The Mount Union Connecting Railroad
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Thus far MTC has succeeded in the following:
Sylco Service & Terminal Company (based in Lewistiwn) has a storage facitily south of Allenport that is interested in rail transport, as well as transloading at Mount Union until the track is in serivce. Rumors say that other industries are interested in rail service in the industrial park, but remain unconfirmed.
Left: Main near south end of the yard looking north.
Left Center: South divergence of the TT siding looking north.
Right Center: Main near center of yard looking south. Black at center is hoppers in first photo.
Right: Main near north divergence of TT siding looking north.
In early 1998 Kovalchick Salvage, AKA Joe Kovalchick owner of the EBT, purchaced the Conrail spurs in Mount Union and Huntingdon (I have been informed that although it was included in the initial sale offer, the spur in Huntindon was not part of this sale - ed. 12-3-01) . The Mount Union spur was the original Pennsylvania main line through town until the 1907 realignment. Investors, Messrs. Levin and Madden from Lewistown, PA formed the Mount Union Central Railroad (also reported as the MU Connecting RR) in mid 1998 with the intention of operating the track between the Conrail main (soon to be Norfolk Southern) and the Riverview Business Center industrial complex. That industrial park has advertized rail service for several years, although it is on the dissused EBT not the Conrail Spur. At least some of the industries there have expressed some interest in using rail service. MTC is leasing the Conrail spur from Kovalchick and the north end of the EBT either from the EBT or Kovalchick directly. The EBT has no known direct involvement in the project or work.
Prior the the sale of the spur, Conrail directly served the Bleyer Industries plastics plant near the high school and the former creosote plant (just northwest of the railroad bridge over the Juniata Reiver). The track left the spur at the same point as the EBT track, crossed the road to Kistler, and passed under the PRR bridge to reach the plant. The new 522 bypass built in 1998, servered the link between the spur and the plant by using the part of the track ROW under the PRR bridge for the road. The plant now has a spur directly off the main, serving the plant through a conveyor system. It is unclear who will service the new spur as where it would require traversing the main to pass between the new and old spurs.
In the EBT yard the MTC has thus far cleared the main, one passing siding and the lead to #6's old stall in the enginehouse. Connecting the yard main to the old Conrail spur will be a simple matter as where the EBT standard gauge portion of the dual gauge yard main track is in place right up the former switch into the old Conrail spur. With the reconstruction of the EBT at the crossing of the new 522 bypass (just south of the EBT yard) as part of the 522 reconstruction project, restoration of service will be that much easier. If service (standard gauge only) does in fact materialize between the Conrail/Norfolk Southern main and Allenport it could provide much needed funds (indirectly) to the EBT. It would also cut the distance between the operating EBT and the outside world by about 2 miles and provide the first solid link out in many years. To the south the standard gauge rail extends to just south of PA 103, nearly half a mile north of the industrial park. Clearly it would have to be extended to provide service. Hopefully the narrow gauge rail will not serve this purpose. There seems no compelling motive to remove the narrow gauge rail or switches within the yard, though they will likely not be made serviceable. In all there are three crossing on the old Conrail spur to be upgraded and about four on the EBT that will need brought back into service. The industrial park road and new 522 crossings have both been built recently in serviceable condition.
The operators reportedly asked the borough to give support to their grant application with the state to upgrade the crossings and track in the town (on the old Conrail spur). Current puclicized plans call for a diesel switcher to arrive sometime in February and to reside in the enginehouse. Initial service is planned to start as early as March 1 and hopes are to operate to the industrial park in about a year.
Unfortunately there seems to be no fiscal motive to restore service between Allenport and Shirleysburg where the current excursion operations end.
some info from Valley Log 1/6/99, courtesy of Deane Mellander
Left: Enginehouse lead former ramp location looking north. Hoppers at far right are beside the main.
Despite announced plans of the MTC there is no locomotive on site yet. The track is not ready yet. Work has begun on clearing stumps in the EBT yard enginehouse lead and will certainly continue out onto the main. The ramp that loaded up #6 in 1975 has been dimantled placing the track back on the ground and making several ties available for trackwork. Quite a bit more stump and tie work is still needed, but progress is clearly still being made.
