EBT Herald Study of Alternatives Restoration Proposal Summary

study cover These are excerpts from Study of Alternatives: East Broad Top Railroad National Historic Landmark, a study by the National Park Service on possible courses of action on the EBT. This study was published in 1989 and acted as a primer to much activity since. All parties involved have agreed that Alternative 5 (All Aboard) is the appropriate course of action and efforts have proceeded in that direction.


The America's Industrial Heritage Project (AIHP), which involves nine counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, is an effort to preserve, protect, and interpret the remains of the area's iron, coal, steelmaking, and transportation industries and the social and labor history of the area. The area and the related resources should be preserved and interpreted for visitors. The AIHP focuses on protecting selected sites relating to the region's industrial heritage and using the sites to help strengthen the local economic base through the promotion of tourism.

The East Broad Top Railroad National Historic Landmark, in the nine-county AIHP area, relates to the AIHP's transportation theme. Recent studies undertaken by the National Park Service have concluded that the East Broad Top Railroad (the EBT) is the best remaining example in the nation of a regional narrow-gauge railroad system. In the opinion of the NPS study team, the EBT system - complete with the railroad facilities and associated industries - is probably the only opportunity in the nation to tell a comprehensive railroad industry story. The EBT is a nationally significant, historic industrial workplace - in essence, and intact industrial system. However the landmark is seriously threatened through deterioration, lack of operating capital, and legal threats to the right-of-way. The AIHP is interested in protecting and preserving the railroad, although it is privately owned, and making accessible for visitors to learn more about this significant resource. (For a discussion about how the EBT fits in with other AIHP resources, see appendix A.) This study, which suggests five different resource protection and visitor use alternatives and four options for management, will serve as a starting point for the consideration, discussion, and analysis concerning possible actions that can be undertaken to protect the railroad/landmark.

Under Alternative 1, the visitor would have a chance to tour the machine shop complex, see the heart of the EBT in Rockhill, and enjoy a 5-mile train ride from Orbisonia to Colgate Grove. Visitors would learn about the shop complex and depot as components of an industrial workplace, and the railroad's operation would be interpreted. Alternative 2 encompasses Alternative 1 but offers a 19-mile train ride from Orbisonia to Robertsdale and some interpretive media in Mount Union and Robertsdale. Visitors would learn about the operation and economic history of the EBT, the contribution and interaction of selected related industries along the right-of-way, and the technology involved in transferring goods from the EBT to the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Alternative 3 encompasses basically the same resources and story as alternative 2, but instead of a train ride visitors would use the 31.2-mile right-of-way as a recreational hiking/biking trail. Alternative 4 includes a 10.8-mile train ride from Rockhill to Mount Union and a recreational hiking/biking trail from Rockhill to Wood. Visitors would learn how the EBT functioned as a system and how it connected with the national story of railroading.

Alternative 5, the most encompassing alternative, involves a 29.8 mile train ride from Mount Union to Robertsdale. Visitors would learn the detailed story of the EBT and its role in the national story of railroading and transportation and about life in coal company towns.

The study also proposes several management options. These include continuing existing ownership and management, establishing corporation management, establishing public ownership of foundation management, and National Park Service acquisition with commonwealth of Pennsylvania provision of an adjacent state heritage park.

In accordance with Park Service policies, a preferred alternative has not been identified in this study. Future implementation of any alternative or combination of alternatives will depend on the coordinated efforts of the owner, various units of the government, and the people of the Broad Top region.

Preliminary Cost Estimates

Alternative 1 $ 8,681,490
Alternative 2 $30,063,001
Alternative 3 $19,291,684
Alternative 4 $25,608,367
Alternative 5 $39,181,730

In addition, regardless of the alternative selected, operational costs (maintenance, administration, staffing, utilities, etc.) would be expected to range between $1.5 and $2.5 million per year.

EBT Herald Back to the EBT Homepage