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Old 05-30-2011, 06:13 AM   #1
ddavidv OP
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Joined: May 2009
Location: Elizabethtown, PA
Oddometer: 1,052
KLR Chronicles--Following the EBT and other forgotten PA routes

At last...a weekend without rain, hurricane winds, lightning and tornadoes! The preceding week of work sucked and some therapeutic riding was called for. The only thing I needed was a destination. So, the night before I tinkered with the DeLorme program for a couple hours and created a relatively easy trip from my place near Harrisburg out west to Orbisonia/Rockhill. Why? Steam trains, baby! I'd been to the East Broad Top railroad as a kid (I've always had an interest in trains) and been through the area a few times since, but not when trains were running. I thought it was as good excuse as any for a ride, and hopefully see one under steam while there.

The EBT is a fascinating piece of history. Built in the 1870s to haul coal from the mountains in the region to the PRR main line, it survived until the 1950s when the demand for coal began to dwindle. What makes the EBT particularly unique is it's a narrow gauge line, one of the few in the East, and that the railroad remains almost wholly intact. Sold for scrap, it was ironically saved by the scrap buyer and turned into a tourist line. All of the equipment, track and most of the buildings remain. The shops are fully equipped and as they were when the doors were locked when operations ceased. Located in the middle-of-nowhere, PA it remains a well kept secret. You can read more about it here: http://www.spikesys.com/EBT/intro.html

I had mapped out a simple route to get there, riding SR 944 and 997 from Harrisburg and avoiding slab. These roads are gently rolling, traversing farmland of which I was reminded when I came over a rise and found several cows standing in the oncoming lane. Tried to snag a picture of them but they were rather terrified of the awesome KLR and began a comical gallop away into a field, headed towards a farm so I decided they weren't worth worrying about. One lone cow still trapped inside the fence seemed particularly annoyed at not being part of the Great Cow Escape.

It was a nice enough ride, though not really anything to take photos of. It wasn't yet really hot (upper 80s called for) but was really humid. I was comfortable provided I was moving. I arrived in Orbisonia and had to sit at an endless light for a bridge under construction, which is the point I discovered how hot it really was. Finally past that, a few blocks later I arrived at my goal.

A lovely old depot, made even more attractive by my colorful sidekick, Thumper.
First train was set to depart at 11am, and by golly, I was there just in time for them to hook up the loco to the cars. Baldwin 2-8-2 goodness, built 1914:

Not sure you can tell from the pic, but reminder that this is a narrow gauge line, and subsequently all the equipment is sort of dwarf size to that of a normal line. I think this makes them more appealing and 'approachable'. All of the equipment on site is original to the line.
I poked around the grounds a bit, refreshing my memory of what all is still there. Unlike a lot of 'tourist' places, the EBT isn't much closed off to visitors; you can just sort of wander around and poke your nose into most places for a look-see. They do give guided tours of the shops and equipment as well. Aside from the 'usual' trains there are also a few vintage 'speeders' that propelled track workers down the line and a unique Model T based rail bus that's been beautifully restored. You can see it in this photo of some of the original buildings (some of which are notably rickety):

Another thing that makes this line unique is it is still privately owned by the salvage company. The downside is, not being a non-profit, preservation funds aren't as easy to come by. So, the condition of a lot of it is somewhere between "charmingly rustic" to "rusting to pieces". Combined with a lot of volunteer effort, most of it is stabilized. Down track from here are a number of coal hoppers that are literally returning to the earth. The buildings are decently cared for, and the station/depot is in fine shape. The active part of the line is maintained and safe, but it's truly reminiscent of the original narrow gauge experience in that the grass grows up between the rails many places. It's always sort of been clinging to life, and I don't think it's ever made money for the owners, but it's still here and we train geeks adore it.
Turntable:

Roundhouse:

Directly adjacent to the EBT yard is the Rockhill Trolley Museum http://www.rockhilltrolley.org/ so if you visit it's truly a 2 fer 1 deal. I'd allow a half a day for even the casual railfan to meander about and ride one or both of the choices of power. Realizing I didn't have that much time today with the routes I'd planned I elected to return another day to take a ride and really enjoy it. Today's trip was about motoring on the bike, so off we went...to follow the EBT's line south and see just what remained of the un-used section.
(Intermission)
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KLR Chronicles, list of my Ride Reports in PA/MD:
http://www.advrider.com/forums/showt...2#post18782262
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Old 05-30-2011, 09:10 AM   #2
ddavidv OP
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Location: Elizabethtown, PA
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Following the EBT

The active line heads north to Mount Union (though trains don't go that far). It parallels route 522 for a few miles outside of town and there are ample photo opportunities if you're into that. I, however, have a thing for abandoned railroad right-of-ways. I left Rockhill (the other side of the tracks, so to speak, from Orbisonia) and headed down 994. The EBT actually parallels this highway quite a bit and crosses back and forth. The downside is the road has traffic, so gawking to the sides isn't the best idea. I'll cheat and use a few linked photos where I chose not to stop.
The line goes through a deep cut on the left side of the road and you'll see this bridge that looks like it may be for a private road (why I didn't stop). The line is heavily grown over now, even more than this photo depicts.