Up on the old Conrail spur some work has started on the road crossings. A small Conrail ballast tamper is parked on the spur and could be for the use of the MTC.
As noted elsewhere, a few dozen of the EBT hoppers in the yard have been stencile spray painted with EBT numbers. The numbers are clearly being derived from what remains of the original EBT numbers, sometimes resulting in partial numbers. Alas they have not all been deduced correctly, but the vast majority are correct. For a map of car numbers see the Mount Union Car Map.
Left: Engine house lead switch work looking south.
Right: work on connection of EBT main (center) to old NS spur (right) looking north.
The MTC has continued work, albeit slowly. Excavation of ties around the switch for the Enginehouse from the main have been readied to receive new ties and two switch ties. No work on the switch mechanism yet. There is also a little excavation at the enginehouse. The biggest project is at the connection to the old Pensy main. The old three rail track (currently with only two rails) is having it's rails moved aside and the ties pulled up. A close look revealed railroad spikes with bright pink painted heads marking the new track arrangement. From the yard the EBT main turns slightly to align with the old Pensy main. The angle the track reaches by the road crossing will be kept until it ties into the existing old main, instead of going parallel to it then switching in as before. A little more disassembly needs to be done on the old three rail track then the old main will need the same. Track then can be relaid joining the two into a single track. This will almost surely spell the end for the what remains of the creosote plant spur, but maybe that rail and the remaining old three rail track rail can be used to extend the standard gauge rail south to the industrial park. The rest of the brush at the north end of the main has been removed.
No further work has taken place at the south end or on the Timber Transfer track or switches. They have not sprayed for weeds so the regrowth had started in earnest. There has been no work south of the yard. No work has occurred on the rest of the old Pensy spur. I took the time to inspect the rest of the track to the north and found it in good condition between the NS main and the Harbison Walker site. Once in town it is in poor condition. No apparent work has taken place on the grade crossings and the Conrail ballast machine there in spring was gone.
Things continue to progress on the railroad. It now seems the railroad is calling istelf the Mount Union Connecting (rather than Central) Railroad. Tie replacement has started in earnest on the Enginehouse lead especially under the old ramp used to remove locomotive #6. The lead should be completed soon. The connection to the old Pennsy main is essentailly complete. The final buss bars were added about a week ago thus tying the EBT yard into the US rail system again.
Word is that the locomotive for MTC operations will be a 25 Ton GE swithcer, painted yellow with dark trim. MTC hopes to have the enginehouse lead done for arrival of the switcher by the end of August and be operating to the industrial park by the end of 1999.
Big news is that clearing south of the yard has started. It appears it will start at the south end of the operation and proceed back north toward the yard. The track has been cleared from near the north point of the Adams Siding and has proceeded north as far to the Berg Electronics access road. The direction of tree clearing work may be to allow extention of the third rail to start on the south end while tree clearing continues into the current three rail section.
Far Left: The main widening and track 2 west claring in progress.
Left: The enginehouse track in the forground and the main in the background.
Right: The new tie-in. In the center is the old route of the crososte pant spur.
Far Right: Tree clearing is evident in front of the industrial park.
Far Left: The main looking north from the north end of the passing siding.
Left: MTC's hi-railer rolls down the EBT main to the enginehouse.
Right: The hi-railer approaches now-functional enginehouse switch.
Far Right: The hi-railer shoving a small office on a trailer into #6's stall.
The switch to the enginehouse lead has been installed and is a fully functional three rail switch. The enginehouse lead itself is passable by light traffic and has received a new tie every few feet and several gauge bars. At the enginehouse MTC is adding timber between the rail to aid in the transition of their hi-rail truck onto and off of the track. MTC hi-rail truck has been making runs periodically on the main and enginehouse lead.
