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. They are located deep in the eastern ridges of the Allegheny Mountains, and are bounded by the Mason-Dixon Line to the south and by the Juniata River to the north. The region is dominated by a remarkable geographical feature - Broad Top Mountain. On this high tableland, some 80 square miles in size, is a rich deposit of semi-bituminous coal.
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Comprehensive illustrated account of the most purposeful and enduring narrow-gauge RR operated in the Eastern United States, and its affiliated coal company.

The original industries in its isolated mountain valleys were iron furnaces and timber, expanding to tanneries and coal. The RR was developed by the interrelated iron-and-coal interests, narrow-gauge to align construction costs with projected revenue and reinforced by the localized nature of the initial traffic. The well-financed ownership and restrained construction outlay prevented the typical RR fate of falling into the hands of construction contractors or bondholders when revenues proved inadequate at first.

The coal seams underlying Broad Top Mountain were a unique transition between clean-burning anthracite mined to the northeast and smoky, corrosive bituminous to the southwest, and thus desirable for home heating and moderately sensitive machinery. Coal eventually dwarfed and outlasted the other commodities, magnifying the importance of the single interchange point with the standard-gauge network. Innovative transfer techniques took the place of ever-impending conversion to standard gauge. Self-contained operation encouraged persistence of antiquated coupling and braking systems and wooden rolling stock longer than elsewhere. Much of the handsome equipment was constructed in-house, upgraded and well-maintained to the end. A short-lived elegant supplemental highway operation extended the RR's passenger and express reach well beyond the confines of its track layout.

Simultaneous depletion of local coal deposits and conversion of the US economy to cleaner fuel doomed the overly-specialized common carrier. The entire mining and RR plant was sold to a scrap dealer who was able to strip-mine some remaining coal and attract nostalgic tourist passengers to a small segment of the unique RR even though they had abandoned regular travel over the line as a whole. The entire main route, shops, motive power, and car fleet were retained nearly intact, having been left in good condition. Book includes equipment rosters and lists of company officials and Broad Top coal mines.
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