The line crosses over to the right and goes right through the front yard of the Southern Huntington County High School. Built in 1962, the construction of the school threatened the continuity of the line, but the salvage company ran a train through this area (for spite, possibly) that kept it 'active'. The rails may still be under the lawn. There's some weird laws about railroad abandonment, particularly for road crossings. If the tracks are left in place, the line can be placed on 'exempt' status allowing it to be re-used at a later time. If the railroad declares the line 'abandoned' it ceases claim to the land, and that's pretty much it for that rail line. The entire R-o-W of the EBT as far as I can determine still has the rails in place. They aren't always easy to see. A section or two may be missing, removed by a land owner for a driveway or something (without being aware it's not his property to remove) but it's really odd that the track was left intact by a salvage company that really has never intended to put it into use.

Just past the High School you can turn onto Spring Creek Road, and immediately encounter the Pogue Bridge.

Built in 1904, it is the tallest bridge on the line and replaced a wood trestle. It's total span is 268'. The wood ties have all rotted and fallen off. I continued along Spring Creek Rd with the R-o-W on my left. I've become pretty proficient at spotting abandoned rail line grades but the EBT is a challenge, at least this time of year. The growth is thick and being a narrow gauge line, it's not as physically large.
A short time later I found this fellow at a point where the line crossed the road. Not sure if he was waiting for a train or not but I helped him to the other side.

Somewhere along here you'll also encounter the remains of this passing siding. Two sets of parallel tracks allowed one train to pass another coming the opposite way, cheaper than building the entire line double track. It still looks pretty much as it does in this pic.

There's a run-down depot in the town of Saltillo I didn't realize was there until later, as well as a steel girder bridge which can be seen from the main road through town.
This is a pretty typical view of the EBT R-o-W in spots where it can be seen. Judging by the size of the trees, it's not been cleared in 20-30 years at least.

I rode along Fairview Church and Luciana Bottom roads, then Old Plank Road. Not much to see as far as railroad, but a really nice ride (some gravel).

Cooks Road down through Robertsdale didn't find anything photo worthy. I attempted to locate the terminus of the line at the mine site outside of Wood (aka Woodvale), but found the road gated and the land privately owned. No other notable remnants remained, so I headed back towards Rockhill.
(intermission)
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KLR Chronicles, list of my Ride Reports in PA/MD:
http://www.advrider.com/forums/showt...2#post18782262
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Old 05-30-2011, 10:07 AM   #3
ddavidv OP
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Location: Elizabethtown, PA
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Dirt roads, yee-haw!

I mapped out a more elaborate return route, hoping to find a little more challenging riding than I had on the way there. A smart guy would have gassed up sooner, but I hadn't, so back into Orbisonia for fuel and then backtracked my way to SR 475. I was looking for Locke Valley Road; rode past it twice before I turned onto a rocky, rutted, washed out dirt road that led me up and over the mountain. Since I was on a KLR and not some lesser bike with lots of useless chrome, my reaction was:

The road got markedly better going down the eastern side. I stopped to fertilize nature and take a picture of this fixer-upper:

After that, I took a very meandering route that paralleled SR 35 northeast. Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction Moment: I'm riding along, enjoying that the overcast day has turned into one delightfully bright, and randomly think today would be a good idea to see a snake sunning himself in the road. I've encountered this before, and I kind of like snakes (unless they rattle at me). Not 10 minutes later do I round a curve and find this guy:


Unfortunately, he was deceased, having been run over by someone prior to my arrival.

Eventually, I find myself on a gravel road...I think it's Kansas Valley Road, which becomes Little Valley Road. This thing goes for miles...completely straight. Smooth, with a nice undulating rhythm; I'm truckin' along at 45 mph, enjoying the sunlight splashing down through the trees. Suddenly, from out of nowhere to my left is this turkey buzzard, flying into my flight path. If I hadn't stabbed the brakes hard I'd have run right into him. I brake, he dives left and parallels me for a moment. I could have reached out and touched his wing; probably would have, if I wasn't worried about keeping the bike upright with this sudden brake application. He curves away. I can only imagine what he thought...anyhow, a shot taken after the buzzard incident, straight as the eye can see for over 4 miles:


The road ends at SR850 and I turn right towards Kistler. This shot may be out of sequence; I honestly don't remember where I snapped it. I found these two hump-backed bridges curious.

A few more meandering turns and I'm on 74. I delightful run up Waggoner's Gap, SR 944 and I'm headed home again. Considering I threw this ride together in a few hours on the home computer it wasn't bad. By the time I hit 944 again I'm pretty spent. The heat has amped up and thanks to my sweat glands my butt and attire have become one in a not very pleasant fashion. Despite my sheepskin seat cover and Under Armor undies my ass is raw and unhappy. Very happy to return home to a shower, dinner and a whole lot of nothing the rest of the day.

Total miles 235.5
Time moving 6:33
Stopped 1:29
Total hrs 8:03
Avg KLR "Little Engine That Could" speed 42.6

More railroad archeology journeys to come.
__________________
'04 Wee Strom
'89 KLR 650 (sold)

KLR Chronicles, list of my Ride Reports in PA/MD:
http://www.advrider.com/forums/showt...2#post18782262
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