The connection to the NS spur is complete and passable as is the entire main through the yard. The brush at both and ends has been removed and the brush along the main and enginehouse lead has been cleard from a narrow tunnel to fully passable loading gauge. Clearing on the Timber Transfer siding has been abandoned and allowed to grow up. In its place track #2 west along the main is being cleared and is about half done. Best guess is that the TT track would have provided access for freight transfer between railcar and truck and the idea was abandoned because of the EBT cars in the way. Authorized vehicles only signs have been posted at the south, north, west and northwest entrances (rail and road) to the yard. Apparently there is a problem with 4-wheelers and dirt bikes on the property now that the track has been cleared.
Reliable reports state that MTC is not responsible for the restenciled car numbers, but rather a third party is. MTC is also not responsible for the clearing of brush at the industrial park. The Industrial Park itself, with permission from the railroad, cleared the area to increase thier exposure, which will surely benefit MTC. Also the park is erecting a more permanent sign at the entrance road to FCI (formerly Berg). One wonders what it will say about rail serice.
The prevously rumored 25 ton unit is no longer the power available. Two 90 ton (one for parts) two axle units are to be inspected shortly and are good possibilities. The track is adequate to receive the loco when it arrives, though it still needs work. A LOT of clearing down the mainline still needs to be done to get to their customers, but the MTC appears to have the needed financing and staying power.
MTC is planning to open track to mile 3 not 2.5, where it can service the Sylco Service's storage facility. This will open the track over Morrison's Summit. Current EBT operations end just below mile 7. (My opinion starts here) This leaves a scanty 4 miles to increase the EBT's lenth by 7 miles. The EBT could use some variety in its operations to encourage repeat riders. Trains running both ways could do so, providing four tips, round trips either way or either side to Colgate Grove and back. If TEA21 funds pann out for the shops and work continues on Saltillo Station and Coles Tank, this would be a good next step.
Left: Clearing is nearly finished on the passing siding in the yard.
Middle: Painting has been done on the windows and doors of the enginehouse.
Right: Cleared track south of the 522 crossing
Go MTC Go! The clearing effort seems to be picking up steam. Clearing of the passing siding in the yard is complete and wholesale clearing is taking place between US 522 and PA 103. Even on and Sunday workers have been observed working on brush clearing.
At the north end more work it taking place at the enginehouse. The doors and window frames have been painted with a rather bright yellow pannels and brown trim. Power has been strung to the building at a drop on the northeast corner of the building and routed along the lower back wall to and entry point behind the west stall. The wood sheathing above the door and back wall under the roof pitch has not been painted yet.
Reports on the intention of the railroad continue to expand. As stated earlier MTC intends to operate the old NS spur, one yard passing siding, the enginehouse lead, and the EBT main as far as Sylco Service south of Morrison's Summit. Reports now indicate that MTC lease extends to Aughwick which is 7/10th of a mile futher south from Slco Services. If true this may be a matter of 'breathing space' in the lease with no intention to operate the additional track. It also may be that the the end of lease at Sylco was refered to as being at Aughwick since it is the nearest point on the EBT map.
Another mysery is how MTC intends to service Sylco since it is on the oppsosite side of US 522. A spur across the road seems unlikely. A pipeline across the road seems more likely. Also there is the question of whether a parking spur will be constructed at Sylco. It is also unknown if any other of the industries in the Riverview Business Center have yet commited ot rail service and how they might be served.
In any event it will prove interesting how MTC goes about restoring the track south of the yard. It is in considerably worse condition that the track in the yard. Nearly no ties remain intact. Brush clearing has nearly reached the end of the original EBT third rail and that rail will have be be extended about a mile and a half to accomodate MTC operations.
Subsequent reports are that the US 522 to PA 103 is pretty much cleared and clearing effort has proceded to the area between PA 103 and PA 2028 and about halfway through this part is where the EBT standard gauge rail ends.
It is also reprted that MTC funding grant (I beleive it was TEA-21 in part) has come through. This likely accounts for the much increased pace of the work.
Far Left: Clearing has reached the Adams passing siding.
Left: The passing siding in the Mount Union yard is completely cleared.
Right: The interior of the Mount Union enginehouse.
