ROCKHILL FURNACE, Pa. — Work continues on preparing East Broad Top Type 2-8-2 Engine No. 16 (Baldwin, 1916) for return to active service.
The narrow gauge railroad, a National Historic Landmark, last used steam in 2011, just before the shutdown that froze the 33-mile railroad for more than eight years. In 2020, a new non-profit group, the EBT Inc. Foundation, was formed to purchase the property from its previous owner, the Kovalchick Salvage Co. of Indiana, Pennsylvania.
While four of the six Baldwin 2-8-2 Mikados on the property (Nos. 12, 14, 15 and 17) were in service during the tourist era 1960-2011, it was No. 15 that closed operations steam – and regularly scheduled passenger service. After that, EBT organized a few road trips for Friends of the East Broad Top, but steam was over. When the foundation took over in 2020, it resumed tourist service with a diesel-electric central cabin switch, General Electric No. M-7, while planning to bring back steam.
Of the engines, No. 16 (1916) was deemed the best candidate for restoration – largely because it had not run since 1956 – and work began almost immediately.
EBT’s Mikados come in three sizes. No. 12 is the smallest and oldest (1911, 56 tons), while No. 14 and 15 are of medium size (1912 and 1914, 73-75 tons). Nos. 16 to 18 (built in 1916, 1918 and 1920) are the largest engines (81 to 82 tons). All three are equipped with superheaters, thermally efficient devices that preheat and dry the steam before releasing it into the cylinders to produce motion. Overheating is a rarity for narrow gauge engines, as most American narrow gauge railroads were declining or giving up by the time overheating became common in steam locomotive design in the early 20th century.
No. 16 passes the boiler test; finishing work remains
EBT #16 passed its hydrostatic boiler test on May 17, 2022 and has since been steam tested under the observation of Federal Railroad Administration personnel. The FRA was satisfied with the test. “This allows us to reinstall everything on the boiler,” says EBT master mechanic Dave Domitrovich. “We don’t need to remove it before executing it.”
There remains a considerable amount of finishing work.
Three dome covers have been painted and two have been refitted, and major fittings and fixtures are either renewed or replaced and are back on the engine. This includes the bell, whistle, sight glasses, tri-cocks (additional boiler level checks), air pumps, air reservoirs, Hancock injectors, and boiler and brake pressure gauges. The front of the engine (smoker and pilot light) and the tender are painted. All plumbing has been completed – i.e. air piping and supply (steam) piping – and the accelerator has been reinstalled, a major milestone.
The pistons and valves are reinstalled in the cylinders, Domitrovich said. The next major tasks are to reinstall the main and side stems and shim the valves.
Completion is approaching but not imminent, next steps being placement of boiler lagging (insulation) and completion of new stainless steel boiler liner (now 50% complete). The last thing to deal with will be painting and reinstalling the cabin.
Number 15 will be the next to be restored
In a change from the original plan, Domitrovich said the workshop would turn to restoring No. 15. Originally, No. 14 was to be next, but the railroad discovered that it needed more work than expected. The engine needs major boiler work and heavy running gear work, while No. 15 only needs running gear work.
The reason for this is that years ago Linn Moedinger, Rick Musser and Jim Rice of Strasburg Rail Road (who all mentored Domitrovich when he was in Strasbourg) helped EBT get number 15 back up and running when the weather FRA of issue 14 has expired. As a result, says Domitrovich, all of the FRA-mandated Federal Form 4 boiler safety calculations for this engine have already been performed, greatly reducing the time and labor required.
EBT has already purchased eight new drivers for the two mid-size 2-8-2s (14 and 15), so those parts will be on hand, he says. Boiler tubes purchased for #14 will be used for #15, as the motors are the same size.
“Boiler (15’s) is a known quantity,” says Domitrovich. “All work on the boiler has been done, and it is known to be in good condition.”
Another new coach
The second new coach (of four) built by Hamilton Manufacturing, Inc., of Bellingham, Washington, has arrived. It has been placed on its new trucks and work continues to install it with new hitches, tie rods, air hoses, and heating and lighting equipment. He will wear the number 22.
EBT’s first new car, #21, arrived July 19 [See “First new coach arrives …,” Trains News Wire, July 20, 2022] and has already gotten a run-in test. EBT staff found it to roll freely (it has Timken roller bearings) but heavier than cars currently in use.
Next to arrive will be the No. 23 trainer (like the others, with a 52-seat capacity) and a 40-seat combine equipped with a wheelchair lift, No. 17. Built to mimic the appearance of EBT’s vintage wooden cars, the exterior of the new cars is finished in a dark green painted PVC type vinyl.
EBT general manager Brad Esposito said the railroad may be on the lookout for more body shells in the future. This would come without coach seats, so EBT can configure them for specialist use such as first class seating, lounge cars or dining cars.
The lettering of the cars and No. 16 and its bid will be handled by George Williamson of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, doing business as GW Signs. “He’s one of the few guys who still does hand lettering,” says Domitrovich. “We didn’t want to use any vinyl (lettering) on the engine or the cars because we took excessive lengths to do [them] seem historically accurate. Williamson, who custom builds race cars, drag strip cars, track cars and billboards, “is obsessed with it,” Domitrovich says, because “his dad worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad”.
The brake shop/machine shop is open
So far, EBT has focused on repairing, placing or renewing equipment for its own needs. But Domitrovich positioned the railroad to handle outdoor air brake work by hiring Ron Freitag, a former Strasburg Rail Road mechanic, and negotiating with another rail museum to acquire four air brake test rigs. capable of handling all kinds of equipment.
EBT has a three-valve pneumatic brake bench in one of its historic buildings, but using this equipment will prevent wear and tear on older machinery.
All four banks can handle triple valves (including Type K and P), 4C, UC or Universal Control valves and Type AB brake equipment. Other equipment includes a brake valve lapping machine and compressor, a surface grinder, two lathes and a Bridgeport milling machine.
“I’m delighted that it brings contract revenue to the business,” he said. “I wanted to do this from the start.”
New track maintenance equipment
EBT acquired a ballast regulator from Quality Track Products in Ohio and a tamper from a contractor in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. Both were converted from standard gauge to three foot gauge before coming to EBT. The sabotage conversion was carried out by a member of the Friends of the East Broad Top, Craig Musser. The upside is that these on-track machines will allow EBT to mechanize what used to be an almost entirely manual task.