Far Right: More clearing work at Adams.
Track clearing has proceded southward and has reached EBT mile 2.3 (2.9 miles from the NS main), at the Adams passing siding. This leaves about 0.8 mile left to clear for planned operations. Reports are that further clearing will not occur until fall when the summer brush has eased for the year. In the meantime the emphasis will be on contracted track work and bringing the first 1.1 miles of track from the NS interchange into revenue service for client Sylco Service.
As yet there is still no locomotive on site but MTC continues to pursue some units that may be avaialbe. Operations on the first mile of track will commence as soon as the locomotive arrives on site. The enginehouse is continuing to receive paint and electrical work including new interior ligting. Water service will be installed in the coming weeks.
Far Left: Mount Union Enginehouse with more paint.
Left: The main and yard tracks near their divergence.
Center: The main just south of the Adams Siding.
Right: The south points of the Adams Siding.
Far Right: The swampy conditions at Morrison's Summit.
Painting on the eaves and the gables of the enginehouse were in progress at the beginning of the month. That will cover all the exposed wood surfaces on the building and protect them for deterioration. There is still no locomotive on site, but reports are that bids will be placed for a pair this month.
Track clearing continues. About half the lenth of the Adams Siding has been cleared. Additionally work has proceeded both north and south from a private crossing just north of Morrison's summit. Tie width clearing has prodeeded north to the south switch of the Adams siding (with a narrow path to meet up with the clearing from the north) and a narrower path south into the cut at Morrison's summit. The south end of the summit cut has suffered drainage blockage cuasing water to pool up over the tops of the rails. MTC is currently addressing the drainage problem.
Back in the yard, signs of pending trackwork are in the air. Spray paint (white, then red when the white ran out) has been used to mark the top of the rail on the main wherever a tie is to be replaced. Between the link to the old Conrail spur and the point where the red spray paint ran out near the coal plant site, somewhere around 200 ties had been marked plus a number of switch ties. There is no word yet when trackwork will start.
Incidentally, the MTC played no part in the sale of five EBT hoppers to the Cumbres and Toltec Railraod in New Mexico this past May. See the article on the hoppers for more details.
Painting completed on the enginehouse (August).
As expected, clearing work pretty much ended in July and will likely start up again late this fall. A clear path exists all the way to Morrison's Summit where a drainage problem is yet to be fully restored. The main thrust of the effort right now appears to be making ready for contracted track work, mostly by marking ties for replacement.
There is still no locomotive on site, although a very good prospect was in the works as of early October.
Left: Contracor's tie inserter in the Mount Union Yard.
Left Center: Tie inserter and completed switch.
Right Center: Ties awaiting insertion and rebuilt track on the Narrow Gauge Scale pit.
Right: Southernmost rebuilt switch (south end of the passing siding.)
Left: MTC employees and EBT fans in the enginehouse.
Left Center: Details of the enginehouse interior.
Right Center: Equipment of a separate contractor working on the old PRR spur.
Right: Behind the tie inserter about every third tie is new.
Left: The earth has been cleared away south of 522 so the tie inserter can work.
Right: The grading extends from route 103 to US 522.
As yet there is still no locomotive at the MTC. Additional potential units the railroad was pursuing have not panned out, but reports say that they are curently attemting to acquire a two axle 60 ton unit from New York.
Tie replacement started in March and is scheduled to be completed by mid-April. The work was let to a contractor, who brought in two subcontracors to work on the EBT main in the yard and the PRR spur respectively. As of this writing, the three switches that MTC plans to use have been fully rebuilt with ties and hardware and about one third of the planned tie replacments in the yard have taken place. Additionally, the gap in the passing siding where the EBT narrow gauge scale used to be has been filled with shortened ties and laid with rail. The remainder of ties to be replaced have already been laid in the yard next to the main and will extend to just short of the 522 Grade Crossing.
The spring tie replacment project has competed and involved installing about every second to fourth tie south to the 522 crossing and every tie beyond. Tie replacement proceeded a few hundred feet south of the crossing to just short of the 30' section rebuilt as part of drainage work during the 522 bypass project. The track south of 522 has been partially ballasted with cinder and partially with limestone.
At the north end of the yard the crossing at Franklin Street (immediately north of the yard throat) has been completely rebuilt as a three rail crossing. The track immediately to the north of the crossing has also been ballasted and tamped.
At long last MTC has acquired a switcher. The 60 ton two axle unit from New York previously mentioned was purchasd by the MTC. At this time the locomotive is still in NY pending tranportation arrangments to Mount Union. It will likely be 2002 before the move can be made. Once it arrives the unit needs some engine work before being placed in service, but parts have been determined to be readily available.
Not a lot new around Mount Union. MTC's loading dock at the north (west) end continues to take shape. Some ballast tamping occured to finish up the previously contracted work on the line.
Not much news to report onsite. The locomotive is not on site yet, but it sounds like it likely will be in a month or so. No additional trackwork has been done (as expected during the winter), but plans are afoot for the spring (see article below). There are two areas where work has been done. The transloading dock under construction near the old Harbison Walker plant is nearing completion. Second, the treeline between the old creosote plant/plastics plant spur and the road to Kistler has been completely cleared. The reason for this is unknown as yet.
From the Huntingdon Daily News 2-5-02
courtesy of Nevin Byers
Mount Union Rail Expansion Spurred By State Grant
The second phase of a project by a Lewistown Attorney to bring rail service to industries in the Mt. Union Area got a boost Friday in the form of a $158,844 state grant. State representative Larry O. Sather and state senator Robert C. Jubelier Friday announced the approval of the grant for Mt. Union Connecting Line Railroad. The funds will be used to complete the restoration of the rail line from Mt. Union to the Riverview Business Center. The first phase reopened track into Mt. Union Borough and included a temporary trans-load facility and track extensions as new business opportunities occur.
According to Allen Levin, president of the Mt. Union Connecting Line Railroad, the line currently serves Bonney Forge and Sylco. All along our goal has been to to provide direct service into the Riverview Business Center. Now, with the possible addition of new tenants requiring rail service, there is an urgency to the expansion plans. Levin said in a statement Friday.
Susan Williams, HCB&I director, told Shirley Township supervisors in August 2001 that the possible move of a manufacturer into the Riverview Business Center, in Shirley Township, next fall will depend on the availability of the rail service. Since then no new information has been given on the identity of the company but Williams did say location of the new business at the center would create 135 new jobs. This is a major step in attracting new business to the Riverview Business Center and Huntingdon County. Bob and I have been working with Huntingdoin County Business and Industry (HCB&I) since being told that a business prospect was considering the construction of a new plant, that they were considering the Riverview Business Center, and that they required that the location twas served by rail, Sather said in a statement. This is a boost for Huntingdon County. We have been pushing a long time for the funding to make improvements so that the Riverview Center would be attractive to businesses looking to relocate. This investment of state funds is a vote of confidence by the Commonwealth in those effective efforts and in the future of Huntingdon County job growth., Jubilier added.
HCB&I president Andy Cipar termed the award of the grant excellent news. This is a big step for Huntingdon County and for our efforts to market lots at the center. We would not have gotten it done without the assistance of Representative Sather and Senator Jubilier, said Cipar.
The MTC has acquired its second piece of equipment this past April. A rusty but operable track cart was acquired in trade for some scrap iron. The cart was transported to Mount Union April 7th 2002 on the back of MTC's hi railer. Fortuitously, the Friends of the EBT Spring Exploration group arrived for a tour of the Mount Union yard shortly after its arrival and the group was pressed into service to lift the cart down to the track. The members then took the cart for three test drives up the enginehouse spur and back and deemed it trackworthy.
The cart has been subsequently straightened, painted and decked and is in use transporting supplies around the yard.
Left: The semi delivering the locomotive positions itself over the tracks in Mount Union.
Center: A log skidder brings the unit off the trailer and onto the track.
Right: The skidder takes the locomotive down the enginehouse spur.
Photos courtesy of Bill Adams and his EBT Pictorial web site. Used with permission.
See also: Photos at the East Broad Top Pictorial
At long last, the MTC has a locomotive on site. On April 10, 2003 after weeks of anticipation, a low-boy trailer (the same one that hauls the live steam Thomas the Tank Engine at Strasburg to other railroads) arrived in Mount Union. The trailer was positioned over the old Pennsylvania Railroad spur near the old Pennsy freight station. A ramp was put in place behind the trailer and a log skidder was used to slowly allow the locomotive to roll down onto the rails. The skidder was then used to move the locomotive down the spur and into the EBT yard. It then guided the unit down the Enginehouse spur and into the enginehouse.
With the locomotive now on site, the MTC has three pieces of equipment, the other two being a hi railer truck (named TC-1) and a track cart (called TC-2). Since arrival MTC personnel have started scraping and painting the unit and removing sheet metal to access the engine. The diesel needs repairs before the locomotive will be operable and a qualified mechanic has already been secured to perform the work. With luck it will be running by Summer and the MTC can start receiving car loads from Norfolk Southern at that time.
Left: The CR-4 as it appeared in April 2004. Painted sheet metal can be seen in front of the unit.
Center: The cab, now yellow, as seen from EBT #3. April 2004.
Right: The short hood, now in primer. April 2004.
Left: The old cylinder liners lie on the running board. April 2004
Right: The diesel engine. Plastic covers to disassembled head. April 2004
Things at the Mount Union Connecting continue to move forward, slowly. Hopes that the locomotive could be put into operation quickly have not been realized. As of this writing it has been over three years since the locomotive had arrived in Mount Union, but unfortunately it still is not running at last report.
On the bright side, a lot of cosmetic work has been done on the unit. Over the summer and fall of 2003 the glass has been removed and the entire locomotive was stripped down to bare metal and over the winter, spring and summer of 2005 it was being painted.
Mechanically the head and cylinder sleeves were removed for repair. Originally only two cylinder sleeves were planned to be replaced but all six turned out to need replaced. The cylinder sleeves are the cylinder in which the piston and valves operate and which are bathed in coolant. They are a replaceable part on this engine.
Acquiring the needed parts has proved to be a problem. Reportedly the price quoted by Caterpillar for the liners at the time the unit was purchased had tripled by the time the parts were to be acquired for the work. This held up mechanical work on the unit for several months.
Subsequently, more reasonably priced cylinder liners were acquired from another source and installed. The batteries in the unit were shot and replacements were still back ordered for some time after the installation of the cylinder liners. They eventually arrived in mid-June 2005. Upon cranking the engine it was found that an air line had failed and the turbocharger was blown. The air line was replaced, but the turbocharger was no longer stocked by Caterpillar. By early fall 2005 another turbocharger was acquired and installed.
According to reports, electrical problems have plagued the unit after that, especially the starter. Subsequent reports in late 2005 state that the diesel mechanic working on the unit was eventually defeated by these issues, and a Caterpillar company mechanic was to be brought in. In May 2006 there were rumors that the engine had run for a short time, but those rumors have not been substantiated by any reliable sources.
Left: Rebuilt track near PA 103 looking north. April 2005.
Center Left: Rebuilt track near PA 103 looking south. April 2005.
Center Right: Rebuilt track near PA 103 looking north. Note all ties have spikes now. Sep 2005.
Right: Rebuilt track near PA 103 looking south. Note all ties have spikes now. Sep 2005.
Elsewhere, some limited track work was performed in 2003 and 2004, mostly on the Engine House lead track. In the sprint of 2005 more substantial track rebuilding began south of the US 522 crossing. In two different stages, virtually all the track between US 522 and PA 103 has been rebuilt with all new ties. The track still needs to lined, leveled and tamped, but could support train weight as-is.
Left: Completed loading dock, including concrete. May 2005.
Right: Completed loading dock from side. May 2005.
The loading platform received its finish coat of concrete to complete that structure.
On a previous note, here is a web site for Sylco Service and Terminal at http://www.sylvite.com/, which is MTC's best prospect as a customer.